Kerry: Our Country Needs to be Looked Up To and Not Just Feared
Published on Friday, July 30, 2004 by the lndependent/UK
Kerry: Our Country Needs to be Looked Up To and Not Just Feared
by Rupert Cornwell in Boston
 

John Kerry last night vowed to turn America once again into a "beacon for the world", promising a foreign policy that would make the world's lone superpower an object of admiration again ­ not an object of dread.

Accepting the Democratic presidential nomination, the Massachusetts senator warned his fellow citizens that the country was facing "the most important election of our lifetime" ­ facing a global war on terror and enmeshed in economic stagnation and inequality at home.

In a 50-minute primetime speech broadcast live across the US and much of the world, Mr Kerry went out of his way to refute Republican charges that he was weak on defense."Make no mistake, I will never hesitate to use force when required,"he said. A president Kerry would "never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security", he declared, borrowing one of George W Bush's most popular lines.

But in the next breath, he differentiated himself totally from Mr Bush, arguably more unpopular abroad than any American president in recent history, not least because of his invasion of Iraq in the teeth of international opinion.

"As president I will bring back America's time-honored traditions," Mr Kerry declared. "The United States of America never goes to war because we want to, only because we have to."

In this age there was a right way and a wrong way to be strong, the Democratic nominee said, referring repeatedly to his glittering war record in Vietnam. "Strength is more than tough words," he went on, in a sharp dig at Mr Bush and his frontier rhetoric.

Mr Kerry pointed to his 20 years service in the Senate, many of them on the powerful Foreign Affairs Committee.

"After decades of experience in national security, I know the reach of our power, and the power of our ideal. We need to be looked up to and not just feared. The future doesn't belong to fear, it belongs to freedom."

Mr Kerry did not mention Bush by name in the excerpts, but his criticism was unmistakable.

"I will immediately reform the intelligence system so policy is guided by facts, and facts are never distorted by politics," he said in reference to claims that the president relied on faulty intelligence in deciding to invade Iraq in 2003.

Mr Kerry promised to "ask hard questions and demand hard evidence", suggesting that Mr Bush did neither in the run-up to the Iraq war. He added he would follow through on recommendations made by the 11 September commission.

"I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as president," said Mr Kerry, who was wounded during a tour as a Navy boat commander in Vietnam November 1968 to March 1969.

He promised fast action in the war on terror and a strong military that would send the message to terrorists that "you will lose and we will win".

"We are a nation at war - a global war on terror against an enemy unlike any we have ever known before."

He also attacked Mr Bush's domestic record, saying: "Wages are falling, health care costs are rising and our middle class is shrinking. People are working weekends; they're working two jobs, three jobs and they're still not getting ahead.

"We can do better and we will. We're the optimists. We value an America where the middle class is not being squeezed, but doing better."

Mr Kerry's speech was preceded by a nine-minute biopic, Remarkable Promise, focusing on the candidate's family and his heroism in Vietnam, where he was twice decorated. Democrats believe the film, produced by a protégé of Steven Spielberg, could have the same impact as The Man from Hope video shown at Bill Clinton's nominating convention in 1992. The video included the first reference from the convention podium to Kerry's emergence as a prominent anti-war activist more than three decades ago after he returned home from Vietnam.

The video was part of the effort to shed Kerry's image as an aloof politician, casting him as an athlete and a musician, a Yale graduate and a prosecutor, a soldier and a son, a father and a husband. "I cried like a baby when they were born, both of them," he said of his two daughters, Vanessa and Alexandra.

To underline Mr Kerry's soundness on national security, three eminent Democrats with imposing foreign policy credentials spoke before Mr Kerry ­the former Nato supreme commander and presidential candidate General Wesley Clark; President Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; and Joe Lieberman, also a 2004 Democratic candidate and a supporter of the war in Iraq.

Mr Kerry was introduced by former Senator Max Cleland of Georgia, a frequent companion for Kerry on the campaign trail and a fellow Vietnam War veteran who lost both legs and an arm during the war.

Today, Mr Kerry and his vice-presidential nominee, John Edwards, leave Boston en route to Pennsylvania, the first stage of a two-week "Believe in America" tour by bus, rail, boat and air, through 21 states.

The party is also launching a $6m (£3.3m) advertising campaign targeted at key swing states. Polls show Mr Kerry and the President in a statistical dead-heat, with the outcome hinging on a dozen or so states, among them Florida, which was decisive in 2000.

THE SOUNDBITES

*"I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as president."

*"The future doesn't belong to fear; it belongs to freedom."

*"We can do better and we will. We're the optimists. We value an America where the middle class is not being squeezed, but doing better."

*"As president, I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: the United States of America never goes to war because we want to. We only go to war because we have to."

*"Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response."

*"Strength is more than tough words. We need to be looked up to and not just feared. The future doesn't belong to fear ­ it belongs to freedom."

*"It is time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families."

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

###