Wesley Clark gestures while he speaks to delegates at the FleetCenter tonight. (Globe Staff Photo / David L. Ryan)
Clark: Democrats are war leaders, too
BOSTON -- Retired Gen. Wesley Clark assured Democrats on Thursday that as president, John Kerry can "join the pantheon of great wartime Democrats."
In a prime-time address on the final day of the Democratic National Convention, Clark said Kerry possesses the right balance of wartime muscle and pacifist morals to restore America's safety.
"John Kerry fought a war and I respect him for that. He came home to fight for peace, and I respect him for that too," Clark said, describing Kerry's heroism in Vietnam and his anti-war activism after his tour of duty. "His combination of physical courage and moral values is my definition of what we need in a commander-in-chief."
Noting his own war experiences -- having "bled on the battlefield" in Vietnam and "sent men and women into battle" as supreme commander of NATO -- Clark chastised Republicans who might try to claim sole ownership of American patriotism.
"This flag belongs to us," Clark said. "Anyone who tells you that one political party has a monopoly on the defense of our nation is committing a fraud on the American people."
Not known for fiery oratory during his five-month run for the Democratic presidential nomination, Clark hushed a distracted crowd by asking for a moment of silence for fallen American soldiers, and held delegates' attention through the rest of his speech.
"He genuinely meant that call for silence because he's had to notify families of servicemen who've died," said Arkansas delegate Karla Bradley, who made 14 campaign trips to Oklahoma, which gave Clark his lone primary victory.
Clark compared Kerry to past Democratic presidents who held office at wartime: Woodrow Wilson during World War I, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman during World War II.
Clark also noted how John F. Kennedy "stood firm and steered us safely" past the Cuban missile crisis, and how Bill Clinton "confronted ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, and with diplomacy backed by force, brought peace to a shattered land."
However, Clark did not mention Kennedy's and Lyndon Johnson's handling of the Vietnam War.
"My fellow Americans, Democrats are leaders. Democrats are fighters," Clark said.
Clark also indirectly accused the Bush administration of mishandling the global fight against terrorism and eschewing an international solution in Iraq.
"Our country was attacked. We are at war, our nation is at risk -- engaged in a life or death struggle against terrorists who are seeking nuclear and biological weapons," Clark said. "The safety of our country demands cooperation with our allies. The safety of our country demands making more friends and fewer enemies.
"The safety of our country demands an end to the doctrinaire, ineffective policies that currently grip Washington," Clark said. "Enough is enough."
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