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Would Kerry Throw Us To The Wolves?

A misleading Bush ad criticizes Kerry for proposing to cut intelligence spending -- a decade ago, by 4%, when some Republicans also proposed cuts.

October 23, 2004

Modified: October 23, 2004

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Summary

 

A new Bush ad claims Kerry supported cuts in intelligence “so deep they would have weakened America ’s defenses” against terrorists, and shows a pack of hungry-looking wolves preparing to attack. Actually, the cut Kerry proposed in 1994 amounted to less than 4 percent, as part of a proposal to cut many programs to reduce the deficit.

And in 1995 Porter Goss, who is now Bush’s CIA Director, co-sponsored an even stronger deficit-elimination measure that would have cut CIA personnel by 20 percent over five years. When asked about that at his confirmation hearings he didn't disavow it.

Analysis

 

The Bush ad released Oct. 22 is called “wolves,” and is a direct appeal to fear.

Bush Cheney ‘04

“Wolves”

Announcer: In an increasingly dangerous world… Even after the first terrorist attack on America … John Kerry and the liberals in Congress voted to slash America ’s intelligence operations. By 6 billion dollars… Cuts so deep they would have weakened America ’s defenses. And weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm..

(On Screen: Several wolves eye the camera, as if preparing to attack.)

Bush:  I’m George W Bush and I approve this message.

Speak Softly But
Use Scary Words and Pictures

Using a soft-spoken female announcer to deliver the harsh message, the ad shows blurry images of a dark forest and a pack of hungry-looking wolves eying the camera and apparently contemplating an attack.

The announcer says that “after the first terrorist attack on America ” Kerry “voted to slash America ’s intelligence operations.” The ad is misleading in several ways, some of which we went over  last March when President Bush first accused Kerry of trying to “gut” the intelligence budget.

Here are the ways this ad misleads voters:

•Old news: The “first terrorist attack” the ad refers to didn't happen September 11, 2001, as some listeners assume. It actually was more than a decade ago, in 1993, when a truck bomb went off in the parking garage under one of the World Trade Center towers. In fact, Kerry was supporting regular increases in intelligence spending for several years prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

•Exaggerated Wording: Kerry never proposed a single $6-billion cut in intelligence spending. He did propose S.1826 (see "supporting documents" at right) which included a $1-billion cut in 1994. That measure also would have frozen intelligence spending at that reduced level through 1998, allowing it to rise only by the rate of inflation. That could fairly be called a $5-billion cut spread over five years.

Total intelligence spending is a classified figure, but was estimated at the time to be $27 billion per year. So, the cut Kerry proposed amounted to an estimated 3.7 percent -- hardly a proposal to "slash" expenditures. That measure was debated on the Senate floor and on Feb 10,1994 it was defeated 75-20 with 38 Democratic Senators voting against it.

The following year Kerry introduced another deficit-reduction package, S.1290 (see "supporting documents" at right). This one would have lowered the ceiling for intelligence spending by $300 million for five years starting in 1996. That would have amounted to a reduction of just over 1 percent of estimated intelligence spending.

Not only was this proposed reduction a small one, it came at a time when it had just become known that one intelligence agency had been hoarding $1 billion in unspent funds from its secret appropriations. Kerry's proposal died without a hearing, but a similar Republican-sponsored measure eventually became law (see below).

Saying that either of these proposals would “slash” spending is an exaggeration. Saying that a 4 percent or 1 percent cut would have “weakened America ’s defenses” is an opinion which the Bush campaign has a perfect right to state, but it is not a fact.

•Missing Context: The ad doesn’t tell the whole story. Some Republicans also supported similar cuts in intelligence spending at the time, including Bush’s current CIA Director Porter Goss.

Goss co-sponsored a draconian, deficit-elimination  bill in 1995 (see "supporting documents" at right) that would have cut the number of CIA employees by 20 percent or more over five years. Goss wasn't the main author -- he signed onto an 1,188-page bill authored by Gerald Solomon, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, of which Goss was a member. The measure died without a hearing and had no prospect of passage, as it called for elimination of the Departments of Education, Energy and Commerce among other things. When questioned about his co-sponsorship of the bill during his confirmation hearings in September Goss said only, "the record speaks for the record."

Another Republican-sponsored cut similar to Kerry's proposed 1995 measure actually became law. On the same day Kerry proposed his $1.5-billion cut spread over five years, the Senate passed by voice vote an amendment to eliminate $1 billion in intelligence funds for fiscal year 1996. That measure was proposed by Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and a companion measure was co-sponsored by Kerry and Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama. The cut eventually became law as part of a House-Senate package endorsed by the Republican leadership. Specter explained at the time that the $1-billion cut was intended to recapture funds that had been appropriated for spy satellites, but which had gone unspent by the National Reconnaissance Office.

Sources

 

Dana Milbank, “Goss Backed '95 Bill to Slash Intelligence; Plan Would Have Cut Personnel 20%,” Washington Post, 24 Aug 2004 : A3.

"Hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee: Nomination of Rep. Porter J. Goss to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency," transcript, The Federal News Service, Inc., 14 Sep 2004.

103d Congress, 2d Session, S. 1826, "To reduce the deficit for fiscal years 1994 through 1998," 3 Feb. 1994.

104th Congress, 1st Session,  S.1290, "To reduce the deficit," 25 Sep 1995.

104th Congress, 1st Session H.R. 1923, "To balance the budget of the United States Government by restructuring Government, reducing Federal spending, eliminating the deficit, limiting bureaucracy, and restoring federalism," 25 Jun 2004.

 

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