| Momma T: John Kerry kisses his wife Teresa during the baseball game at Fenway Park, Boston. (Reuters)
Boston, July 26 (Reuters): Democrats open their national convention tomorrow with an all-star line-up of party veterans headed by former President Bill Clinton, designed to help introduce White House hopeful John Kerry to voters.
Clinton, former President Jimmy Carter, former vice-president Al Gore and New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton are among the speakers at tomorrow’s opening session, which will lay out some of the themes for Kerry’s November election battle with President George W. Bush.
The first night will include speeches highlighting Kerry’s proposals to create jobs, provide affordable health care and rebuild foreign alliances.
Democrats want to use the convention to showcase the life of the decorated Vietnam War veteran, hoping to burnish his credentials as a decisive leader and soften the sometimes wooden campaigner. Senator Edward Kennedy, like Kerry a senator from Massachusetts and a convention speaker, took to the morning shows to promote the Democrats’ choice for President and stress his security credentials.
“John Kerry’s candidacy is a candidacy of strength, it’s one of hope,” Kennedy told CBS. “He’s a decorated war hero, and I think Americans feel well in terms of his desire to protect the homeland.”
The convention opens under heavy security after warnings it could be a potential target for terrorists. Authorities shut down a major commuter railway station under the Fleet Center convention site, closed some 65 km of highways and blanketed nearby streets with officers.
Kerry, who made a surprise trip to Boston yesterday to throw out the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees baseball game, will return on Wednesday and will accept the nomination in a televised speech on Thursday.
His wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry made unwelcome headlines today after she was caught by television cameras having a dispute with a reporter from her home state of Pennsylvania who pressed her about comments she made that politics had become “un-American.” “You said something I didn’t say, now shove it,” she told the writer from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The Kerry campaign has been previewing convention speeches to try to keep the message positive, seeking to focus on building Kerry’s image rather than bashing Bush. “There won’t be any bashing of the President — well, hang on, there will be some of that,” said New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, co-chairman of the convention. Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe had also promised to rein in the anti-Bush fervour in the speeches .
Still a huge presence in the Democratic Party, Bill Clinton’s appearance as the final speaker tomorrow will echo his role in the 2000 Democratic convention that nominated Gore to face Bush. His wife, former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, was not initially included among the speakers but was hastily added when many Democrats howled about her exclusion.
“I think the country needs him (Kerry). I know I would rather be working with someone who took these questions seriously, who had some intellectual curiosity,” she told NBC’s Today show.
Also speaking tomorrow will be David Alston, a crew mate of Kerry on the boat he commanded in Vietnam. Veterans and the crew who served under Kerry will regularly appear on the podium during the four-day gathering, as Democrats look to play up Kerry's military biography.