On the opening day of the Republican National Convention, Democrats launched a fresh media attack against President Bush's domestic and foreign policy. Opponents of the current administration say President Bush has failed to lead in key areas, such as homeland security, the war in Iraq, and job creation. A few blocks away from the Republican National Convention, Democrats have set up temporary headquarters to try and draw away some of the focus that will be on President Bush and his party this week.
Democratic National Convention Chairman Terry McAuliffe says his team plans to highlight what it considers President Bush's failures.
"We will not let George Bush mislead America for the next four nights, and that is the purpose of this effort out here," he said. "You have a real choice November 2."
A new ad campaign, called "Mission Not Accomplished," is designed to counter a speech that President Bush made in May of 2003, when he declared victory in Iraq on an aircraft carrier under a banner that read "Mission Accomplished." Through a series of television ads, Democrats criticize the Bush administration for losing a million jobs in four years, for higher health care costs, and for what Democrats call the "go-it-alone war" in Iraq.
Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack says the ad campaign is not purely negative.
"It's not enough, as Democrats we understand, it's not enough simply to criticize where the president has miscalculated, where he has suggested that the mission is accomplished where it is not," he said. "It is important for Democrats to also underscore the fact that John Kerry and John Edwards have a better plan, a plan that will create more jobs, a plan that will lower health care costs for middle class Americans, a plan to make America safer and stronger at home and abroad, and a plan that will provide us energy independence."
The new ads are also a way for Democrats to bring the campaign back to current issues, instead of focusing on Senator John Kerry's service in Vietnam. Earlier this month, an anti-Kerry group called "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" launched an ad campaign accusing Senator Kerry of lying in order to get medals of valor in Vietnam.
Retired U.S. general and former Air Force chief of staff, Merrill "Tony" McPeak says President Bush's problems in Iraq should now take center stage.
"Iraq is a mess," he said. "It's bigger mess than we were promised, and a bigger mess than it needed to be if he had been competent to the task at hand."
General McPeak supported Bush in 2000 but now backs Senator Kerry. He acknowledged that so far, voters have seen little difference in each candidate's post-war plans for Iraq.
"The real question for the American people is who has the chance to do these things," he said. "In my assessment, this administration has forfeited its legitimacy, has forfeited its integrity, and is in no position to carry out these plans to widen the participation and strengthen Iraq's domestic security force."
Democratic leaders also seized on a comment that President Bush made during a television interview Monday morning, when he was asked by NBC's Matt Lauer if he thought America could win the war on terror.
"I don't think you can win it," he said. "But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."
Governor Vilsack says the president's comment should give Americans another reason to vote for John Kerry.
"I think we can point out today that the president of the United States suggested that he is not confident in his ability to win the war on terror, which should give pause for all of us in terms of giving George Bush another four years," he said. The Democrats plan to respond to Republicans each day for the remainder of the Republican convention.