Wednesday, April 14, 2004

A Florida Democratic club has taken out a newspaper advertisement urging the assassination of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, and another partisan group is running a national television commercial with an actor impersonating President Bush’s voice saying, “I used 9/11 as an excuse to invade Iraq.”

The ad — a fund-raising appeal for Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign — was paid for by the St. Petersburg Democratic Club and appeared in a Gulfport, Fla., weekly. It criticizes the “Bush Bunch” and compared the Iraqi insurgents to American patriots during the Revolutionary War. The advertisement includes this passage:

“They’re Iraqi patriots who want us the hell out of their country, and we should get the hell out of their country now!”

“And then there’s Rumsfeld who said of Iraq, ‘We have our good days and our bad days,’ ” the ad continues. “We should put this S.O.B. up against the wall and say ‘This is one of our bad days,’ and pull the trigger.”

Scott Maddox, the chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, described the newspaper advertisement as “reprehensible and in poor taste” and called for its immediate removal and a formal apology.

Florida Republican Party spokesman Joseph Agostini called the ad “deplorable and shocking,” and said “it cheapens the political dialogue America stands for.”

Florida Democratic officials said the ad was placed without their knowledge.

“It is obvious that this is the work of a misguided individual in a small social club,” a spokesman said. “It does not in any way convey the opinion or position of mainstream Democrats in the state of Florida.”

Numerous calls to phone numbers listed on the St. Petersburg Democratic Club Web site went unanswered.

But club Vice President Edna McCall told the Drudge Report that the ad was not meant as a call for actual injury to Mr. Rumsfeld. “‘Pull the trigger’ means let Rumsfeld know where we stand, not shoot him,” she said. “We are getting raped, and they are planning to steal the election again.”

MoveOn.Org, a liberal advocacy group, is running the television ad featuring an actor purporting to be Mr. Bush testifying before the September 11 commission.

“Before 9/11, I was obsessed with Iraq,” says the actor in a voiceover as the screen displays a picture of Mr. Bush at a microphone. A disclaimer at the bottom of the screen says, “President Bush’s voice is being imitated.”

“Then I used 9/11 as an excuse to invade Iraq,” says the actor in a compelling impersonation of the president’s accent and voice inflections. “So now we’re less safe than we were before.”

Republican spokeswoman Christine Iverson called it “highly misleading.”

MoveOn did not return a phone call and several e-mails seeking comment, although one person associated with the group said the ad is not misleading because it includes an on-screen disclaimer that the president’s voice is merely an imitation.

But Republicans said the disclaimer is slyly camouflaged as white lettering at the bottom of an overly bright screen and blends into the background. All the other lettering in the advertisement is black or colored.

The ad airs even as the Federal Election Commission (FEC) meets today and tomorrow to clarify laws dealing with how directly political groups such as MoveOn can be involved in national campaigns.

The Republican National Committee has filed formal complaints with the FEC against MoveOn, accusing it of paying for several blatantly anti-Bush ads out of its accounts of large, unregulated contributions. The current ad is not among those that were questionably funded. Republicans also accuse the group of working in concert with the campaign of Mr. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate.

“They hurt themselves by running ads attacking the president on an issue that no American wants to see politicized,” Ms. Iverson said. “They do more harm than good by running these ads. It’s an attack ad, and people will see it for what it is.”

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