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Gore assails Bush on Iraq at convention
Updated: 2004-07-27 08:36

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore criticized President Bush for his handling of Iraq, the economy and more on Monday night and urged Democratic National Convention delegates to "fully and completely" channel anger over the disputed 2000 election into victory for John Kerry this fall.

Former U.S. Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore gestures Monday, July 26, 2004 at the FleetCenter in Boston during his speech to the Democratic National Convention. [AP]
"When policies are clearly not working, we can change them. If our leaders make mistakes, we can hold them accountable — even if they never admit their mistakes," said the man who won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the White House.

The party's 44th national convention opened under extraordinarily tight security as Kerry campaigned in Florida. In a battleground state he has visited more than a half-dozen times this year, he urged Republicans and independents to "stop and think" before casting their votes in November.

"If you're conservative, there's nothing conservative about piling debt on the shoulders of our children and driving the deficits up as far as the eye can see," the Massachusetts senator said in a jab at Bush.

U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., waves to the delegates during the Democratic National Convention at the Fleet Center in Boston, Monday, July 26, 2004. [AP]

"Stop and think. Think about what's happening," he added as he campaigned in the state whose bitterly contested recount decided the 2000 election.

Former U.S. President Clinton, had the featured prime-time speaking slot on the convention's opening night — the role of booster in chief for Kerry and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, already viewed as a potential presidential contender for a future campaign, drew the assignment of introducing her husband.

The roster of speakers also included former President Carter.

Kerry runs even to slightly ahead of Bush in the polls, and Republicans dispatched a team of surrogates to the Democrats' convention city to try and slow his campaign momentum.

While the Democrats were at their convention, working to wrest his job away, U.S. President Bush was charging up punishing climbs and down steep dirt paths on his high-performance bike on his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Monday, July 26, 2004. At one point he went over the handlebars, landing flat on his back. [AP]

Bush, at his ranch in Texas, fell while bicycling on steep dirt paths during the day. He waved away his medics and continued his ride despite a small cut on his knee.

What passed for controversy was stirred by Kerry's wife. She told a persistent reporter on Sunday to "shove it" when he urged her to expand on her call for more civility in politics.

"I think my wife speaks her mind appropriately," Kerry told reporters who asked about the exchange between Teresa Heinz Kerry and the editorial page editor of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Gore won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the White House when the Supreme Court halted a recount of the Florida vote. To those still disappointed, or angry about it, he said, "I want you to remember all of those feelings. But then I want you to do with them what I have done: Focus them fully and completely on putting John Kerry and John Edwards in the White House."

The former vice president has assailed Bush sharply the last two years, accusing him of having "twisted values and atrocious policies."

In deference to the wishes of the Kerry campaign, his attacks from the convention podium were more tempered — couched as questions that seemed to suggest their own answers.

"Has the promise of compassionate conservatism been fulfilled? Or do those words now ring hollow," he asked, invoking Bush's campaign slogan from 2000.

"For that matter, are the economic policies really conservative at all? Did you expect, for example, the largest deficits in history ... And the loss of a million jobs."

He raised similar questions about the Bush administration's environmental policies and pursuit of diplomacy.

"Regardless of your opinion at the beginning of this war, isn't it now obvious that the way the war has been managed by the administration has gotten us into very serious trouble?" he asked.

And on the war on terrorism, he said, "wouldn't we be safer with a president who didn't insist on confusing al-Qaida with Iraq."

Clinton twice led his party to victory and is the most recent Democrat to hold the White House. Gore, mindful of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, shoved him to the sidelines during the 2000 campaign — a decision that still sparks debate.

Arkansas delegates gathering for breakfast on the first day of the convention said Clinton could help Kerry win his home state this fall. "Al Gore could have won Arkansas if he had let Clinton campaign there," said Jim McGuire, 72, a retired postal worker.

The delegates gathered amid unprecedented security for the first national political convention since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The subway station that runs near the FleetCenter was barricaded shut, and armed personnel stood guard along a seven-foot-tall metal security fence that ringed the convention complex.

At the behest of the Secret Service, the city revoked a permit for Operation Rescue and several other anti-abortion groups to demonstrate outside Kerry's Beacon Hill home during convention week.

The groups sued, to no avail. "I'm not going to second-guess the Secret Service's idea of how they feel they need to protect a presidential candidate," said Judge Nathaniel Gorton in denying the request.

"Security is being used to prevent any type of free speech activity," countered Brandi Swindell, national director of Generation Life, one of the anti-abortion groups.

The convention hall was converted into a gigantic sound stage ready for four days of political pageantry, and the Kerry campaign's core message was impossible to miss. The words "A Stronger America" seemed to float by on video screens, and were visible, as well, on emblems affixed to the front of the two speaker podiums.

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