Monday, July 26, 2004
Tim Grieve of Salon was at the Democratic Veterans' Caucus in Boston, where Wes Clark, James Carville, and Max Cleland addressed the troops:
Clark's speech -- when he wasn't making inside Army-Navy jokes -- made it clear that the Kerry campaign intends to run right at Bush on war and terrorism, the only area where the president still holds polling advantages over his challenger. Clark acknowledged repeatedly that America is "at war." But that's not a reason to stick with the current administration, he said. It's time to "change horses midstream."Grieve also covered Al Sharpton's smokin' speech at the Black Caucus:
"There's another party out there, and they would have you believe that they're the best qualified to keep America safe and secure," Clark said. "I'm here to say it's not so."
In a building riff that brought veterans to their feet, Clark said: "That flag is our flag. We served under that flag. We got up and stood reveille formation, we stood taps, we fought under that flag. We've seen men die for that flag, and we've seen men buried under that flag. No Dick Cheney or John Ashcroft or Tom DeLay is going to take that flag away from us" . . . .
As [former Senator Max] Cleland articulated it, Kerry's bid for the veterans' vote runs along two tracks. First, as someone who has seen combat up close, he'll use troops only as a last resort. Second, as someone his supporters call a "veterans' veteran," he'll ensure that soldiers who do serve will get the benefits they need when they return home.
Cleland contrasted Kerry's vow with Bush's record. "You don't create a shooting war and close veterans' hospitals," Cleland told the crowd. "You don't avoid the war of your generation and then send another to die."
Earlier in the event, one of Kerry's Swift boat "brothers" vowed that, if Kerry called them for one last mission and said they were going to hell, "he'd have a full crew."
Cleland took it one step further with harsh commentary on the incumbent and confident predictions for the future. "We're not going to hell," he said. "We've been to hell. Now we're going to the White House."
Sharpton railed against George W. Bush for having the "audacity" to suggest -- as he did last week in an Urban League speech -- that African-Americans should consider the Republican Party as viable "alternative" for their votes.
"The insult there was that he acted like we have become Democrats by some unthinking process, rather than that we had been rejected and treated hostile by the Republican Party," Sharpton told an enthusiastic crowd. "They promised us 40 acres and a mule. We waited and nothing happened. The fact of the matter is, Mr. Bush, we waited around with the Republican Party through Herbert Hoover. Still didn't get the 40 acres. Didn't even get the mule. So we decided we'd ride this donkey as far as it would take us" . . . .
And he made it clear that he, for one, isn't ready to "get over" the disenfranchisement of African-American voters in Florida in 2000. "We got this right to vote through bloodshed, through sacrifice, through house burnings, through church bombings. We come to Boston not just because we just were added on. We died first. We suffered most. And we can walk in here with our heads held high and our shoulders back."
As the crowd exploded in applause, Sharpton contrasted his run for the presidency with Bush's experience of "being born on third base and thinking he hit a triple." "I wasn't even born in the stadium," Sharpton shouted. "I had to fight through the parking lot, get through the front gate, go around through the crowd, and then hit a triple."