Republicans Upset Over Bush Plan to Use Reagan Images, Speeches in Campaign Ads
As the nation prepares to bury former President Ronald Reagan, Republican insiders fight among themselves over plans by the political team of President George W. Bush to use images of and speeches by Reagan in new television ads aimed at jump-starting a faltering campaign.
“They’re disgusting,” says one long-time Republican who participated in a focus group to preview the new television ads. “They dishonor the memory of Ronald Reagan and if President Bush allows these ads on the air I, for one, will not vote for him in November.”
The ads, ordered up by Bush political advisor Karl Rove immediately after Reagan’s death last Saturday, use images of Reagan and excerpts from his speeches in what one angry GOP conservative describes as a “callous attempt to tie George W. Bush to the legacy of Ronald Wilson Reagan.”
One proposed ad even goes so far as to show Reagan saying “George, go out and win one for the Gipper.” The clip comes from Reagan’s speech to the 1988 Republican National Convention where the former President’s request was to Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, in his successful 1988 run for President.
“I cannot believe our party would stoop to using Mr. Reagan’s memory for such political gain,” says another Republican who has heard about, but not seen, the ads. “This goes way beyond any moral or ethical bounds.”
As anger towards the proposed ad campaign builds, GOP leaders are urging the White House to scrap the campaign and destroy the ads before they become public. One longtime GOP consultant told Rove he was a “goddamned idiot” for even considering putting the ads on the air.
“Conservative Republicans are already unhappy with President Bush,” the consultant said when questioned by Capitol Hill Blue. “It won’t take much to make them stay home on Election Day.”
National polls show Bush clearly in trouble with voters. A new Los Angeles Times poll shows the President trailing Kerry 51-44 percent with 60 percent of Americans saying the nation is on the wrong track.
The sliding poll numbers sent the Bush campaign media team into overdrive over the weekend to get the ads ready to show to focus groups on Tuesday but found the reaction overwhelmingly negative, campaign insiders say.
“Many Republicans are already nervous about the extreme negativity that the Bush campaign has engaged in so early in this campaign,” says one GOP strategist. “Never before has an incumbent President gone so negative so early against an opponent. Following that with a cynical use of a former President that so many Republicans revere is not just unwise. It’s just plain dumb and stupid.”
Former First Lady Nancy Reagan has sent a message to the White House expressing her “extreme displeasure” at any attempt to use her late husband as a campaign tool in the Presidential campaign.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” says a GOP operative who served in the Reagan White House. “Nancy doesn’t like President Bush. If he’s smart, he’ll tell Rove to burn the ads. George W. Bush doesn’t want Nancy Reagan as a public enemy.”
Some GOP consultants, however, defend the ads as a necessary tool in what is becoming an increasingly tough campaign.
“A Presidential campaign is war,” says one, “and in a war you do whatever it takes to win.”
But political scientist George Harleigh says the Bush campaign is stepping on too many toes that it will need in November.
“Ronald Reagan has achieved god-like status among conservative Republicans and you don’t mess with his memory,” he says. “If they are smart they will pull the plug on the campaign and order the ads destroyed. Unfortunately, the Bush campaign has not yet impressed us with its intelligence.” THE SOURCE