President Bush’s re-election campaign is ridiculing what it calls “John Kerry’s coalition of the wild-eyed,” which includes filmmaker Michael Moore and former Vice President Al Gore.
The campaign has compiled a collection of video clips featuring angry Democrats and over-the-top ads by MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy group, to showcase what it calls the “rage” of the left.
The resulting Internet ad, which is posted on the campaign’s Web site, is dubbed “The Faces of John Kerry’s Democratic Party: The Coalition of the Wild-eyed.”
Taking a page from the political playbook of Mr. Moore, whose anti-Bush movie, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” opened nationwide on Friday, the Bush campaign has edited together the most strident sound bites from those who support Mr. Kerry, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts.
“How dare they drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud of Saddam Hussein’s torture prison,” exclaims an angry Mr. Gore at the beginning of the ad.
Viewers then see a clip from a MoveOn.org ad showing Adolf Hitler basking in the adulation of Nazis who cry “sieg heil.” An image of Mr. Bush’s raising his right hand to take the oath of office is made to look as though he is saluting the German dictator.
“What were war crimes in 1945,” the ad says, “is foreign policy in 2003.”
Next comes a montage of angry exhortations from former Democratic presidential candidates Howard Dean and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri. Mr. Moore is shown being booed at the Academy Awards for accusing the president of “sending us to war for fictitious reasons.”
After more shots of Mr. Gore railing against Mr. Bush and MoveOn.org likening him to Hitler, the ad shows Mr. Kerry using an expletive to describe Mr. Bush’s domestic policies.
“This is not a time for pessimism and rage,” the ad concludes as the image of Mr. Kerry gives way to one of Mr. Bush. “It’s a time for optimism, steady leadership and progress.”
On Thursday, the day of the ad’s release, Mr. Kerry disputed the notion that he is a pessimist.
“This nation is destined to think big and dream big, and it’s time America had a president who once again will look toward a future of discovery with hope and confidence,” he said.
“I’ve offered an economic agenda focused on high-tech, high-wage job growth,” he added. “It is an optimistic agenda for prosperity.”
Kerry campaign spokesman Mary Beth Cahill called on Republicans to remove the ad saying that “the use of Adolf Hitler by any campaign, politician or party is simply wrong.”
But the Bush-Cheney campaign team refused.
“We’re using the video from MoveOn.org to show our supporters the type of vitriolic rhetoric being used by the president’s opponents and John Kerry’s surrogates,” spokesman Scott Stanzel said.
Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman also noted that the ad did not encompass all the president’s detractors.
“A strong member of the coalition of the wild-eyed, America Coming Together, hired convicted felons to register voters,” he said. “In Ohio, it has been discovered that a murderer and a rapist are part of this effort.”
According to Mr. Mehlman, the effort is yet another example of the “rage” against Mr. Bush. Republican strategists are increasingly convinced that the political phenomenon of “Bush hatred” ultimately will backfire on Mr. Kerry.
“John Kerry himself got carried away,” Mr. Mehlman said, “attacking former President Reagan and claiming to be more committed to reducing the size of government than was President Reagan.”
He was referring to Mr. Kerry’s calling the late president a “big spender who ran up the nation’s deficit.” Speaking to donors at a San Francisco fund-raiser Wednesday, Mr. Kerry added: “I don’t recall vetoes of major appropriations bills.”
A disclaimer was added to the start of the Web spot over the weekend to explain that the video contains “remarks made by and images from ads sponsored by Kerry supporters.” The disclaimer accuses Mr. Kerry of failing to denounce those making Hitler comparisons.
According to the Bush team, no one typifies the “coalition of the wild-eyed” more than Mr. Moore. Liberal columnist Christopher Hitchens has criticized Mr. Moore for “a film that bases itself on a big lie.”
“To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability,” he wrote in the online magazine Slate. “Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness.”
Former President George Bush has called Mr. Moore a “slimeball” and said the film was “a vicious personal attack” on his son.
White House spokesman Dan Bartlett told ABC on Friday that the documentary is “outrageously false” and not “based upon any facts.”
“Mr. Moore has made it a habit of his not to pay attention to facts. And he comes from a very extreme ideology,” Mr. Bartlett said. “He’s outside the mainstream.”
Republicans said the examples of Bush hatred have continued to proliferate in recent days.
“Al Gore delivered another gravely false attack on the president,” Mr. Mehlman said. “Another member of the coalition, [Democratic National Committee] Chairman Terry McAuliffe, embraced Michael Moore.”
Mr. Mehlman said he would have no response to Mr. Moore’s film but said, “The question is how Senator Kerry is going to respond to it.”