Charlotte Observer left out relevant fact in criticizing VoteVets.org's Dole ad

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

Criticizing a VoteVets.org ad that accused Sen. Elizabeth Dole of voting against funding body armor for U.S. troops, The Charlotte Observer wrote that "[n]either of the two pieces of legislation that VoteVets.org cites mentions body armor" and said with respect to one of the amendments cited in the ad: "The vote was for $1 billion for unspecified equipment, but body armor was not mentioned in the bill or on the floor." However, the Observer did not note that Sen. Chris Dodd repeatedly referenced "body armor" on the Senate floor while discussing the other amendment cited in the ad.

In a November 1 article about the "five most egregious political ads" that ran in North Carolina this campaign cycle, The Charlotte Observer ranked as third worst a VoteVets.org ad accusing Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) of voting against funding body armor for U.S. troops. The Observer wrote that "[n]either of the two pieces of legislation that VoteVets.org cites mentions body armor" and further stated of one of the amendments: "The vote was for $1 billion for unspecified equipment, but body armor was not mentioned in the bill or on the floor." The ad cited Dole's votes against an amendment offered in April 2003 by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and one offered in October 2003 by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) to two separate bills. But while Landrieu did not mention "body armor" on the floor in the context of her amendment (though she did mention "helmets"), Dodd repeatedly referenced "body armor" on the Senate floor in explaining his amendment, which would have designated $322 million from a supplemental appropriations bill specifically "to provide safety equipment through the Rapid Fielding Initiative and the Iraqi Battlefield Clearance Program." In criticizing the ad, the Observer did not note Dodd's floor statement.

The VoteVets.org ad asserts that Dole "voted against giving our troops" body armor. As evidence, the ad cites Dole's votes against two separate amendments: an April 2, 2003, vote on Landrieu's amendment, which would have added a little more than $1 billion to an appropriations bill for the procurement of "National Guard and Reserve Equipment," and an October 2, 2003, vote on Dodd's amendment. Dodd's amendment to a fiscal year 2004 emergency supplemental appropriations bill (S. 1689) would have designated $322 million from the bill specifically to fund "safety equipment," in addition to the $300 million the Senate Appropriations Committee had already attached to the supplemental appropriations bill in an earmark to its committee report. The Observer article noted that Dole "supported a budget bill that provided $300 million that could have been used for body armor," but did not explain that one of the two votes VoteVets.org cited was Dole's vote against Dodd's proposal to designate an additional $322 million from the same supplemental appropriations bill to fund "safety equipment."

As Media Matters for America noted, Dodd repeatedly said in his October 2, 2003, floor statement that his bill was intended to provide funding that could be used for equipment such as "body armor." From Dodd's statement:

DODD: According to the U.S. Army, the President's supplemental bill falls short of over $200 million for critical gear for our soldiers slated to rotate in Iraq and Afghanistan in the months ahead. This amendment was designed specifically to see to it that those U.S. troops coming into Iraq, into a theater of war, would receive important equipment they need to perform their missions effectively. This equipment includes important high-tech body armor, bullet-proof helmets, special water packs to keep soldiers hydrated, and other survival gear.

[...]

DODD: Now, in response to the Army's request, the committee added $300 million to the present supplemental request which could be used for either this additional equipment or the clearance of weapons and mines still lingering on Iraqi battlefields. It says it right here, in the Congressional Record, dated October 1, 2003, when the Supplemental Appropriations bill's accompanying report was printed. On page S12222, there is a chart detailing expenditures in the Army Operations and Maintenance account. $300 million is to be allocated for "SAPI body armor/Rapid Fielding Initiative or battlefield cleanup.''

But the Army says it needs an additional $420 million just to handle the Iraqi battlefield clearance. As the pending legislation stands now, there is still not enough money in the bill to do both, and both items -- more safety equipment and Iraqi battlefield clearance -- are top Army priorities.

I think we need to address both of these issues. For those reasons, I have asked my colleagues to support this amendment to allocate an additional $322 million for the critical equipment of our troops and adequate resources for battlefield clearance to fully meet the Army's current requirements.

[...]

DODD: I mentioned earlier the kind of equipment. I will come back and just identify this for my colleagues. Again, this is not my assessment. This is the U.S. Army saying what they need. They need adequate provisions for clean water, additional high-tech backpacks, advanced combat helmets and body armor, additional radios, machine gun sights and tripods, M-16 ammunition, high-tech GPS compass equipment, additional desert boots, sun and wind dust goggles and gloves, grappling hooks, door ramming kits, sniper rifles, binoculars, and special night vision goggles.

From the November 1 Charlotte Observer article:

North Carolina has long been home to offensive negative advertising in campaigns. Jesse Helms' "white hands" ad against Harvey Gantt in 1990 and Jim Hunt's Central American death squads ad against Helms in 1984 have been among the nation's worst.

This year is no exception. Here are our five most egregious political ads of the campaign, including one from the presidential race.

[...]

3. VoteVets.org ran an ad against Elizabeth Dole, saying she voted against funding body armor for U.S. troops in Iraq. An Army reservist says "The difference is life and death" and said "Senator Elizabeth Dole voted against giving our troops this." This is offensive as well as false, playing on fears about our soldiers' lives and deaths with made-up assertions.

There was never such a vote. Neither of the two pieces of legislation that VoteVets.org cites mentions body armor. The Pentagon said at the time that it already had adequate money for body armor and that it was buying all there was to be had. The vote was for $1 billion for unspecified equipment, but body armor was not mentioned in the bill or on the floor. Separately, Dole supported a budget bill that provided $300 million that could have been used for body armor.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Defense Funding
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Charlotte Observer
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2008 Elections
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