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Kennedy, Deantake off the gloves

Edward Kennedy and Howard Dean issued full-throated roars Tuesday night against President Bush, whom they accused of cynically dividing the country and abandoning U.S. troops overseas.
/ Source: NBC, and news services

The Democratic Party’s liberal lions, Edward Kennedy and Howard Dean, issued full-throated roars Tuesday night against President Bush, whom they accused at the Democratic National Convention of cynically dividing the country and abandoning U.S. troops overseas.

For the most part this week, Democratic leaders had planned to present a uniformly positive message designed to persuade Americans of Sen. John Kerry’s qualifications to be president. But with the national television networks skipping Tuesday night’s convention program entirely, Kennedy and Dean were free to express the frustrations of many Democrats without running much danger of turning off undecided potential voters.

In many respects, the program was a tribute to Kennedy, Kerry’s Senate colleague from Massachusetts, as the Democrats held their first convention in his hometown. He was named honorary chairman of the convention, and he was allotted 30 minutes of prime time Tuesday night; by contrast, Dean, the former governor of Vermont who was Kerry’s strongest primary season challenger, was given only 10 minutes.

‘Shameful view’
Kennedy gave the delegates what they wanted, especially on the war. He denounced Bush and his administration as “false patriots” who sought to “bully dissenters into silence and submission.”

“More than 900 of our servicemen and women have already paid the ultimate price. Nearly 6,000 have been wounded in this misguided war,” he said. “The administration has alienated longtime allies. Instead of making America more secure, they have made us less so. They have made it harder to win the real war on terrorism, the war against al-Qaida.”

“None of this had to happen,” Kennedy said, asking: “How could any president have possibly squandered the enormous goodwill that flowed to America from across the world after September 11th?”

“If each of us cared about the public interest, we wouldn’t have the excesses of Enron. We wouldn’t have the abuses of Halliburton. And Vice President Cheney would be retired to an undisclosed location,” he said. “Soon, thanks to John Kerry and John Edwards, he’ll have ample time to do just that.”

Dean: Restore Democrats’ pride
Dean, whose insurgent campaign ignited a wave of anti-Bush fervor in the party, urged Democrats not to be “afraid to stand up for what we believe,” promising that “we’re not going to let those who disagree with us shout us down under a banner of false patriotism.”

Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and 2004 presidential hopeful, reacts to the applause before speaking to the delegates at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, July 27, 2004, at the FleetCenter in Boston. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)Ron Edmonds / AP

“Never again will we be ashamed to call ourselves Democrats. Never. Never. Never,” he said. “We’re not just going to change presidents — we’re going to change this country and reclaim the American dream.”

Dean accused Bush of turning his back on the stretched U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying he wanted “a commander-in-chief who supports our soldiers and our veterans, instead of cutting their hardship pay when they’re abroad and their health benefits when they get home.”

“I may not be the nominee, but I can tell you this: For the next hundred days, I’ll be doing everything I can to make sure that John Kerry and John Edwards take our country back for the people who built it,” he promised. “Because tonight, we’re all here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

Kerry plans dramatic entrance
As the question of who could best protect the United States from terrorists continued to dominate the political debate, Kerry himself was in Norfolk, Va., where he used the USS Wisconsin as a calling on President Bush to immediately implement the reforms suggested by the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Kerry said the commission should continue its work for another year and a half to ensure that its recommendations were adopted. “Backpedaling and going slow is something that America can’t afford,” he said.

Kerry planned a dramatic arrival for the convention Wednesday designed to capitalize on his service in the Vietnam War, scheduling a grand entrance into Boston on a water taxi late in the morning. Kerry, who commanded a Navy swift boat, will travel across Boston harbor to Charlestown Navy Yard with several of his former crew mates.

Kerry was to arrive after campaigning Tuesday night in Pennsylvania, which for many years was represented in the Senate by his wife’s late first husband, Republican John Heinz.

Heinz Kerry says ‘what I believe’
Delegates were getting their first long look Teresa Heinz Kerry, the multimillionaire heiress who would be their next first lady, as they turned to Kerry’s outspoken wife to define the man they want to put in the White House.

Heinz Kerry planned to use her speech Tuesday to focus on “the issues that are the work of her life,” including the environment, health care and economic security, said Marla Romash, a senior adviser. If the speech, which she stressed Tuesday she wrote by her itself, it is like her other public pronouncements, Heinz Kerry will deliver a blunt message.

“I think that I say what I believe,” Heinz Kerry, 65, who grew up in the east African country of Mozambique, said Tuesday in an . “I’m plain-spoken.”

In previous speeches, she has taken jabs at Bush, pointedly saying that “at least” her husband reads and comparing the election Nov. 2 to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

Characteristically, Heinz Kerry said she had no regrets about telling an editorial writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the newspaper owned by right-wing activist Richard Mellon Scaife, to “” during an argument Sunday.

“I really wanted him to back off ... and so I defended myself,” she told NBC’s Katie Couric. “Wouldn’t you?”

Her speech Tuesday will be her introduction to most Americans. A Washington Post survey last week showed her with a favorable rating of 27 percent and an unfavorable rating of 26 percent, while 47 percent had no opinion.

Keynote speaker a rising star
Tuesday night’s program will also be the national coming-out party for one of the Democrats’ rising stars, Illinois state Sen. , the party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate.

Obama, who would be just the fifth African-American and the first black Democratic man ever elected to the Senate, was tapped to deliver the convention’s keynote address, an honor given at previous conventions to such high-profile party leaders as former New York. Gov. Mario Cuomo, former Texas Gov. Ann Richards and former Rep. Barbara Jordan of Texas.

Obama, 42, said Tuesday that he would use the moment to argue that Democrats were the true champions of working families. But Obama, an early critic of the war in Iraq, also planned to fault Bush’s war policies

“The guts of my speech is going to be talking about Illinois families and what I’m hearing from them,” he said Tuesday.

Other speakers Tuesday included two other of Kerry’s defeated rivals for the presidential nomination: Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, who is retiring from Congress, and former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois.

Also appearing was Ron Reagan, the son of the late Republican president. Reagan, who is a commentator for MSNBC, was to call for greater support for stem-cell research, which the Bush administration has sharply restricted. Reagan will argue that expanded research could help find a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, which slowly killed his father.

They and the other speakers faced a challenge living up to the buzz created by former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who were the convention’s stars Monday night.

Platform sails through
As they awaited Tuesday night’s second round of speeches, which were not broadcast by the major television networks, delegates adopted a platform that disavowed Bush’s doctrine of launching preemptive wars but promised to increase the size of the military and double the capacity of its Special Forces.

The document, titled “Strong at Home, Respected in the World,” repeatedly stressed the need to mend relations with traditional allies, which it said were badly damaged when Bush went to war against Iraq without approval from the United Nations last year.

Reflecting deep internal divisions, the nonbinding platform took no position on whether the war against Iraq was justified.

“People of good will disagree about whether America should have gone to war in Iraq, but this much is clear: this administration badly exaggerated its case, particularly with respect to weapons of mass destruction and the connection between Saddam’s government and al-Qaida,” it said.