The Bush-Cheney campaign will launch an Arizona advertising campaign this week that slams Sen. John Kerry’s votes in Congress against military programs that employ thousands of people in the East Valley and the rest of the state.
The ads say Kerry, the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, has cast votes against the Apache attack helicopter, F/A-18 fighter jet components, Tomahawk cruise missiles and soldier's body armor. The Apache is built at Boeing’s plant in east Mesa, and all of the other systems are also made in Arizona. The Kerry camp responded by calling the ad campaign “a new low” and saying that Vice President Dick Cheney opposed many of the same weapons when he was secretary of defense under Bush's father.
“Does anyone believe George Bush and Dick Cheney anymore?” said Jim Pederson, Arizona Democratic Party chairman. “They've misled Americans about everything from going to war in Iraq to creating jobs in America, and now they're making up false attacks to try to smear John Kerry — when it's Dick Cheney who spent much of his career trying to cut . . . the size of the U.S. military.”
The spat highlights the importance the Bush-Cheney campaign attaches to Arizona and its 10 electoral votes. The Republicans are planning a nationwide cable TV ad campaign attacking Kerry's defense voting record, but they are paying special attention to nine key battleground states, including Arizona, where specific ads have been prepared for broadcast channels emphasizing local defense programs, Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman Danny Diaz said. “Before the campaign is over, the majority of voters in Arizona will have seen it,” he said. The Apache helicopter and wire harnesses and replacement parts for the F-18 are produced by Boeing at two sites in Mesa, where the company employs about 4,250.
Body armor and armor plates to protect Humvee flighting vehicles are produced by Tempe-based ArmorWorks and the Simula division of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Armor Holdings, with combined East Valley employment of more than 400. Tomahawk cruise missiles are made by Raytheon in Tucson, where the company employs about 10,000.
ArmorWorks and Simula could not be reached for comment. Boeing spokeswoman Carole Thompson-Sutton said only that the company never endorses candidates.
Diaz said Kerry proposed canceling the Apache program in 1984 and later voted against funding it at least five times. He also said that Kerry has voted against continued funding of the Tomahawk at least four times and the F/A-18 at least eight times. In October, Kerry voted against a supplemental defense bill that included money for additional body armor to protect troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Diaz said. Diaz called Democrats’ criticism of Cheney an attempt to divert attention from Kerry’s voting record.
“The record is his,” Diaz said. “(Opposing defense spending) is one of the few areas where he has demonstrated any degree of consistency.”
Kerry, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, disputed the notion that he is weak on defense. In a written response released Monday, the Arizona Democratic Party said that Kerry has supported $13 billion in defense authorization for the Apache, while Cheney recommended termination of the program before the Senate Appropriations Committee in 1989.
Kerry also supported at least $60 billion in defense authorizations for the F/A-18 while Cheney was cutting spending on the program in the late 1980s while he was defense secretary, the Democrats said in their response.
The armor vote was not specifically mentioned, but the document accused the president's team of trying “to distract voters from the fact that they sent our military to Iraq without key equipment like body armor . . .”
They bolstered their case by citing comments by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on NBC’s "Today" show in March in which McCain said attacks on Kerry's defense voting are “not helpful in educating and helping the American people make a choice. I do not believe that he is . . . weak on defense.”
McCain could not be reached Monday for further comment.