JOHN McCAIN: Counters Breast Cancer Ad Attack
Rolling out an ad campaign of his own, GOP presidential hopeful John McCain continued to fight back against an ad attacking his breast cancer research funding record run by opponent George W. Bush, the Sacramento Bee reports. McCain accused Bush of "spreading fear" of breast cancer among American women, especially in Long Island, N.Y., which has one of the nation's highest rates of breast cancer. Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan issued a statement asserting that Bush "plays on one of the most terrifying and tragic fears faced by women today," adding that the ad was "tasteless, insensitive and offensive."
The Sister Card
McCain also plans to air a new ad featuring his sister Sandy McCain Morgan, a breast cancer survivor. McCain said of Bush's ad, "It's gutter politics. I wouldn't run that kind of a campaign." Guy Molinari, Staten Island Borough president and chair of McCain's New York campaign, said, "For George Bush to prey on breast cancer, when John McCain has a sister who had breast cancer, is kind of sickening" (O'Rourke, 3/5). State Rep. Pete King (R), another McCain supporter added, "This is the lowest ad I've ever seen. It's totally untrue, and it plays on people's worst fears." He suggested that Long Island cancer activist Geri Barish, who is featured in the Bush ad, is a "pawn of the state GOP," saying, "She's certainly allowing herself to be used." Barish, who lost a bid for a GOP seat last year, also wrote former Sen. Charles Schumer a critical letter that was used by rival Alfonse D'Amato in last year's Senate race (Kennedy/Sisk, New York Daily News, 3/5).
Still on the Attack
Bush continued to attack McCain on the breast cancer issue, even though Bush "has never talked about breast cancer research in his presidential campaign until now." On Friday, he joined New York Gov. George Pataki (R) at New York State University-Stony Brook to talk about breast cancer. During the appearance, he touted his own record, saying that his support for managed care reform in Texas, which includes new laws requiring HMOs to pay for reconstructive breast surgery after mastectomies, demonstrates his support for women's health issues. Pointing out that McCain had vowed to veto a New York cancer appropriation, Bush said, "I don't think that the senator should be squealing about pork and then squealing when somebody disagrees with one of the cuts he wants to make" (Neal/Walsh, Washington Post, 3/4). And even though McCain asserted on two talk shows over the weekend that he had voted at least 10 times in favor of breast cancer research funds, Bush said, "That's fine that he did that. But this ad spoke specifically to the programs he said he would eliminate." With Super Tuesday looming, Bush hangs onto a slim lead in New York (Polman, Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/6).
Hillary Enters the Fray
In the meantime, New York Senate candidate Hillary Clinton (D) criticized New York Mayor and possible opponent Rudolph Giuliani (R), Pataki and Bush, arguing that "she and President Clinton are the only ones who really cared about fighting the disease." She said, "I am all for any of those gentlemen talking about and doing anything they possibly can to improve the research agenda and put more money into the fight against breast cancer. But I know very well that it was a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, in 1993 and 1994, who reversed the neglect that had been a hallmark of how we treated breast cancer." Giuliani's campaign manager Bruce Teitelbaum fired back, "Mayor Giuliani has been a leader in the fight against cancer and breast cancer from the outset of his administration and has funded some of the largest cancer research in the county and has succeeded in reducing the waiting time for mammography screening" (Birnbaum, New York Post, 3/5).