Thursday, July 13, 2006

House Democrats released a new campaign video that includes footage of U.S. flag-draped coffins from the Iraq war, prompting Republicans to call the ad a disgrace and to say that the Democrats should apologize.

“The fact that they are using this as a way to somehow raise money is more than disturbing,” said Rep. K. Michael Conaway, Texas Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee. “A huge apology to the troops and their families is owed by everyone involved in this travesty.”

Democrats defended the video, titled “America Needs a New Direction,” saying Republicans have previously exploited images of the September 11 terrorist attacks for campaign purposes. The Democrats’ ad also contains footage of Hurricane Katrina victims.

However, some Democrats have criticized the ad. In a letter yesterday to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina denounced the ad’s imagery.

“I strongly recommend that you pull this ad and delete both these clips before running it again,” Mr. Spratt wrote. “I will be speaking to you further to emphasize my sentiments about this ad, but I urge you to pull the ad immediately.”

Talk radio host Tammy Bruce, a Democrat, said the ad is “a reflection of the party’s empty leadership.”

“We can’t deny that our soldiers have died,” Ms. Bruce said in a telephone interview. “But the ad is an insult to the American people. It’s contemptuous and manipulative.”

Other Democrats denied the video is a fundraising pitch, even though it asks for the support of Democratic voters and is featured on the DCCC Web site.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California yesterday said she had not seen the ad, but stressed it is “not a fundraiser” and noted she thinks it “speaks truth to power about what’s happening in Iraq.”

“The Republicans are in denial about the consequences of their actions in Iraq,” she said at a press briefing. Mrs. Pelosi said the majority party wants to shield the American public from the “sad consequences of war.”

National Republican Campaign Committee Chairman Thomas M. Reynolds of New York said Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Emanuel “should be ashamed of themselves” for appearing in the video. The video clip also includes archived audio of former President Bill Clinton.

“It makes my stomach turn to see national Democrats so blatantly exploit the sacrifices made by the men and women of our armed forces,” Mr. Reynolds said.

When asked about Mr. Reynolds calling the ad “despicable,” Mrs. Pelosi replied: “Was it despicable when the Republicans used photos of 9/11 for political purposes, was that despicable? I think it’s despicable that young people’s lives are being lost.”

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio told reporters that the ad was both “outrageous” and “disgraceful.” He also called on Democratic leaders to apologize.

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