BOSTON — Former Navy officer John Kerry and his Vietnam-era swiftboat crewmates hailed a water taxi for a splashy entrance to this Democratic convention city Wednesday, with the presidential hopeful promising “No retreat, no surrender” in political combat against President Bush.
His boat wasn’t swift.
The Lulu E — a white ferry decorated with red, white and blue bunting — lumbered across Boston’s inner harbor, flanked by Coast Guard speed boats mounted with machine guns as it cruised past the FleetCenter convention site to the Charlestown Navy Yard.
Kerry snapped salutes and gave thumbs-up to a crowd of roaring supporters, as he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with his fellow crewmates at the ferry’s rails. Bruce Springsteen’s “No Surrender” blared from speakers as the ferry pulled into the dock.
“Bruce Springsteen has it right. No retreat. No surrender. We are taking this fight to the country, and we are going to win back our democracy and our future,” Kerry said.
Edwards' speech to present ‘vision’
His running mate, John Edwards, was the headliner for the third night of the convention with a speech that Kerry said would preview “a vision of how we’re going to make this country stronger.”
As his plane made its way to Boston, the Massachusetts senator told reporters, “Welcome home. Welcome to the Super Bowl.” Pumping his fist, Kerry said he felt great. “Ready to go. Pumped!”
Minutes later, he bounded down the steps of his plane at Boston’s Logan Airport, greeted by 13 veterans, some of whom had served with him aboard a Navy swiftboat in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta 35 years ago. The men hugged and slapped backs.
One of the greeters was Jim Rassmann, a Special Forces officer whose life Kerry saved a generation ago.
Wounded himself, Kerry plucked Rassmann from a river in Vietnam while under fire. Their emotional public reunion last winter set the stage for Kerry’s upset victory in Iowa’s caucuses two days later.
After swapping war stories with the old gang Wednesday, Kerry boarded the Lulu E and made the brief trip across the harbor, once a political symbol of its own. In 1988, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush visited to criticize the pollution — and the leadership of his presidential rival, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.
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Navy yard provides backdrop
The Charlestown Navy Yard helped supply and maintain the nation’s naval fleet from 1800 to 1974. It is now home to the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world.
According to tradition, the ship, known as “Old Ironsides,” earned its nickname by deflecting cannon balls off its hull during an 1812 battle with a British ship.
Kerry hopes to be as agile with Republican barbs, particularly the charge that he is not fit to be commander in chief. With every image and speech during the four-day convention, Kerry is trying to convince voters that he is a safe alternative to the wartime incumbent, President Bush.
A lineup of retired generals and admirals were to appear at the convention Wednesday night to promote Kerry’s foreign policy credentials.
Retired Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under former President Bill Clinton, was addressing delegates. He was to be introduced by retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, the only woman ever to become a three-star general in the Army.
Ten of 12 retired generals and admirals who are publicly backing Kerry appear in a convention video, expressing their concern with the current state of the military.
Fred Short, a former crewmate, said he’s honored to spread word of Kerry’s wartime exploits.
“I want, I need, to get out and tell what he won’t tell people, as to his unbelievable courage,” Short said. “No one wants someone thumping his chest saying, ’I’m a hero.’ And it will be a cold day in Hades when John Kerry does that.”
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