In one of the strongest speeches of the Democratic party convention in Boston, Senator Edward Kennedy has condemned what he calls damage to the country and its international reputation under Republican leadership. Senator John Kerry, and his vice presidential choice John Edwards, also received the support of other prominent Democrats:
If, as Democratic officials said, the party was trying to soften harsh partisan blows on President Bush during the convention, it would be hard to tell from Senator Kennedy's address.
The only surviving brother of the slain former President John F. Kennedy, Senator Kennedy delivered the sharpest critique of President Bush and his administration of anyone addressing the convention so far.
Listing economic, social, environmental and foreign policy mistakes he asserted should be more than enough for voters to remove President Bush from office, he said the stakes in the November election are higher than ever before.
"I have served for many years in the Senate and have seen many elections, but there have been none, none, more urgent or more important than this one," he said. "Never before have I seen a contrast so sharp, or consequences so profound, as in the choice we will make for president in 2004."
Senator Kennedy has been one of the fiercest critics of the president on how the situation in Iraq has been handled.
He told delegates Mr. Bush diverted resources and attention from the fight against the al-Qaida terrorist network, and damaged U.S. credibility with key allies.
"More than 900 of our servicemen and women have already paid the ultimate price," he said. "Nearly 6,000 have been wounded in this mis-guided war. The administration has alienated longtime allies. Instead of making America more secure, they have made us less so. They have made it harder to win the real war on terrorism and the war against al-Qaida."
Also addressing the convention was someone who was once one of Senator Kerry's strongest challengers in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Congressman Richard Gephardt, who dropped out of the Democratic nomination race after losing key early political primary contests, said Mr. Kerry is fully qualified for the presidency:
"There is no one in the United States with more courage, more judgment, more resolve, more of the knowledge and experience to hold the job of president of these United States of America," he said.
Mr. Gephardt's speech was seen as the climax to his political career, after two unsuccessful runs for the presidency and is retiring from Congress.
Another Democrat endorsing Mr. Kerry, and criticizing President Bush over Iraq, was South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle, Democratic (minority) leader in the Senate.
"South Dakotans reject the defeatist view that we have to have enough money to build Iraq but we can't afford to take care of the needs here at home," he said.
The speeches by the Democratic members of Congress came on the convention's second day.