Home>News Center>World

Bush, Kerry turn campaigning into a zoo
Updated: 2004-10-23 14:16

It's "Animal Planet" in the presidential advertising wars. In heavily symbolic television spots, President Bush's campaign uses prowling wolves to suggest that the country under Sen. John Kerry would be vulnerable to terrorists. The Democratic Party claims the Republican incumbent is a head-in-the-sand ostrich while his opponent is as strong as an eagle.

Video image from a campaign ad for President Bush released Friday, Oct. 22, 2004. President Bush's campaign, using powerful imagery of prowling wolves, suggests the country under John Kerry would be vulnerable to terrorists in the new television ad that says "weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm." [AP]
"Weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm," says an ominous voice in the president's ad as a wolf pack stirs from its resting spot. Countering, the Democratic commercial juxtaposes an ostrich whose head is buried with a soaring eagle and asks, "Given the choice, in these challenging times, shouldn't we be the eagle again?"

Polls show Bush and Kerry in a tight race, and both campaigns are focusing on national security to try to gain an advantage.

The commander in chief argues for staying the course in wartime, suggesting that change would put the country at risk and terrorists would take advantage of a Democratic president. Kerry and his party claim the country needs a new direction because the president is out of touch with reality.

Both the Bush campaign and the Democratic National Committee say they have had their respective ads ready for months. However, both waited to air the spots in the closing days of the campaign when voters pay closer attention and the stakes are the highest.

Video image from a campaign ad for John Kerry released Friday, Oct. 22, 2004. In this frame from a new TV an by the Democratic National Committee, an ostrich, likened to President George W. Bush, buries its head in the sand. The ad contrasts the ostrich with the eagle, saying, "in these challenging times, shouldn't we be the eagle again?" [AP]
On Friday, the Bush campaign rolled out its ad, prompting the DNC to accelerate plans to air its commercial.

The president's ad is reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's "Bear" ad that was credited with helping frame his successful 1984 re-election over Walter Mondale. The ad used a menacing grizzly bear to represent the Soviet Union, the rival superpower of the Cold War.

In Bush's ad, wolves are a metaphor for terrorists, the U.S. enemy of 2004. It shows a dense forest from above and sunlight-speckled trees from inside. Shadows, seemingly made by wolves, dart through the brush. At the end, a wolf pack moves forward as if startled.

"In an increasingly dangerous world, even after the first terrorist attack on America, John Kerry and the liberals in Congress voted to slash America's intelligence budget by $6 billion," the ad says. "Cuts so deep they would have weakened America's defenses. And weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm."

Hitting back, Kerry running mate John Edwards, in Boynton Beach, Fla., accused Bush of "continuing to try to scare America in his speeches and ads in a despicable and contemptible way."

Echoing comments from Vice President Dick Cheney, the commercial suggests that if Kerry were elected, the country faces the risk of another terrorist attack.

"It's certainly playing to fear," said Darrell West, a Brown University political scientist who studies campaign advertising. "It builds logically on other things they've been saying for months."

Compared to Bush's ad, the DNC commercial is uplifting - even comical.

To the strains of piano music, an eagle spreads its wings in a bright sky and perches on a branch at sunset while an ostrich stands with its head buried in sand.

"The eagle soars high above the earth. The ostrich buries its head in the sand. The eagle can see everything for miles around. The ostrich? Can't see at all. The eagle knows when it's time to change course. The ostrich stands in one place," the ad says. "Given the choice, in these challenging times, shouldn't we be the eagle again?"

The Democrats argue that Bush has failed to face the reality of a postwar morass in Iraq, with more than 1,000 American dead, kidnappings and beheadings, and violence threatening to delay elections in January. In addition, Democrats cite the recent report by Charles Duelfer, the U.S. weapons hunter in Iraq, who said Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs had deteriorated by the time of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

Bush's main rationale for war were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Officials for both sides said both ads would air in local media markets in states considered battlegrounds as well as on national cable networks. Bush's ad was to start Friday. The DNC ad was to start running early next week.

Bush's campaign and the Republican National Committee are spending roughly $15 million on TV ads this week, and GOP officials say that sum is likely to be higher next week, the last before Nov. 2.

The DNC's independent operation has allotted $20 million for ads for this week and next combined. Party officials say the new commercial will run at heavy levels in rotation with other spots.

Kerry's campaign also responded with a new ad in which the Democrat asserts that he would "stop at nothing to find and kill the terrorists." However, it's not clear the ad will actually run. In the past, the campaign has announced such response ads but never aired them.

  Today's Top News     Top World News

6,953 officials probed for power flop



FM: talks with Japan on sea border advance



Statistics show rise in industrial profits



Dissecting China's 'middle class'



China issues SARS warning as winter nears



AP: New Bush guard papers leave questions


  Bush, Kerry take campaigns to key states
  British military begins deployment in Iraq
  Three Japan quake victims found after four days
  New quake rattles northern Japan, felt in Tokyo
  Japanese hostage in Iraq believed to be civilian traveler
  Israeli parliament backs Gaza pullout plan
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  Related Stories  
Reuters poll: Bush grabs one-point lead on Kerry
Bush, Kerry spar on science, health care
Older voters worry about Iraq as well as drug costs
Study: US presidential race most expensive
Experts see high turnout in presidential vote
Kids pick Kerry to be the next president
  News Talk  
  Are the Republicans exploiting the memory of 9/11?