BOSTON – As John Kerry (search) accepted the Democratic Party's nomination for president Thursday, party loyalists continued to give props to the candidate they say can steer America in a better direction than it's been heading under the direction of George W. Bush.
At Boston's FleetCenter Thursday — ground zero for the 44th Democratic National Convention — events were studded with speakers specifically heralding Kerry's experience as a war veteran and arguing that he will not handle the War on Terror (search) with kid gloves but will go after the terrorists wherever they may hide. They added that Kerry will also be more diplomatic about it than the Bush administration.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in this "era of renewed danger, I want a chief executive who has the experience and sound judgment to keep America strong, secure and safe."
Albright assured delegates that Kerry would have no qualms about bringing the United States into battle — so long as the battle warranted U.S. intervention and the mission is explained to the world. She also took a jab at the Bush White House.
"As president, John Kerry will lead America and its allies to defeat and destroy terrorist groups around the world," she said. "He will respond firmly to the present danger while acting wisely to prevent a future generation of anti-American terrorists from arising and gaining footholds around the world. He will use intelligence to shape policy, not twist intelligence to justify policy."
Kerry for a Safer America?
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (search) called the convention to order at 4 p.m. EDT. As has happened during the past three days of events, delegates adorned with Kerry-Edwards pins, T-shirts, cheesehead hats and even red, white and blue nail polish were dancing in the aisles in between speakers to tunes designed to get Thursday's party started.
Michigan Sen. Carl Levin (search) noted that 229 years ago, just a few miles from the FleetCenter, the shot heard "round the world" announced a nation was about to be born.
"Tonight, from this place, a strong voice will be heard around the world, proposing to change our nation's course," said the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. "John Kerry understands that just as the administration has squandered the budget surpluses of three years ago, so have their current 'go-it-alone' foreign policies squandered the good will of much of the world and estranged us from our allies."
Added Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts: "President Bush once said he wanted to be a uniter, not a divider. Well congratulations, Mr. President, you have united the Democratic Party in a way that we have not seen in a generation."
Saying it's time for a "new leader," Markey called for a halt to nuclear weapons buildups, more protection for the country's ports and chemical plants, and more resources for firefighters and police. "Let it begin here," he said.
Echoing previous speakers' sentiments this week that the United States "squandered" an opportunity after the Sept. 11 terror attacks to bring the world together, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware said there's still a chance to do so. Kerry will not send the nation's sons and daughters to war without thorough contemplation of his actions, Biden said.
"After 9/11, I believed — and still do — that if we exercised the full measure of our power — including our ideas and our ideals — we could unite this nation and other nations in common cause," said the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "I do not question the motives of this administration. But I profoundly disagree with their judgments … John Kerry will build a true prevention strategy to defuse dangers long before the only choice is war."
Clark: 'Enough is Enough'
Ret. Gen. Wesley Clark (search), who also made a run for president earlier this year, asked the crowd to observe a moment of silence for the nation's soldiers, veterans and their families.
"The safety of our country demands urgent and innovative measures to strengthen our Armed forces: credible intelligence, cooperation with our allies, making more friends and fewer enemies [and] an end to the doctrinaire, ineffective policies that currently grip Washington," said the former NATO commander.
"Enough is enough," Clark added, saying Kerry will be a "great commander-in-chief" who will "join the pantheon of great wartime Democrats."
"A safe America — a just America — that's what we want, that's what we need. And with John Kerry and John Edwards, that's what we will achieve."
Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman (search), who was on the party's ticket with Al Gore in 2000, kicked off his remarks with a bit of bitter humor.
Kerry and Edwards are "not only going to win the popular vote, as Al and I did — they're actually going to get to take office, and then they're going to lead an America that is strong at home, strong abroad, and respected the world over," he said.
Lieberman avoided slamming the Bush White House as many other party loyalists have done on stage this week. Lieberman, like Kerry, voted in support of the congressional resolution authorizing war in Iraq. He also supported the $87 billion supplemental bill to pay for troops on the ground there after major combat ended.
"To make America safe again, we need strong leaders who know when to use American power to destroy these Islamist terrorists … [and] to make America safe again, we must strengthen our defenses here at home. … I know that John Kerry and John Edwards will keep us united in the common defense of America's homeland."
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (search) said her party's commitment to fighting for those wearing America's uniform is "second to none"; the Kerry camp has continuously voiced their candidate's support for the nation's veterans.
"Democrats have it right — protect our troops and honor our veterans!" Pelosi said.
After Pelosi wrapped up, singer Willie Nelson emerged to perform during one of the many musical breaks meant to rejuvenate delegates tiring of speeches.
'Hope is On The Way'
Edwards was out early Thursday trying to swell the momentum for Kerry's speech and emphazising his "hope is on the way" theme. He had breakfast with delegates from Wyoming, Alabama and his home state of North Carolina, thanking them for their chants of support the night before.
"Do exactly the same thing for John Kerry," he urged. "The truth is, we can't do this without you. We need you out there working, organizing, getting people to the polls."
Edwards lead the cheerleading as he hosted a conference call Thursday evening with an estimated 200,000 Americans who are attending more than 5,000 convention-watch parties in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. The parties are a chance for people to root collectively for Kerry as he formally accepts the Democratic nomination for president.
The Bush-Cheney re-election campaign said Thursday that Democrats are continuing their "extreme makeover" of their candidate to mask Kerry's "out of the mainstream record."
The Bush team pointed out that Kerry voted 98 times for tax increases totaling more than $2.3 trillion, at least 126 times against tax cuts totaling more than $5.3 trillion, 73 times to reduce the size of a tax cut, 67 times for smaller tax cuts and 11 times against repealing tax hikes.
The GOP also noted that when Kerry was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee from 1993-2000, he missed 38 of 49 hearings, proposed over $7.5 billion in across-the-board intelligence budget cuts and didn't propose any legislation to increase funding for human intelligence resources.