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U.S.: Clinton, Carter, Gore Kick Off Democratic National Convention

Democrats are hoping to replace President Bush (file photo) The Democratic National Convention, which will formally nominate Senator John Kerry as the Democratic Party's candidate for president, opened yesterday in Boston. A galaxy of Democratic stars, including former President Jimmy Carter and former Vice President Al Gore, urged Americans to drive President George W. Bush, a Republican, from the White House. But it was Bush's predecessor, Bill Clinton, who topped an evening of speeches. Clinton vowed to be a "foot soldier in the fight" to defeat Bush and called Kerry "a good man, a great senator, a visionary leader."

Prague, 27 July 2004 -- "We should choose a captain of our ship who is a brave good man, who knows how to steer a vessel through troubled waters to the calm seas and clear skies of our more perfect union. That is our mission. So let us join tonight and say to America in a loud, clear voice: 'Send John Kerry.'"

That was Clinton addressing 5,000 Democratic delegates, as well as 15,000 other party faithful, as they gathered yesterday at the start of the four-day Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Clinton's address capped a night full of speeches highlighting Kerry's promises to make America safer and more prosperous while rebuilding foreign alliances they say have become strained under the Bush administration.
The usually fractious Democratic Party has put aside differences to rally around Kerry and his vice-presidential running mate, U.S. Senator John Edwards.

Jimmy Carter -- president from 1977-81 -- criticized Bush's decision to launch the war in Iraq. Carter said the United States "cannot lead if our leaders mislead," and said Bush's policies have polarized Americans and angered U.S. allies: "The United States has alienated its allies, dismayed its friends, and inadvertently gratified its enemies by proclaiming a confused and disturbing strategy of 'pre-emptive' war," Carter said. "With our allies disunited, the world resenting us, and the Middle East ablaze, we need John Kerry to restore life to the global war against terrorism."

Carter also sought to showcase Kerry's military record -- he is a decorated Vietnam War veteran -- and compare it to Bush's time serving at home with the U.S. National Guard: "John Kerry has already proven in Vietnam that he will not hesitate to act," Carter said. "And as a proven defender of our national security, John Kerry will strengthen the global alliance against terrorism, while avoiding unnecessary wars."

Former Vice President Al Gore lost the 2000 election to Bush after a bitter recount dispute in Florida that was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court. In his speech to the convention 26 July, Gore said that battle should serve to inspire Democrats who are working to put Kerry in the White House in the 2 November election: "To those of you who felt disappointed or angry with the outcome in 2000, I want you to remember all of those feelings," Gore said. "But then I want you to do with [those feelings] what I have done -- focus them fully and completely on putting John Kerry and John Edwards in the White House."

The usually fractious Democratic Party -- the main opposition party in the United States -- has put aside differences to rally around Kerry and his vice-presidential running mate, U.S. Senator John Edwards. Polls show American voters evenly divided between Bush and Kerry.

Kerry, who was campaigning in Florida as tyhe convention started, is due to arrive in his hometown of Boston on 28 July. He will deliver his address to the convention the following day, after he and Edwards are officially nominated.

The convention continues today with another slate of noted speakers, including Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, and veteran U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, Kerry's fellow senator from the state of Massachusetts and brother of slain U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

(wire reports/RFE/RL)