Kerry Says He Would Extend Mission Of 9/11 Commission
While most Democrats were in Boston, nominee John Kerry was in Norfolk, but continuing the convention's theme of strengthening the nation's security by replacing George Bush. Democratic insiders say Kerry is still having some trouble persuading Americans that he has the right stuff to keep the country safe, and one Democratic poll described to the US News Bulletin shows that most swing voters don't have confidence that Kerry would adequately protect the country. The Democratic candidate has been told of these findings and agrees that one of his main goals in his acceptance speech on Thursday night will be to assure Americans that he is tough enough to serve as commander in chief but at the same time show that he would avoid the kind of rigidity and bellicosity that trouble voters about Bush.
Kerry's effort to address the national security issue head-on was buttressed by the considerable media attention he received for his speech yesterday on extending the 9/11 Commission. The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that "the juggernaut known as the Sept. 11 commission gathered momentum and influence Tuesday as Sen. John F. Kerry called for extending its charter until 2006 and a Senate oversight committee moved up its first hearing on reforming U.S. counterterrorism agencies to later this week." Kerry "proposed keeping the independent panel of congressionally appointed commissioners together for at least another 18 months so they can forcefully advocate for their 41 recommendations and issue regular progress reports." But "some commission officials questioned whether Kerry's suggestion was practical. Though panel members plan to tour the country pushing their proposals, the commission's charter expires Aug. 26, and it wasn't clear where the money would come from to keep the group intact for so long or whether its members and staff would agree to do so."
The Washington Post reports that while "some leaders of both parties cautioned against rushing to implement recommendations, others said the public demands prompt response to recommendations intended to avert terrorist attacks." The Financial Times reports Kerry's speech "was a departure from his focus on jobs and healthcare when he visited midwestern states, where voters say they have yet to feel the benefits of an improving economy. The shift underscored the chief strategic calculation of the 2004 Democratic convention: to emphasize national security above all else."
USA Today reports that Kerry "escalated the political tug-of-war over which campaign will benefit most from the commission's report, which has been selling briskly since it was issued Thursday." Yet, "President Bush's campaign manager immediately accused Kerry of using the report for political gain.' People continue to see example after example of him responding to an issue that ought to be of the highest importance to our country in a way that suggests the highest importance to him is politics,' Ken Mehlman said."
Kerry's move was a huge success in generating TV coverage, as all three networks led with the story last night. ABC reported that "with a battleship for a backdrop," Kerry announced his proposal, which "is meant to put pressure on the President, who opposed the original creation of the commission, to act." CBS reported that Kerry "wants to convince any doubting voters that he would be tougher on terror and better protect the homeland. It is an issue that could decide this election." NBC reported "the Democrats have discovered there is new political heat in this 9/11 Commission issue, so we heard more about that today."