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Edwards: Kerry ready to build one America
Updated: 2004-07-29 10:29

US Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards praised John Kerry Wednesday night as a man tested by war and ready to take command, determined to "build one America" no longer divided by income or race.

Edwards accused Republicans of waging a campaign of "relentless negative attacks," and told the Democratic National Convention and a nationwide prime-time audience that they hold the power to reject it.

US Democratic vice presidential candidate Senator John Edwards gestures to the crowd as he speaks before being confirmed as his party's vice presidential nominee during the third night of the 2004 Democratic National Convention at the FleetCenter in Boston, July 28, 2004. [Reuters]

"Instead you can embrace the politics of hope, the politics of what's possible because this is America, where everything is possible," Kerry's ticketmate said in prepared remarks.

"The truth is, we still live in two different Americas," said Edwards, the son of a Carolina mill worker and the first in his family to attend college.

"It doesn't have to be that way," he added, reprising the theme that fueled his own surprisingly strong challenge for the Democratic presidential nomination last winter.

Edwards had his turn at the podium a few hours after Kerry campaigned his way to the convention city and into the eager embrace of his Vietnam War crewmates. A dozen fellow veterans greeted him, including Jim Rassmann, a retired Special Forces soldier whose life Kerry saved from a muddy river in the Mekong Delta while under enemy fire.

US Democratic vice presidential candidate Senator John Edwards gestures to the crowd as he arrives to be confirmed as his party's vice presidential nominee during the third night of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, at the FleetCenter in Boston, July 28, 2004. [Reuters]
"We're going to write the next great chapter of history in this country together," Kerry vowed at a welcome-home rally in the city that
has nourished his political career for a quarter century.

In keeping with the overwhelming security arrangements for the first national political convention since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Kerry's ferry was escorted by Coast Guard vessels armed with machine guns as it made the brief trip across the open harbor.

Like dozens of other speakers, Edwards stressed the overriding national security theme at the convention. He recalled Kerry's service in Vietnam a generation ago, saying he ordered his swiftboat turned around despite enemy fire and plucked a fellow American from the river to safety.

"Decisive. Strong. Aren't these the traits you want in a commander in chief?" he asked rhetorically.

But Edwards' speech also marked something of a pivot to other issues that have received scant attention during three nights of convention oratory.

In one of the few references of the convention to Kerry's economic program, Edwards said it relies on tax hikes on Americans in top 2 percent of income and offers the hope of benefits to millions.

"We can build an America where we no longer have two health care systems," he said. "... We can build one public school system that works for all our children. ... We can create good paying jobs in America again," he added, by stopping the tax breaks that give companies an incentive to send jobs overseas.

Recalling a childhood in the segregated South, Edwards said he and Kerry want "our children and our grandchildren to be the first generations to grow up in an America that's no longer divided by race."

US Vice presidential candidate John Edwards reacts to the applause of delegates before speaking at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, July 28, 2004, in Boston. [AP]

In a slap at the Bush administration, he said Kerry will "build and lead strong alliances and safeguard and secure weapons of mass destruction ... We will always use our military might to keep the American people safe."

"And we will have one clear unmistakable message for al-Qaida and the rest of these terrorists. You can run. You cannot hide. And we will destroy you."

The convention program called for the delegates to formally bestow their presidential nomination on Kerry in the midnight hour, after his running mate's prime-time oratory.

"He understands the urgent need to bring this country together toward a common purpose, a united America," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who placed Kerry's name in nomination.

Kerry's speech Thursday marks the finale of a unified party convention but also the kickoff of a bruising, closely contested fall campaign to wrest the White House from President Bush.

By orders of the Kerry command, this was a Democratic convention unlike any other in memory. While one convention speaker after another extolled the candidate's war record, they skipped lightly over controversial issues that Democrats traditionally support — abortion rights, gun control, gay rights and affirmative action among them.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, a liberal lawmaker who challenged for the nomination, was something of an exception. "We are the party of workers' rights, civil rights and women's rights. ... When we show up holding the banner of social and economic justice, we win," he said.

Opinion polls show the country divided over the war in Iraq, with Bush favored over Kerry when it comes to waging war on terrorism. Most polls show a close race for the White House, with Kerry either tied or slightly ahead.

A convention-week lull in the television ad wars was nearing an end. Officials said the Democratic National Committee was launching a fresh round of ads in more than a dozen battleground states beginning this weekend. The cost will reach $6 million in the first week alone, they added.

Bush has spent the week at his ranch in Texas, and spokesman Trent Duffy said the president devoted part of the day to taping television commercials for the fall campaign.

The White House abruptly switched its tune on the Democratic convention, with Duffy saying Bush has been "monitoring closely" and has "watched some of it from time to time" on television. An aide had said earlier in the week that Bush didn't watch on Monday and had no plans to do so on Tuesday.

GOP surrogates, who had set up a political war room a few blocks from the delegates met, spent the week lobbing rhetorical salvos at what they called the Democrats' "extreme makeover" convention.

"There has been a total avoidance of discussion of the voting record of John Kerry, but that's not surprising," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.

Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, drew the prime-time assignment of introducing her husband. And she, too, mentioned that Kerry served in the Navy.

Of her husband, she said in prepared remarks that he was the "smartest, toughest, sweetest man I know" — and the most optimistic, too.

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