View Full Version : Bush camp hits Kerry on spending

22 Mar 04,, 07:51
President Bush's re-election campaign officials, encouraged by their success in putting Sen. John Kerry on the defensive in the past 10 days, yesterday opened a new round of coordinated attempts to define him as "a tax-and-spend liberal."

The media offensive, which will accuse Mr. Kerry of seeking to raise spending by $1 trillion more than he has proposed to raise taxes, is timed to coincide with House and Senate votes on the federal budget this week.

As in last week's scolding of Mr. Kerry for stating that he was endorsed by "foreign leaders" whom he declined to identify, the new offensive is aimed at defining the Democratic nominee while he continues a skiing vacation in Idaho.

"You will see us discussing that aggressively this week as the Congress votes on budgets," says Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman. "We'll have surrogates out during the week, and you'll see this conversation joined on numerous different fronts."

Mr. Bush foreshadowed the attack on Saturday, when he told 15,000 supporters at his first official campaign rally that Mr. Kerry had a "tax gap." The president defined it as a shortfall in tax revenues that would result if Mr. Kerry were to fund even a fraction of the government programs that he has proposed on the campaign trail.

The attack was sharpened yesterday, when the campaign sent reporters a long list of criticisms of the Democrat on budget matters.

In what is quickly becoming a pattern of coordinated criticism, the Republican National Committee plans today to unveil a "spendometer" that will allow voters to track Mr. Kerry's spending proposals.

Also today, Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma and Rep. Jim Nussle of Iowa, the Republican chairmen of the Senate and House budget committees, will hold a conference call to reporters on budget matters.

Although Mr. Kerry planned to remain on vacation until tomorrow, his campaign accused Mr. Bush of misleading the nation about the cost of the war in Iraq.

"Bush campaign surrogates are trying to defend this president's failed policies by attacking John Kerry," the campaign says in an unsigned statement. "But it's not surprising that they didn't mention anything about the true cost of the war.

"This president
and his administration misled the American people when describing the cost of the war in Iraq and continue to hide the future costs," the statement says. "Meanwhile, this administration's 'go-it-alone' policy has been paid for by the American people to the tune of $1 billion a week."

The Bush campaign countered that Mr. Kerry has not proposed his own budget while the president has a proposal to be considered by Congress this week. Nevertheless, Bush campaign operatives took a stab at creating such a document based on the Democrat's public utterances, a move Democrats criticized.

"In the absence of having ever put forward a credible budget of their own, they've gone to making up make-believe budgets for other people," Kerry adviser Gene Sperling told the Associated Press.

The Bush campaign has identified 73 new spending proposals made by Mr. Kerry on the campaign trail. Bush researchers were able to come up with price tags for 28 of those programs, based on estimates from the Kerry campaign, media sources or credible third parties.

"The cost of just 28 of the 73 proposals is $1.7 trillion over 10 years," Mr. Mehlman says. "That's more than the economic output for the nation of France. It's about three-quarters of the size of the annual budget for the U.S. government. And it will cost each American an average of $15,500 over 10 years."

But Mr. Kerry would bring in only $700 billion during that same period by raising taxes and closing corporate loopholes, according to the Bush campaign.

"That leaves a $1 trillion tax gap between his new proposals and increases in taxes that will occur on 'the rich,' which presumably the middle class would have to bear, since he's also said he will cut the deficit in half and not borrow," Mr. Mehlman says.

"There's a trillion-dollar tax gap, and that's with a third of his budget laid out," he says. "When the whole thing's laid out, it'll presumably be a lot bigger."