June 27, 2004

"Hitler Image Used in Bush Campaign Web Ad."

So reads a misleading headline to an AP article printed in today's NYT. Here's the key text:
President Bush's campaign contains online video, removed from a liberal group's Web site months ago and disavowed, that features the Nazi dictator.

The Bush Internet video, which was sent electronically to 6 million supporters, intersperses clips of speeches by Democrats John Kerry, Al Gore and Howard Dean with the footage of Hitler. ...

The 77-second video on the Bush-Cheney re-election site splices footage of Kerry, the presumptive nominee, and his 2004 rival Dean along with 2000 nominee Gore and film director Michael Moore. The spot calls them Kerry's "Coalition of the Wild-eyed." Clips of Hitler's image are seen throughout the spot.

The video clip in question was a contest entry on the MoveOn.org website back in January. Should Bush remove this video from his site, as requested by the Kerry campaign? Does Kerry deserve to have the most vitriolic Democrats hung around his neck? Whoever made the MoveOn.org commercial wasn't even a Kerry supporter.

The Bush campaign's position is that unless Kerry "denounces" these Democrats, their video is appropriate. Whatever effect it has on the content of George Bush's website, Kerry ought to distance himself from Democrats who resort to this kind of ugly language and imagery, but he can't control everyone that is talking about him and he doesn't need to "denounce" them anymore that Bush needs to "denounce" his own supporters who overstate things too and make ridiculous comparisons. The important thing is for the candidates not to sink to that level, and Bush using the images of Hitler on his website does drag him down. He's trying to portray the other side as a bunch of crazies. The video ends with a portrayal of Bush as the sane and rational one we should trust. Yet what has gone before is itself an attempt to appeal to irrational emotions--to generate fear and revulsion.

There is a lot of hostility and ugliness going around right now. It is a real challenge to both candidates to find a way to fight hard without becoming part of that ugliness.

(I had to laugh at the attempt to make Kerry look bad by showing him using the word "ass," after Cheney's recent denouncement of Senator Leahy.)

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