The major media created a firestorm over the Bush campaign’s use of 9/11 images in an ad. John Kerry and other Democrats were shocked. They must have conveniently forgotten how friends of Kerry destroyed Howard Dean by running an ad showing Osama bin Laden, the architect of 9/11, and charging that Dean didn’t have the foreign policy experience to be president. The episode tells us a lot about the hypocrisy of Kerry and his friends in the media who raised an outcry over the Bush ad.
The controversial ad featured a slowly moving shot of a Time Magazine cover featuring bin Laden and it zoomed in on a close-up of his eyes. The ad asked Democrats to think about Dean’s lack of foreign policy experience. The mysterious group behind the ads was called “Americans for Jobs, Healthcare and Progressive Values” and its spokesman, Robert Gibbs, was a former Kerry campaign employee. It was disclosed that Robert Torricelli, the former New Jersey senator raising money for Kerry, donated $50,000 from his Senate campaign fund to the group. Such a contribution was “fuzzy” in terms of the law, according to a spokesman for the Federal Election Commission.
Hardly a conservative, Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity noted that Torricelli is a “disgraced” former Senator who was “severely admonished for his unsavory campaign finance practices and forced to leave the Senate.” He called the ad campaign against Dean a “mugging” and a “smear campaign.”
The complete text of the anti-Dean ad was, “We live in a very dangerous world. And there are those who wake up every morning determined to destroy western civilization. Americans want a President who can face the dangers ahead. But Howard Dean has no military or foreign policy experience. And Howard Dean just cannot compete with George Bush on foreign policy. It’s time for Democrats to think about that? and think about it now.”
How does that compare to the couple of seconds in the Bush ad about 9/11?
At the time, on a pro-Howard Dean website, one Democrat said that fellow Democrats were “using the war on terror for political gain” and that the anti-Dean forces had taken their strategy to a “new low.” Another noted that the ad “uses images of Osama bin Laden to attack Howard Dean’s commitment to defending America.”
It had the desirable effect. Dean, who avoided the Vietnam War with a medical deferment and then went skiing in Vermont, was considered damaged goods as a possible candidate against war President George W. Bush. Kerry, by contrast, who served in combat in Vietnam, was preferable. And if Kerry had to get the nomination by using 9/11 and the war on terrorism against Dean, so be it. Kerry achieved status as a “winner” in the primaries when his associates successfully attacked Dean as weak on foreign policy. But now Kerry doesn’t want Bush to use 9/11 against him.
With Democrats attacking Democrats, the New York Times editorially commented about the use of bin Laden as a “prop” in the Democratic campaign. The Times said it was “bad politics,” a “low-blow,” and rather sinister but that its message?that Dean lacked foreign policy experience?was “fair enough.” The Times had apparently come to the conclusion that somebody other than Dean deserved the Democratic nomination.
But after the Bush campaign used brief 9/11 images in an ad, the paper thundered that, “Any political candidate who attempts to piggyback onto the sense of national unity and instances of heroism that followed 9/11 deserves to be shunned by the electorate.” A story in the Times that same day said that Bush’s aides “were scrambling to counter criticism that his first television commercials crassly politicized the tragedy of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.” It was a major controversy in all of the media.
The lesson is clear: as long as Kerry’s friends used 9/11 to guarantee him the Democratic nomination, this was acceptable. But once Bush reminded voters of the fact that he led the country after 9/11, that was dirty politics and cynical exploitation of a tragedy. This is to be expected from a liberal paper that endorsed Kerry for president in the Democratic primary and will endorse him in the general election this November.
As for Dean, who said the Osama ads used against him reflected a “corrupt” political climate, he is now playing the role of good Democrat and is on the Kerry bandwagon. Perhaps he is hoping for an appointment in a Kerry administration as Secretary of State.