The 75-second ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee begins with a somber musical score and images of war, high gas prices, the coffins, pollution, breached levees, followed by pictures of Texas Republican DeLay, disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
"Washington Republicans have sold Americans out," a banner states. "American families are paying the price."
The National Republican Congressional Committee promptly gathered denunciations of the ad and issued calls for Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the DCCC chairman, to apologize.
"Democrats will stoop to any low in trying to raise funds," Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., said in a statement. "This despicable video exploits the deaths of our nation's heroes and belittles their sacrifice. It is a shameful display of the DCCCs lack of decency and respect for the incredible devotion and honor our troops carry everyday."
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded in kind, accusing Republicans of seeking to benefit politically from the war and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"Was it despicable when Republicans used 9/11 for political purposes? I think it's despicable that young people's lives are being lost ... over 2,500," she told reporters Thursday. "Republicans are in denial about that."
The ad is not all doom and gloom. After about 30 seconds, the music makes an abrupt upbeat shift and the images change. A helicopter pilot offers a thumbs up. Windmills stretch out across the landscape. Relief workers put up new walls. Smiling Democratic leaders replace the scowling Republicans. "But America is strong enough to change," the ad states.
It ends with a still shot of Bill Clinton beaming with his arms outstretched, a curious counterpoint to the ad's title: "America needs a new direction."