Democrats got their first look Tuesday night at the multimillionaire heiress who would be their next first lady as they turned to Sen. John Kerry’s outspoken wife to define the man they hope to put in the White House.
Teresa Heinz Kerry, the final speaker of the second night of the Democratic National Convention, portrayed her husband as a war hero who “earned his medals the old-fashioned way, by putting his life on the line.”
Heinz Kerry, widow of a Republican senator who inherited his family’s ketchup fortune, and the convention’s keynote speaker, Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama, were asked to put a positive, friendly face of diversity on a national campaign that has been marked by bitter divisions. Their addresses were in stark contrast with those of the Democrats’ liberal lions, Edward Kennedy and Howard Dean, who issued full-throated roars against Bush.
Heinz Kerry embraced the public portrait that has emerged of her as a world citizen unafraid to speak her mind. At one point, she addressed the delegates successively in Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese, all of which she speaks fluently. And she characteristically pulled no punches.
“By now, I hope it will come as no surprise to anyone that I have something to say,” she said to laughter from delegates for whom her invitation to a conservative editorial writer to “shove it” last weekend was still fresh.
“My right to speak my mind, to have a voice, to be what some have called ‘opinionated,’ is a right I deeply and profoundly cherish,” she said, evoking her childhood under a dictator in Mozambique. “My only hope is that, one day soon, women — who have all earned the right to their opinions — instead of being labeled opinionated will be called smart or well-informed, just as men are.”
Speaking ‘truth to power’
She said it was America that gave her that right, and for it, she felt a responsibility to take a “stand whether or not anyone may be noticing and whether or not it is a risky thing to do.”
“In America, the true patriots are those who dare speak truth to power. The truth we must speak now is that America has responsibilities that it is time for us to accept again,” she said.
Calling him a “fighter” who would “always be first in the line of fire,” Heinz Kerry painted her husband as “a leader who is willing to call on [Americans], a leader willing to draw again on the mystic chords of our national memory and remind us of all that we, as a people, everyday leaders, can do, of all that we as a nation stand for and of all the immense possibility that still lies ahead.”
“I think I’ve found just the guy,” she said. “I’m married to him.”
For Democrats, a fresh face
Heinz Kerry was one of two new faces being introduced Tuesday night to national Democrats. In his keynote address, Obama, a previously obscure Illinois state senator, offered his own life as an example of uniquely American possibilities and promised that “a brighter day will come.”
Obama’s father was a goat herder in Africa who won a scholarship to study in America. He described his mother’s youth in Kansas, raised by a couple who built a good life with educations they obtained through the GI Bill and a home they got with a federal loan.
“They sense, deep in their bones, that with just a change in priorities we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all,” said Obama, 42, a lawyer who was the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review.
From rising health care costs to jobs going overseas to civil liberties being threatened, Obama said, Kerry has the values and record to offer help people deserve. And in a jab at Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq, he said Kerry had the judgment to lead America to war only when absolutely necessary.
“When we send our young men and women into harm’s way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they’re going,” Obama said.
“We have real enemies in the world,” he said. “They must be pursued — and they must be defeated. John Kerry knows this.”
Other speakers Tuesday included Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, and two other of his defeated rivals for the presidential nomination: Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, who is retiring from Congress, and former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois.
A Reagan drops by
And also appearing was Ron Reagan, the son of the late Republican president.
Reagan, who is a commentator for MSNBC, made an unusual appearance that he stressed “should not, must not, have anything to do with partisanship.”
“I am here tonight to talk about the issue of research into what may be the greatest medical breakthrough in our or in any lifetime: the use of embryonic stem cells,” Reagan said.
Reagan called for greater support for stem-cell research, which the Bush administration has sharply restricted. He argued that expanded research could help find a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, which slowly killed his father.
Reagan — acknowledging that “a few of you may be surprised to see someone with my last name showing up to speak at a Democratic convention” — told delegates that such research could yield promising treatments that could “cure a wide range of fatal and debilitating illnesses: Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, lymphoma, spinal cord injuries and much more.”
“There are those who would stand in the way of this remarkable future, who would deny the federal funding so crucial to basic research,” he said. “... A few of these folks, needless to say, are just grinding a political axe and they should be ashamed of themselves.
“But many are well-meaning and sincere,” he said. “Their belief is just that, an article of faith, and they are entitled to it. But it does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many.”
“Whatever else you do come November 2nd, I urge you, please, cast a vote for embryonic stem cell research,” Reagan concluded.
Kennedy, Dean take off the gloves
Reagan 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. But the Democrats’ liberal lions, Kennedy and Dean, were undaunted, issuing full-throated roars against Bush.
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. They accused the president of cynically dividing the country and abandoning U.S. troops overseas.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.