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Former Democratic Presidents Lambaste Republicans - 2004-07-27

Former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have urged Democrats to put John Kerry in the White House in the presidential election this coming November, and criticized Republicans and President George Bush on his handling of Iraq, and the economy.

Bill Clinton, tenacious in maintaining his role in Democratic party politics since leaving office, gave a blow-by-blow description of actions by President Bush and decisions by the Republican-controlled Congress he says have harmed average Americans.

From the economy, budget deficits, and education to homeland security, Mr. Clinton said Republican policies have left Americans with an important decision.

"We have got to choose for president between two strong men who both love their country, but who have very different world views," he said. "Our nominee John Kerry, who favors shared responsibility, shared opportunity and more global cooperation, and their president and their party in Congress who favor concentrated wealth and power, leaving people to fend for themselves and more unilateral action."

Responding to loud cheers and applause, and describing himself as "a foot soldier" for Mr. Kerry, Mr. Clinton struck directly at themes voiced by many speakers on the first night of the convention and drew a contrast between what he described as Democratic and Republican values:

"The Republicans in Washington believe that America should be run by the right people, their people, in a world in which America acts unilaterally when we can, and cooperates when we have to," he said. "They believe the role of government is to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who embrace their economic, political and social views."

The former president described Republicans as having an interest in continuing divisions among Americans.

"Our friends have to portray us Democrats as simply unacceptable, lacking in strength and values. In other words, they need a divided America. But we don't," he said.

Earlier, former President Jimmy Carter criticized Mr. Bush for sending U.S. military forces to Iraq, saying past American leaders would not have involved the country in "wars of choice".

Mr. Carter reviewed what he called a series of mistakes by the administration since the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks.

"In just 34 months, we have watched with deep concern as all this goodwill has been squandered by a virtually unbroken series of mistakes and miscalculations. Unilateral acts and demands have isolated the United States from the very nations we need to join us in combating terrorism," he said.

Mr. Carter, intimately involved in Mideast peace efforts when he was president, also asserted achievements made during his administration and that of Mr. Clinton "are now in peril."

He also criticized President Bush on the issue of North Korea, calling the threat from Pyongyang's nuclear weapons efforts, in his words, a threat more real and immediate than any posed by Saddam Hussein.

Also addressing the convention Monday night, New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, wife of the former president, said if elected Senator Kerry would be a great leader who would also lead the world "not alienate it."

Mrs. Clinton also criticized President Bush, recalling his initial opposition to an independent commission to investigate the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

"Last week, the bipartisan 9/11 commission issued its report, and that commission would never have been in existence had it not been for the brave family members [from September 11] who insisted that this government have a commission to look into September 11," she said.

The Democratic convention resumes Tuesday, including addresses by two other Democrats who challenged Senator Kerry for their party's nomination, as well as the son of former President Ronald Reagan who died in June.