- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 4, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Democratic Party pledges an unrelenting struggle against terrorism and a commitment to seeing Iraq succeed, according to a statement of election principles shaped heavily by national security crises.

A draft released yesterday of the party’s 2004 platform offers few departures from Democratic orthodoxy on social and economic issues and hews to the agenda of its presidential candidate, John Kerry.

In one shift from the 2000 platform, Democrats dropped a reference to endorsing the Kyoto treaty on global warming. Also, the Clinton-era embrace of the death penalty is gone.

The document is predictably critical of President Bush and the manner in which he “rushed to war” in Iraq. But it does not call the war a mistake, saying people of good will can disagree on that.

Mr. Kerry has said he would repair America’s international alliances and build a genuine multinational coalition to secure Iraq, and the platform emphasizes that Democrats will not abandon Baghdad.

Having “gone to war, we cannot afford to fail at peace,” it says. “We cannot allow a failed state in Iraq that inevitably would become a haven for terrorists and a destabilizing force in the Middle East.”

National security takes up half the 63-page platform. It is a striking departure from past platforms and an effort to avoid ceding the advantage to Mr. Bush and Republicans on who is better at protecting the United States from terrorism.

“It is centered around a strong America,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut Democrat, who led the drafting committee.

The platform contends that Mr. Bush, through unilateral acts, is responsible for damaged relationships with other countries. “Our alliances are frayed, our credibility in doubt,” the draft says.

But it does not rule out pre-emptive military action, if necessary, under a Kerry administration.

A spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign said the document was “John Kerry’s indictment of the 30-nation coalition standing shoulder to shoulder with America as we aid the new government in Iraq.” Scott Stanzel said Mr. Kerry is exhibiting “a stunning level of disregard for America’s allies.”

Platforms are not binding on the candidates. Republicans, holding their convention a month after the Democrats, have not worked out their platform process.

The Democrats’ full platform committee will put its stamp of approval on the document next weekend and send it to the party’s national convention in Boston for adoption at month’s end.

The document declares that terrorism is the imperative.

“Today, we face three great challenges above all others — first, to win the global war against terror; second, to stop the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; and third, to promote democracy and freedom around the world, starting with a peaceful and stable Iraq,” the draft says.

The party takes a cautious approach to the Patriot Act, parts of which Democrats have criticized as infringing on civil liberties. Aspects of the law, not specified in the document, “must be made smarter to better protect the privacy and liberty that law-abiding Americans cherish, while still allowing government to take all needed steps to fight terror.”

The platform supports abortion rights, homosexual rights short of marriage, and affirmative action. It absorbs Mr. Kerry’s promises to expand health care, modernize the military, promote energy independence and pass middle-income tax cuts.

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