On MSNBC’s Hardball tonight, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is leading a White House front group to defend Bush’s escalation, was unable to name the wounded Iraq veteran featured in his organization’s pro-war ad. “I don’t have his name in front of me,” said Fleischer when asked by host Mike Barnicle if he knew the soldier’s name.
Later in the program, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America executive director Paul Rieckhoff ripped into Fleischer’s offensive ignorance. “What bothered me the most is that Ari Fleischer didn’t even know the guy’s name.” said Rieckhoff. “He’s willing to run a multi-million dollar campaign, utilizing the personal story of a soldier, and he couldn’t tell you on national TV what that soldier’s name is.”
Rieckhoff described it as part of “a problematic trend” that Freedom’s Watch is using the soldier’s “personal story” as “a backdrop for political rhetoric”:
People on both sides of the aisle, but especially the president and this administration, have continued to use troops as a political prop. As a backdrop for political rhetoric. It’s why the president gave such an impassionate speech today in front of the VFW. It’s why this ad carries so much weight on a visceral level. And it really bothers me because our troops are not political props and they’re not chew toys.
Fleischer and his team of Bush surrogates are spending $15 million to run the ad featuring the soldier, whose name is John Kriesel, in 20 states for a month. Hopefully, Fleischer will remember his name from now on.