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US: Democrat ads link Bush, Saudis

Pressing a theme introduced by Michael Moore, the Kerry campaign and others are saying Bush has given the Saudi royal family special favors

Taipei Times
Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Advertising  In the final month of the campaign, Democrats are increasingly tying the White House to the Saudi Arabian royal family, a line of attack that they say is highly effective, but it has stirred concern among Saudi officials.

Senator John Kerry and the Democratic Party introduced two new advertisements this weekend that criticize President Bush's administration as giving the family "special favors" and as having an overreliance on Saudi Arabia for oil.

And the Media Fund, a Democratic group, said Monday that it would spend US$6.5 million to run advertisements hitting the Saudi theme still harder in Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin during the next couple of weeks.

Officials with the Media Fund said they decided to do so after a test run in St. Louis late last month produced what they said were unexpectedly good results with voters.

The line of attack is reminiscent of Fahrenheit 9/11, the anti-Bush documentary by Michael Moore that highlights what it calls Bush's ties to the Saudi royal family.

Kerry's new advertisements imply that ties between the president and the Saudis have caused Bush to take a slack line against the Saudis on oil prices -- a message Kerry aides say they hope will resonate particularly well in the days before Kerry's Friday debate on domestic issues with Bush.

"The Saudi royal family gets special favors, while our gas prices skyrocket," an announcer says in one spot as the screen flashes a picture of Crown Prince Abdullah. In another, Kerry says, "I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation, not the Saudi royal family."

Tad Devine, a senior strategist for Kerry, said in an interview: "The heart of their policy is to benefit the powerful and the privileged. Bush is beholden to powerful interests and not the American people."

Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for Bush, said: "It's the mainstreaming of Michael Moore. What's unusual is that conspiracies would be adopted as mainstream messages by John Kerry, who's running for president of the United States."

Nail al-Jubeir, a spokesman for the Saudi embassy in Washington, said on Monday that the assertion in the ads was unfair and inaccurate. "Saudi bashing is not an energy policy," he said, denying the nation has won "special favors." "Unfortunately, it's a cheap shot," he said.

Al-Jubeir had harsher words for the Media Fund advertisements, one of which calls the Saudi royal family "close Bush family friends" who are "corrupt." It goes on to note "even though 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, top Bush adviser James Baker's law firm is defending Saudi Arabia against the victims' families." The spot includes images of Bush holding hands with Crown Prince Abdullah and mug shots of the Sept. 11 hijackers superimposed above a shot of rubble from the attacks.

Al-Jubeir said on Monday, "There is nothing but fear-mongering and hate-mongering in some of these ads."

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