Yoo-hoo, Over Here!

by Jeff Fleischer

(Mother Jones, August 31, 2004)


Throughout the Democratic National Convention in late July, Dick Cheney spoke at a number of West-Coast fundraisers, breaking with the political tradition of candidates keeping a low profile during their opponents’ convention. With the Republicans now formally re-nominating George Bush and Cheney in New York, the Democratic ticket is returning the favor.

On Monday, John Edwards took the administration to task over the war in Iraq, in a speech at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Edwards, who was introduced by former Gen. Wesley Clark, continued the “stronger America” theme highlighted at the Democratic convention:

“Because of this administration’s failures, Iraq is a mess today. And we need new leadership to fix it…
“We have seen what this administration’s approach does to our standing in the world. It isolates us. It costs us respect from our allies. It means we must face these new challenges alone.”

Edwards criticized Bush’s national security credentials on multiple fronts, from the growth of nuclear weapons programs in Iran and North Korea to Bush’s reluctance to cooperate with the Sept. 11 Commission to the president’s recent admission of miscalculating the Iraqi insurgency due to the “catastrophic success” of the military.

Like Cheney, Edwards will continue to campaign as the convention rolls along. After the North Carolina speech Monday, he stopped in Tamarack, W.Va., promising onlookers “you’ll get tired of seeing me” as he stumps for the swing state’s five electoral votes. He followed up with two more West Virginia appearances Tuesday, focusing on Bush’s economic policy:

“President Bush has finally admitted that he miscalculated on Iraq, so will he next admit that he has miscalculated on the economy? Will we next hear that his economic plan was a catastrophic success?

“American families are working harder than ever before,” Edwards said, “and yet they are being squeezed like never before because of George Bush’s miscalculations.”

John Edwards is hardly the only Democrat continuing to campaign during the convention. Elizabeth Edwards has scheduled Nevada stops Tuesday in Las Vegas and Reno, while Vanessa Kerry, Cate Edwards and Andre Heinz team up to visit three universities in North Carolina. Back in New York, Democrats have set up a “war room” inside Madison Square Garden (as the GOP did inside the Fleet Center), providing rapid response to Republican-generated news. That includes a morning media briefing by DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who is leading the party’s public rebuttal:

“The president has miscalculated the war in Iraq, suggesting that when he landed on an aircraft carrier that all was done. The end is not in sight, mission certainly not accomplished…We cannot afford four more years of this administration that puts the narrow interests of very special interests ahead of the interests of most Americans and their families.”

As for the Democrats’ man of the hour, John Kerry is taking a short holiday in Nantucket, but will speak to the American Legion Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn. The Massachusetts senator then plans to respond to Bush’s acceptance speech with an address of his own Thursday night. While Bush slept through Kerry’s Boston speech before returning to the trail the next day, Kerry plans a rally with Edwards and their families in Springfield, Ohio, shortly after Bush closes his speech.

After weeks of fending off “Swift Boat” attacks, the Kerry campaign has obviously decided to switch from defense to offense. If it’s successful, GOP attempts to play down a post-convention “bounce” might prove wise in retrospect.

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