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October 6, 2006

8th District ad watch

Posted by David Postman at 11:58 AM

I've been watching the two new TV ads Democrats and Republicans put up yesterday for their candidates in the 8th Congressional District. I wanted to tell you all about what they were trying to convey, but then someone sent me a wickedly sharp column by Michael Kinsley from today's Washington Post.

In the process of tearing apart Mike McGavick's ad campaign, Kinsley says:

The media do a better and better job each election cycle at pointing out and analyzing these campaign constructs. But by doing so, in a way, they legitimize it all. By raising up the subtext, they diminish the importance of the text. Don't be naive: You're not supposed to take this stuff literally. Politicians are trying to push your buttons. They aren't trying to communicate with you.

So let's take it literally:

Democratic Congressional Campaign Commmittee ad against Dave Reichert.

The full picture on Congressman Dave Reichert

On the issues that matter, Congressman Reichert stands with George Bush.

Supported Bush's stay-the-course Iraq policy.

Supported privatizing Social Security.

Supported Bush's prescription drug plan.

Congressman Reichert even said, "I don't have any regrets" about voting for Bush's energy policy.

Reichert: Just another vote for George Bush's agenda.

Is this how you picture Washington's future?

It's time for a change.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

On Iraq, the vote cited was a House resolution that was described by the Washington Post as a vote to "back President Bush's policies in Iraq" and to "declare that the United States must complete 'the mission to create a sovereign, free, secure and united Iraq' without setting 'an arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment' of U.S. troops.

Among the 42 Democrats who voted for the resolution were Washington Reps. Adam Smith and Rick Larsen. I doubt either would say it signaled blind loyalty to Bush's Iraq policy.

On prescription drugs, Reichert was not in Congress when that plan was approved. His staff says that part of the Democrats' ad is incorrect because Reichert has problems with the prescription drug plan cited.

But they didn't object when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ran ads here thanking Reichert for his support for the prescription drug plan.

Federal election law prohibits candidates from coordinating so-called "third-party" ads bought by independent groups. But Reichert's spokeswoman, Carol Beaudu, said he indeed supports the prescription-drug plan and has held 16 workshops to explain the benefit to seniors.

On the energy plan, the quote about no regrets came from this story about gas prices in the Chicago Tribune.

Reichert did oppose drilling in ANWR, a key piece of Bush's energy plan. Said Reichert spokeswoman Kimberly Cadena:

"It's inaccurate to say that Congressman Reichert supports President Bush's energy policy when at the center of Bush's energy policy is drilling in ANWR. Congressman Reichert has vocally, consistently and effectively worked in Congress to prevent drilling in ANWR."

National Republican Congressional Committee ad against Darcy Burner

Darcy Burner is throwing mud at her opponent.

Maybe it's so she won't have to talk about her own position on the issues, at least not to some voters.

But she told her liberal supporters that we should let the tax cuts expire.

Even though it means tax increases for families, seniors and small business owners, a return to the marriage penalty, and half the child tax credit wiped out.

Darcy Burner is throwing mud.

No wonder: If she tells the truth, she'll lose.

The National Republican Congressional Committee paid for and is responsible for the content of this message.

I asked Jonathan Collegio, the press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee, for an example of Burner "throwing mud at her opponent."

He pointed to Burner's speech at a Democratic National Committee meeting in Chicago in August where she said:

We are at a very dangerous moment in the American experience. We are under attack by forces outside of this country: Terrorists who are focused entirely on killing Americans and destroying this country. And we are under attack from the inside, by an administration and a majority in Congress that would destroy those things that the American people have fought for and won over the last 250 years.

Said Collegio:

"She's comparing terrorists and Republicans, here, the type of mud-slinging, over-the-top negative rhetoric that Washington state voters are tired of."

Is that what people think of as "mud slinging" in this context? Particularly with that closing line about, "If she tells the truth, she'll lose," the implication is that Burner has made false claims about Reichert.

(UPDATE: There are better examples of false claims. The Burner campaign has incorrectly claimed Reichert voted to raise Congressional pay and that he voted to cut veterans benefits. I should have remembered those, even if Collegio didn't offer them as evidence)

(UPDATE, THE CAN OF WORMS EDITION: Burner is unhappy with the above update. She has no beef with the pay raise example, but she and her campaign staff object to the characterization that her ad incorrectly alleged Reichert had voted to cut benefits for veterans. My summary came from a September story in the Times by Jonathan Martin about TV ads in the 8th.

"Ads against both candidates contain inaccuracies," the story said. And,

Her ad emphasizes her military connections and accuses Reichert, a former Air Force reservist, of breaking the "promise America makes" to service members in action by voting to "cut funding for veterans' health care."

But the votes it is based upon " Reichert's party-line votes for 2006 and 2007 budgets " do not cut Veteran's Administration health-care programs. Mike Shields, Reichert's chief of staff, said the VA's health-care budget increased 16 percent during the time Reichert has been in office.

But the VA did admit grossly underestimating the needs of returning Iraq and Afghan war veterans, forcing Congress into an emergency $1.5 billion in extra spending.

Veterans in Washington state continue to complain about access to VA health care. In the agency's most recent quarterly report, the Northwest ranks worst among the country's 21 regions in veterans' access to a primary-care appointment within 30 days of requesting one.

Burner's campaign says it's September ad was correct. Campaign manager Zach Silk said:

We stand by our ad. If you look at the 5 year budget passed by this Congress and supported by Dave Reichert, the funding for veteran programs goes down.

He had a chance to join moderate Republicans in opposing the budget resolutions that cut funding for veterans programs -- including veterans healthcare. Instead, he joined the Republican leadership and voted for a 5 year budget that underfunds veterans programs.

The Burner campaign sent lots of information on this subject today and they have some on its website. I will not attempt to fully report the veterans health care crisis here today. But it should be done. No more updates today, though.

As for the tax cuts, Republicans are relying on an interview Burner did in April on "Equal Time for the Progressive Side," a Democratic Radio program.

On the show Burner says:

We have a set of tax policies that hurt working people and reward wealth instead and that is exactly backwards, particular right now when the United States is running record deficits.

And, what Republicans point to, she said:

We should let the tax cuts expire.

Collegio says Republicans take that as a reference to the 2001 package of tax cuts approved by Congress. He said it was a package that included the taxes mentioned in the ad, so if Burner wants to let some expire, they all would.

Burner disputes that and her campaign says she supports tax cuts for the middle class, research and development and others.

But Collegio stands behind the Republican assertion that to say the tax cuts should expire means the entire package:

"We're not talking about a piece of make-believe legislation that Darcy Burner has tucked away in the left corner of her brain. We're talking about real world things that have passed Congress and are set to expire and must be re-authorized."

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