Wednesday, September 1, 2004

NEW YORK — Democrats said yesterday that the Bush administration and Republican officials must have been behind the hundreds of “Purple Heart” adhesive bandages mocking Sen. John Kerry, which were distributed Monday night on the Republican convention floor.

“Having myself chaired two Democratic conventions, let’s be crystal clear. This did not just happen,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe.

“Two hundred and fifty Band-Aids handed out on the floor of the convention does not happen without the leadership of the party and the people who are running this convention, who are ultimately responsible to the president,” he said.

He was referring to the several hundred small plastic bandages that several hundred delegates were given Monday night by Morton Blackwell, a Republican National Committee member from Virginia.

Each bandage had a purple heart image on it and the written message: “it was just a self-inflicted scratch, but you see I got a Purple Heart for it.”

In addition to a Silver Star and Bronze Star, Mr. Kerry earned three Purple Hearts in the Vietnam War.

The bandages also drew a rebuke from several groups of Purple Heart recipients, who said it was offensive and dishonorable.

Republican convention officials said they had nothing to do with the bandages, but said they have asked Mr. Blackwell not to distribute any more.

Democrats are in New York monitoring the Republican convention, and said Monday night’s speeches by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, were part of the “greatest theatrical performance of all time” as Republicans nominate Mr. Bush.

“Tonight will take the all-time prize, when the Republican Party tonight, their theme, believe it or not, I’m not joking, is compassion,” Mr. McAuliffe said, adding, “I don’t know if we’ve seen any compassion from this administration except for the folks that are in the top 1 percent.”

Democrats’ main focus yesterday, though, was the medal bandages.

Mr. McAuliffe compared the bandages to the ads being run by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group of Vietnam veterans who believe Mr. Kerry is unfit to be commander in chief. Both Mr. Bush and the veterans say they are not collaborating on the ads, but Democrats say some of Mr. Bush’s financial backers are also backing the veterans’ ads.

“Once again, this president and all of the Republicans will claim ignorance,” Mr. McAuliffe said.

Retired Air Force Gen. Merrill McPeak and Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat and a Korean War veteran, meanwhile, compared it to abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison.

“It isn’t just a few foolish people. Like the prison scandal, the tone is set at the top. It had to be organized at the convention,” Gen. McPeak said.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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