- The Washington Times - Friday, July 9, 2004

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Republicans yesterday demanded that Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry distance himself from an at-times obscene fund-raising concert Thursday, even as running mate John Edwards and he spent the day campaigning on being a better representation of American values than President Bush.

“If John Kerry is going to praise last night’s star-studded hate fest, and characterize it as the ‘heart and soul’ of America, he should share these values with voters everywhere,” Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman said.

Democrats believe Mr. Edwards’ selection allows them the ability to talk about values with voters in parts of the country they weren’t able to reach in the last presidential election.

“The addition of Senator Edwards, I think, really opened the gate to us in [North Carolina] and given us the opportunity to talk to voters in that state and throughout the region,” Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said.

Mr. Edwards, a senator from North Carolina, has stepped right into that role, peppering his speeches with references to the values he learned growing up in that state.

“Values is not a word on a piece of paper. Values is not part of a political slogan. Values are what’s inside you,” Mr. Edwards said at a morning fund-raiser in New York yesterday.

But in a telephone press conference with reporters to claim victory in the campaign so far, Ms. Cahill spent much of her time defending the Bush-bashing concert and explaining that they will not release a tape of the event.

“Why would we do that?” she said, adding that Mr. Kerry “does not approve of some of the remarks that were made last night, and he has made that clear.”

“The performers last night speak for themselves, and John Kerry and John Edwards have made very clear over the past week what they think values are and what they’re going to be fighting for,” she said.

During the concert, held at Radio City Music Hall, actor Chevy Chase called Mr. Bush “a liar” and insulted his intelligence, and musician John Mellencamp, in a song, called the president “a cheap thug.” Actress Whoopi Goldberg also used Mr. Bush’s name as a sexual reference.

Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards took the stage at the end of the evening to thank the performers, but did not distance themselves from the event. Yesterday, Ms. Cahill said the candidates do disagree with some comments, and Mr. Kerry “has made that clear.”

Kerry campaign adviser Tad Devine said Mr. Bush never releases tape or even names of attendees at their fund-raisers, and Ms. Cahill said the concert “was a generally attended event” and reporters were present to cover it.

The event raised $7.5 million, a new record for a Kerry, which will be split between the campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

To win the presidency, Mr. Kerry must capture one of the “Red” states that voted for President Bush last time, and that probably requires winning over rural voters. The two Democrats spent yesterday afternoon in West Virginia and New Mexico, trying to do just that.

Ms. Cahill said the campaign will appeal to those voters on “kitchen table values” like the cost of health care and lost jobs, rather than the Bush administration’s take on values, which consists of opposition to abortion and homosexual “marriage” and support for gun rights.

But Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat and a strong supporter of Mr. Bush, said the Thursday concert will undercut Mr. Kerry’s hunt for Southern and rural votes.

“What made this so amazing to me is that it was just last weekend he was telling voters in the Midwest that he shared their ‘conservative values,’” Mr. Miller said, recounting the Massachusetts senator’s recent statements about his love of hunting and his quote to an Iowa paper that life begins at conception. “I didn’t hear any of those comments in Senator Kerry’s remarks to his audience in New York.”

Meanwhile, the party’s platform committee meets today in Florida to approve a draft platform that stays clear of many hot-button social issues. It reportedly does not mention the death penalty, which Mr. Kerry opposes in general, and does not call for allowing homosexuals to “wed” — something party activists called for during the hearings.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said the platform amounts to “extreme makeover.”

“If they wrote a document that actually reflects Senator Kerry’s record, it might excite the people that were at that New York fund-raiser last night and it might double their contributions from [financier] George Soros and others, but it might end up cutting in half his support in places like New Mexico and West Virginia,” he said.

Mr. Kerry’s busy campaign schedule and the Thursday concert also apparently have prevented the senator from receiving a briefing offered by the administration on potential terrorist attacks between now and November’s election.

“Well, I haven’t been briefed yet, Larry. They have offered to brief me. I just haven’t had time,” Mr. Kerry told CNN’s Larry King on Thursday.

Mr. Kerry just began airing a new television ad criticizing the Bush administration for its approach to homeland security.

“We shouldn’t be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in our own communities. I’m John Kerry and I approve this message because a strong America begins at home,” Mr. Kerry says in the ad.

A spokesman for Mr. Kerry did not return a call about the matter yesterday, nor did the Department of Homeland Security.

This story is based on part on wire service reports.



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