Tuesday, July 27, 2004

BOSTON — Democrats broke their pledge to put on a positive convention on the first night, Republicans say, as speakers on the FleetCenter stage bashed President Bush twice as often as they praised Sen. John Kerry.

Last week, Democratic Party officials promised the convention would feature an optimistic message focused on Mr. Kerry’s character and policy proposals — minus negative, Bush-bashing rhetoric. But that game plan was abandoned in the first 24 hours, said Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Ed Gillespie.

“There was a better than 2-to-1 ratio in terms of attacks on the president versus laudatory comments about Senator Kerry’s agenda,” said Mr. Gillespie, who is spending this week in Boston to counter the Democrats’ “extreme makeover” convention, as the RNC is calling the event.

“We also saw Senator Kerry [campaigning yesterday in Florida] attacking the president and trying to scare seniors by asking seniors if they were terrified of the new prescription-drug benefit and answering, ‘You should be,’” Mr. Gillespie said at a press conference yesterday.

The RNC chairman said the drug-benefit plan that Mr. Bush signed into law, when fully implemented, “would cap out-of-pocket drug costs to poor senior citizens to $5 per medicine and reduce the costs to other seniors for their medicine to about 25 percent.”

Although convention speakers talked of safeguarding Social Security, “they did not mention that Senator Kerry voted for higher taxes on Social Security benefits at least eight times,” Mr. Gillespie said. “Kerry voted three times against repealing the 1993 Clinton tax increase on Social Security benefits.”

He said Democrats also falsely claimed that Mr. Bush has cut veterans funding, “when in fact, veterans funding has been increased by 40 percent under this president.”

A “Dear Fellow Veterans” letter was released yesterday by 24 military Medal of Honor recipients who said, “It’s time to set the record straight” about how Mr. Bush has sharply increased veterans spending.

Mr. Gillespie was joined yesterday by other Republicans, including Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, who took on statements made at the convention that they said were untrue or misleading.

Mr. Coleman said he was troubled by former President Jimmy Carter’s speech on foreign policy. Mr. Carter talked about the need for a new foreign policy of “peace and cooperation” with America’s allies, but Mr. Coleman said, “At the end of the Carter administration, America was not respected in the world because of our lack of strength.”

Mr. Coleman also took issue with former President Bill Clinton’s statement that “wisdom and strength are not opposing values,” which drew a standing ovation from Democratic delegates.

“Strength in the war on terrorism is acting pre-emptively, not waiting for the attack, but taking the fight to the enemy,” Mr. Coleman said.

“Wisdom is having a consistent direction, yet in Senator Kerry, we have something like seven different positions on his vote against the $87 billion military supplemental bill for body armor and health care for our troops,” he said. “That’s not wisdom.”

The senator noted that Democrats had given Bush-bashing filmmaker Michael Moore a place of honor at the convention.

“Michael Moore sits with Jimmy Carter in the presidential box. Is that the foreign policy that is going to come out of this convention?” Mr. Coleman said. “Does this demonstrate the party’s commitment to make tough decisions to protect us against terrorism? I don’t think so.”

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