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Democratic Leaders at Boston Convention Urge Americans to Vote for John Kerry for President - 2004-07-27

Democratic delegates have wrapped up the first day of their convention in Boston as they prepare to formally nominate John Kerry as their candidate for President of the United States. Democratic leaders are doing their best to convince American voters to select Mr. Kerry and defeat President Bush in the general election next November.

Former President Bill Clinton was the star speaker on the opening night of the 44th National Democratic Convention, repeatedly bringing delegates to their feet cheering, as he called on the party faithful to send John Kerry to the White House.

Mr. Clinton, who served two terms in the White House, told the convention that Democrats want to wage an upbeat campaign.

"Therefore, we Democrats will bring to the American people this year a positive campaign, arguing not who is a good or a bad person, but what is the best way to build a safe and prosperous world our children deserve," he said.

Mr. Clinton did not shy away from pointed criticism of President Bush, saying the Republicans want a divided nation and support policies favoring the rich.

The former president says he is ready to join other Democrats in the effort to win back the White House by electing Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.

"After three conventions as a candidate or a president tonight I come to you as a citizen, returning to the role that I have played for most of my life, as a foot soldier in our fight for the future, as we nominate in Boston a true New England patriot for president," he said. "Now this state that gave us in other times of challenge John Adams and John Kennedy has given us John Kerry, a good man, a great Senator, a visionary leader."

Former Democratic President Jimmy Carter told convention delegates that the Bush administration's policies have cost America its reputation as the world's most admired champion of freedom and justice.

Mr. Carter accused Mr. Bush of squandering the international goodwill that followed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. "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," he 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."

Perhaps the most poignant speech of the night was given by former Vice President Al Gore.

Mr. Gore was the Democratic Party's nominee for president four years ago and lost a bitter and extremely close election to President Bush.

In his convention speech Mr. Gore criticized the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq, saying it has diverted attention from the main danger in the war on terrorism.

"We have to be crystal clear about the threat we face from terrorism. It is deadly, it is real, it is imminent," he said. "But in order to protect our people shouldn't we focus on the real source of this threat, the group that attacked us and is trying to attack us again, al-Qaida, headed by Osama bin Laden? Wouldn't we be safer with a president who didn't insist on confusing al-Qaida with Iraq? Doesn't that divert too much of our attention away from the principal danger?"

Democratic officials say the speakers consciously avoided severely harsh criticism of President Bush during the first day of the four-day convention.

Senator Kerry's campaign has stressed repeatedly that it wants a positive message to emerge from the convention.

The strategy is aimed at reminding voters that Mr. Kerry has a strong military record and convincing them he can improve the nation's image overseas.

Senator Kerry's campaign advisors are trying to send an optimistic message to the small percentage of voters who remain undecided.

In a presidential race that polls say remains very close, that group will likely decide who wins the White House this fall.