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National | AD WATCH: Kerry's new biographical ad touts his military record-but not all of it

Issue: "Iraq: What went wrong?," May 15, 2004

Following Republican charges that the Massachusetts senator is soft on defense, the Kerry campaign is striking back with a $25 million ad campaign in 19 swing states-reportedly the largest single ad buy ever by a presidential candidate.

the visual:

The ad starts with a close-up of Sen. Kerry talking about his background. Next come black-and-white photos of his parents, then a color photo of Sen. Kerry himself with some of his fellow soldiers in Vietnam. There's a brief clip of Sen. Kerry walking through the jungle, toting an automatic weapon, then a shot of the bespectacled senator talking on the phone.

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Sen. Kerry's friends Del Sandusky and Jim Rassmann both take a moment to vouch for him, followed by his daughter and his wife. As his daughter speaks, we get yet another photo of Sen. Kerry in uniform in Vietnam. The ad ends with a montage of Kerry photos and the tagline, "A lifetime of service and strength."

the verbal:

John Kerry: I was born in Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Colorado. My dad was serving in the Army Air Corps. Both of my parents taught me about public service. I enlisted because I believed in service to country. I thought it was important if you had a lot of privileges as I had had, to go to a great university like Yale, to give something back to your country.

Del Sandusky: The decisions that he made saved our lives.

Jim Rassmann: When he pulled me out of the river, he risked his life to save mine.

Announcer: For more than 30 years, John Kerry has served America.

Vanessa Kerry: If you look at my father's time in service to this country, whether it's as a veteran, prosecutor, or senator, he has shown an ability to fight for things that matter.

Teresa Heinz Kerry: John is the face of someone who's hopeful, who's generous of spirit and of heart.

John Kerry: We're a country of optimists, we're the "can do" people and we just need to believe in ourselves again.

Announcer: A lifetime of service and strength. John Kerry for President.

John Kerry: I'm John Kerry, and I approved this message.

the verdict:

The Kerry campaign is touting the ad's positive tone, though Sen. Kerry's boast of enlisting for service in Vietnam appears to be a not-so-subtle dig at Yale-alum George W. Bush's far safer duties at home in the National Guard. The ad is most noteworthy for what it doesn't say, like the word Massachusetts, a state virtually synonymous with liberalism. While campaign ads during the Democratic primaries touted Mr. Kerry's opposition to the Vietnam War, this one-aimed at moderate swing voters-never so much as mentions the anti-war activism that launched his political career and turned many of his comrades-in-arms against him (see p. 25).


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