PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Old Kerry quote gasses up Bush campaign

WASHINGTON: If you were paying attention last week, you surely heard about presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry's bold new proposal to ease soaring prices at the pump: He wants to raise gas taxes.

WASHINGTON: If you were paying attention last week, you surely heard about presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry's bold new proposal to ease soaring prices at the pump: He wants to raise gas taxes.

Of course, if you were paying very close attention, you'd know that he suggested nothing of the sort. In reality, his two-prong plan was to pressure OPEC into increasing production, thereby driving down prices, then temporarily divert barrels headed for the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve directly into circulation. But you had to be paying really close attention to get that. That's because Kerry's highly nuanced and, according to energy analysts, likely ineffective plan was utterly trumped by yet another example of how the Bush campaign is taking "rapid response" to a whole new level. Upon hearing that Kerry was preparing to unveil his big energy proposal, the Bushies threw together a highly effective media blitz publicizing a 10-year-old Kerry quote saying the US should think about raising the gas tax. Not a vote mind you, a quote. But that hardly mattered. On Monday came the lighthearted Chaplin-esque TV ad showing Kerry as a bumbling bureaucrat who wants to raise gas taxes. (The commercial itself didn't run that often, but the cable news networks loved it enough to play it for free for two days). Next, the President himself reinforced the message with a nationally televised speech. The counterpunch? Kerry's camp showed an impressive flair for visual clich? by placing its candidate in a gas station to talk about those fail-safe attention- grabbers - OPEC and the US Strategic Oil Reserve. If anyone needed proof of this round's winner, one need only look at Wednesday's Washington Post story headlined "Kerry Unveils His Policy on Gasoline." It takes nine paragraphs to get to that policy. The first eight center on some 10-year-old quote.

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