A new Bush campaign ad tries to make the case that Sen. John Kerry has held a host of contradictory positions on the war in Iraq, but it does so by relying on misleadingly edited portions of the Democratic candidate's statements.
Part of the latest Bush campaign TV commercial includes a clip from ABC News' May 2003 Democratic presidential candidate debate, during which Kerry said, "I think it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein."
But the ad excludes part of the same sentence, in which Kerry said, "I said at the time I would have preferred if we had given diplomacy a greater opportunity."
Another misleading clip in the ad shows the Massachusetts Democrat saying the "winning of the war was brilliant," implying Kerry was praising Bush's leadership in the war.
"When he says winning the war was brilliant, he's talking about the way the war was won by the troops. He's not praising Bush, and he's certainly not endorsing the decision to go to war," said Brooks Jackson, director of FactCheck.org of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.
The rest of Kerry's quote, from an appearance on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews in May 2003, clarifies his position.
"That winning of the war was brilliant and superb, and we all applaud our troops for doing what they did. But you've got to have the capacity to provide law and order on the streets and to provide the fundamental services, and I believe American troops will be safer and America will pay less money if we have a broader coalition involved," he said.
Other Incomplete Quotes
Other quotes in the ad are complete, such as one in which the senator tries to explain his vote on money to provide equipment for U.S. troops: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."
Kerry instead voted for a version of the $87 billion supplemental spending bill that helped pay for the expenses through a partial rollback of some of the Bush tax cuts.
According to Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, "About half the statements in [the Bush] ad were Kerry statements that stand alone and the burden has to be on him to defend them, but about half the statements in this ad are truncated, taken out of context and probably shouldn't be there."
Using a politician's own words against him can be an effective campaign tactic. But analysts say it's one that can backfire if those quotes are used in a way voters ultimately decide is misleading.
"I think this about the most egregious example I've seen of using selective quotes to mislead voters so far in this campaign," said Jackson.
Added Ornstein: "John Kerry has said plenty of things that require at minimum an explanation from him, you can use those without having to get into statements that are either cut short or taken out of context in a way that just isn't appropriate for an ad of this sort."
Asked about the accuracy of the ad, Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel told ABC News that "all the quotes are in context and they demonstrate how John Kerry's positions on one of the most important issues of the day continue to change."
ABC News' Ann Compton contributed to this report.