BOSTON — Teresa Heinz Kerry told the Democratic National Convention last night that her husband, presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, has earned the right to criticize President Bush for going to war in Iraq.
“For him, the names of many friends inscribed on the Vietnam memorial, that cold stone, testify to the awful toll exacted by leaders who mistake stubbornness for strength,” she said.
Mrs. Kerry capped off the friends and family night on Day Two of the convention, which showcased Mr. Kerry’s family and key political associates.
It included some of the party’s longtime lions such as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and rising stars such as Barack Obama, who appears likely to become the only sitting black senator by winning the seat from Illinois in November’s election.
The evening featured some of the party’s most ardent opponents of the Iraq war, including Mr. Kennedy and former presidential candidate Howard Dean, and some of its strongest initial supporters, such as Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, a former presidential candidate who helped write the congressional resolution authorizing use of force.
But as the war has dragged on, Democrats have become unified in their belief that the Bush administration has failed to protect national security.
“Instead of making America more secure, they have made us less so,” Mr. Kennedy said. “They have made it harder to win the real war on terrorism, the war against al Qaeda. And none of this had to happen.”
Mrs. Kerry said under her husband, who was awarded a Silver Star and a Bronze Star and earned three Purple Hearts as a Navy lieutenant in Vietnam, the nation would not back down.
“John is a fighter,” she said. “He earned his medals the old-fashioned way: by putting his life on the line for his country.”
She also said America has strayed from “its moral bearings” and called for it to reject “thoughtless and greedy choices,” although she didn’t identify any examples of such choices.
Mrs. Kerry’s speech was among the most anticipated of the convention, because of her tendency to speak her mind regardless of the consequences, and the campaign’s acknowledged inability to do anything about it.
“My name is Teresa Heinz Kerry. And by now, I hope it will come as no surprise to anyone that I have something to say,” she began last night.
This weekend, she told the editorial-page editor of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review to “shove it” after he asked her what she meant by warning of “un-American” traits in the nation’s politics in her remarks to the Pennsylvania delegation.
Mrs. Kerry’s first husband, Sen. John Heinz, Pennsylvania Republican and heir to the Heinz ketchup family fortune, died in an airplane crash in 1991. She married Mr. Kerry in 1995.
Mrs. Kerry, who was born in Mozambique, talked about her life in that nation, growing up under Portuguese colonialism and told the crowd a little about her parents. She also displayed her knowledge of five languages, giving a greeting in Spanish, French, Italian and her native Portuguese.
But she did not give much of a glimpse of her life together with Mr. Kerry, sticking exclusively to describing her husband’s politics and what the nation might expect him to focus on.
“With John Kerry as president, global climate change and other threats to the health of our planet will begin to be reversed,” she said.
During her speech, a protester from Code Pink, a group opposing U.S. troops’ presence in Iraq, was escorted off the convention floor by police. She was shouting, “End the occupation, bring the troops home,” as she was pulled off the floor.
The crowd seemed to embrace Mrs. Kerry’s speech.
“I’m speechless. She was phenomenal,” said Melissa Schroeder, a delegate from Merrill, Wis. “I’ve heard her speak before, but tonight, she nailed it.”
“She truly will put a new face on the White House and give the women of the nation a role model,” Ms. Schroeder said.
Picking up a theme from Monday night’s speeches by the party’s former presidents, Mr. Kennedy cast Mr. Kerry in the mold of his brother, President Kennedy, and President John Adams, two of Massachusetts’ past presidents.
Mr. Kennedy ran for president in 1980, losing the party nomination to incumbent President Carter.
Although Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Kerry have acknowledged to frostiness in the early years of their three-decade relationship, the two have become closer in recent years.
“I have known him as a soldier, as a peacemaker, as a prosecutor, as a senator and as a friend,” Mr. Kennedy said. “He was the right man for every tough task, and he is the right leader for this time in history.”
Edith Jerry Patterson, chairwoman of the Charles County Democratic Party in Maryland, called Mr. Kennedy a “solidifying” force in the party, and Keith Washington, a delegate from the District, said Mr. Kennedy should be seen as more than just a liberal voice.
“I think he definitely energized the base, but I think if the average American listens to what he says, it will resonate with them as well,” Mr. Washington said.
Vice President Dick Cheney took some lumps last night, with Ilana Wexler, the 13-year-old founder of Kids for Kerry, chastising him for using a profanity recently on the Senate floor.
“Our vice president deserves a long timeout,” she said.
The night featured some of Mr. Kerry’s former rivals for the party’s nomination.
“John Kerry will put an end to shipping jobs overseas,” said Mr. Gephardt, a Missouri Democrat who has strong credibility with labor unions and was considered to be on the short list for Mr. Kerry’s running mate.
One of the night’s most enthusiastic ovations came for the introduction of Mr. Dean, the man who many thought in early January was destined for Thursday’s acceptance speech.
“I may not be the nominee, but I can tell you this — for the next 100 days I’ll be doing everything that I can to make sure that John Kerry and John Edwards take this country back for the people who built it,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, who passed up a chance to run for the nomination, said Mr. Kerry will be a representative for average families.
Although Mr. Daschle is in a difficult fight for re-election against former Rep. John Thune in a state where Mr. Bush likely will win by a huge margin, Mr. Daschle did not shy from embracing Mr. Kerry.
“John Kerry’s entire life has been an inspirational example of doing right by America,” Mr. Daschle said.
If Mr. Daschle represented the old guard of the Senate, Democrats think Mr. Obama, who does not face a Republican opponent in November’s election for senator from Illinois, is the party’s future.
Mr. Obama said Democrats and the country as a whole can get beyond their differences on the war in Iraq.
“There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq,” he said. “We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.”
A highlight for delegates during the early evening was a performance by the 1960s folk group Peter, Paul and Mary, which sang “Blowing in the Wind” while middle-aged men and women in the audience swayed to the tune, making peace signs with their fingers.
They weren’t the only musical stars in the house. Rock star Bono, from the group U2, caused a stir as he walked around the concourse of the FleetCenter, with about two dozen photographers clamoring for the photo or video.
Security remained tight, although yesterday’s lineup was far lighter on major national political figures than Monday night’s speeches by two former presidents and a former vice president.
There were reminders all around, including, at one point, a female announcer telling the gathering delegates early in the evening that, “in the unlikely event of an evacuation,” they will hear a warning and should be prepared to leave the FleetCenter.
Amy Fagan contributed to this report.
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