MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa – Democrat John Kerry (search) on Monday unveiled a television commercial featuring images of a flight-suited President Bush declaring an end to major combat in Iraq, with an announcer asking what Democrat can challenge the commander in chief.
When Bush landed on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (search) on May 1, many Democrats figured that the president would use the dramatic footage in his re-election campaign.
Kerry is the first of the nine Democratic presidential candidates to try to turn the tables on Bush, showing the aircraft landing amid growing doubts about the Iraq war, the failed search for weapons of mass destruction and an increasing number of U.S. dead.
In the ad, Bush is shown congratulating troops on the carrier as an announcer describes Kerry as "a leader on national security, a decorated combat veteran" who can take on Bush on national security issues with more credibility than his rivals.
"He's fighting for you against the Bush tax cuts, giveaways for corporations and the wealthy. And his health care plan covers the uninsured and holds down costs," the ad says.
The announcer asks: "Who can take on George Bush and change the direction of the nation?"
Critics have argued that the president staged the May 1 event to get footage for his re-election. Bush landed aboard the carrier in a Navy plane and, wearing a flight suit, posed before a giant banner that declared, "Mission Accomplished."
Since May 1, more Americans have died in Iraq than those killed during the initial phases of the war.
Last month, at a news conference, Bush disavowed any connection with the war message, "Mission Accomplished." Later, the White House changed its story and said there was a link.
Bush said, "The 'Mission Accomplished' sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished."
"I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from my staff -- they weren't that ingenious, by the way."