Wes Clark's 2004 Democratic Convention Speech

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The Bourbon Room thought it might be useful -- now that Wes Clark's assessment that John McCain's military record doesn't prepare him for the rigors of the Oval Office has sparked a second day of controversy -- to revisit Clark's take on military experience and what it says about fitness as commander-in-chief. This is how Clark added up John Kerry's military experience and how it prepared him for the presidency as the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Visitors are invited to evaluate the threads of consistency or inconsistency. Happy reading.

CLARK: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, my fellow Democrats.


I am an American soldier. Our country has been attacked. We are at war. Our nation is at risk. And we are engaged in a life-and- death struggle against terrorists who are seeking nuclear and biological weapons.

As we are gathered here tonight, our armed forces are in combat.

Our freedoms were won in war. Our freedoms have been protected by generation after generation by the selfless service and sacrifice of men and women in uniform.

From Bunker Hill to Bastogne, from the frozen hills of Korea to the steaming jungles of Vietnam, from Kabul to Baghdad, American men and women in uniform have served with honor. They've given us so much; they've asked for so little.

Tonight, please give them a round of applause. Honor them, our veterans, our families. Give them a round of applause. We love our men and women in uniform.


They have given so much.


I want all America to see our party and how we respect the men and women who serve.


CLARK: Thank you. Thank you.

And I want to thank my wife, Gert, my son Wesley, his wife Astrid, their son, and all of the military families especially who've stood year after year behind those who have served in uniform.

But I ask you now to observe with me just a moment of silence to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, so that we could have the freedoms that we exercise here tonight.


CLARK: War. War. I've been there. So has John Kerry. I've heard the thump of enemy mortars. I've seen the tracers fly. Bled on the battlefield. Recovered in hospitals. Received and obeyed orders. Sent men and women into battle. Awarded medals, comforted families, attended funerals.

CLARK: And this soldier has news for you tonight. Anyone who tells you that one political party has a monopoly on the best defense of our nation is committing a fraud on the American people.


Franklin Roosevelt said it best. Franklin Roosevelt said: "Repetition does not transform a lie into the truth."


This hall, this Democratic Party are filled with veterans who have served under the American flag. And this is our flag. Right there, that flag, we saluted this flag. We rose up in the morning and stood reveille to this flag. We fought for that flag. We've seen brave men and women buried under that flag. That flag is ours, and nobody, nobody will take it away from us.


We are the that America can trust.


CLARK: But we've got to tell the truth. And the truth is this: The safety of our country demands urgent and innovative measures to strengthen our armed forces. The safety of our country demands credible intelligence. The safety of our country demands cooperation with our allies. The safety of our country demands making more friends and fewer enemies.


The safety of our country demands an end to the doctrinaire, ineffective policies that currently grip Washington.

Enough is enough.


A safe America, a just America, that's what we want, that's what we need. And with John Kerry and John Edwards, that is what we will achieve.


John Kerry has heard the thump of enemy mortars.

CLARK: He's seen the flash of the tracers. He's lived the values of service and sacrifice. In the Navy, as a prosecutor, as a senator, he proved his physical courage under fire. And he's proved his moral courage too.

John Kerry fought a war, and I respect him for that. And he came home to fight a peace. And I respect him for that, too.


John Kerry's combination of physical courage and moral values is my definition of what we need as Americans in our commander in chief. And John Edwards with his leadership and extraordinary intelligence, he's going to be a great member of that command team.


John Kerry is a man who in time of war can lead us as a warrior, but in times of peace, he will heed the call of scripture to lead us in beating swords into plowshares.


John Kerry will lead American with strength and wisdom. He has the will to fight. He has the moral courage born in battle to pursue and secure a strong peace. Under John Kerry, I have no doubt -- and neither should any American -- that we are going to attack and destroy the terrorist threat to America.


CLARK: John Kerry will join that pantheon of great wartime Democrats: great Democrats like Woodrow Wilson, who led us to victory in World War I; great Democrats like Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, who turned back the tide of fascism to win World War II; great Democrats like John Kennedy, who stood firm and steered us safely through the Cuban Missile Crisis; and great Democrats like Bill Clinton, who confronted ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, and with diplomacy, backed by force, brought peace to a shattered land.


My fellow Americans, Democrats are leaders and Democrats are fighters. And John Kerry is a leader, a fighter, and he will be a great commander in chief.


You see, John Kerry knows that the power of America is not just our armed forces and our weaponry.

CLARK: It's really the power of our values and ideals.

And John Kerry knows that members of our armed forces embody the best of America's values: service, sacrifice, courage, compassion.

He knows that the members in the armed forces are serving to build something greater than themselves. They're serving to build something worth fighting for. They're serving to build something worth dying for.

John Kerry knows that the men and women who serve and our veterans are a company of heroes. And everyone who fights for the best in American life is also a hero: firemen, police officers, teachers and so many others.


I say to you tonight: John Kerry's time to lead this company of heroes has arrived. Right here, right now, in this town, tonight, from this place, we set out together to put our country back on track to security and freedom and opportunity.

America, hear this soldier.

Choose a leader whose physical courage, moral values and sound judgment, with the grace of God and our determined commitment, will strengthen our country, protect our liberty, renew our spirit and secure a future for our children that is worthy of our heritage.

Make John Kerry the next president of the United States.

Thank you. God bless America.

Thank you, my friends. Thank you.