- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 11, 2004

President Bush began running his first TV ads yesterday going after presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry on tax cuts and on deferring to the United Nations on beginning the war in Iraq.

At the same time, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, said Mr. Kerry is due for a “comeuppance” for saying Republicans are “crooked” liars.

Mr. Kerry was on a stage with supporters in Chicago on Wednesday when one told him to keep fighting the Republicans. Mr. Kerry responded, “These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group of people I’ve ever seen.”

Mr. Hastert said yesterday Mr. Kerry went too far.

“Well, not only did he say that, he said that in my home state,” Mr. Hastert said. “I am one of those Republicans in Illinois. If he wants to describe me as being crooked and a liar, I think he will have his comeuppance coming.”

Mr. Kerry said he has “no intention whatsoever” of apologizing and instead went after Mr. Bush for his new ads.

“They’re going to start a series of attack ads on me tonight on three topics that have nothing to do with health care for Americans, nothing to do with jobs for Americans, nothing to do with education for our kids, nothing to do with cleaner air or cleaner water, nothing to do with making America safer in this world,” he said.

“They can’t talk about those things, because George Bush doesn’t have a record to run on, he has a record to run away from. And that’s what they’re trying to do,” Mr. Kerry said.

The new 30-second ads will run in 18 states the Bush campaign views as battlegrounds for November’s election.

In one, Mr. Bush speaks on camera and says America faces a choice: “We can go forward with confidence, resolve and hope. Or we can turn back to the dangerous illusion that terrorists are not plotting and outlaw regimes are no threat.”

In the other ad, which his campaign is calling a “contrast” ad, an announcer accuses Mr. Kerry of laying the groundwork for a $900 billion tax increase because of the cost of his health care plan, and for wanting “to delay defending America until the United Nations approved.”

That same message will also run in a 60-second radio ad.

Mr. Kerry said the difference between his ads and Mr. Bush’s newest ads is “I haven’t said anything that’s incorrect about them, and they’ve said lots of things that are incorrect.”

“There is a Republican attack squad that specializes in trying to destroy people and be negative. I think the president needs to talk about the real priorities of our country. And that’s what we’re looking forward to,” he said.

Bush campaign political strategist Matthew Dowd told reporters on a conference call yesterday it was “ironic” Mr. Kerry was complaining about the negative tone of the ads, given that he has spent three-fourths of his campaign money so far on ads attacking the president.

Mr. Dowd said the campaign decided now was the time to run the ads.

“There are moments in time that the public is paying a lot of attention to, and today, this month, is a moment in time,” he said. “We think it’s an important part right now to have that dialogue begin in an earnest way.”

The campaign on both sides has grown dramatically more intense in the past two weeks, with ads flying back and forth and members of Congress becoming more involved.

Mr. Hastert, who has taken a lead role in going after Mr. Kerry, said he thought President Bush “went overboard in congratulating” Mr. Kerry on becoming the presumptive nominee two weeks ago and Mr. Kerry has repaid that gesture with his remarks.

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