'I accept your nomination ...'
By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit
CNN's Candy Crowley on Kerry's nomination timing.
Al Gore accuses Bush of "utter incompetence."
CNN's Bill Schneider on the politics of terrorist attacks.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Journalists all over town feel empty today. Somehow, by reporting that "John Kerry has decided to accept the nomination at the Democratic convention," we're not feeling like we've accomplished much in the way of news. But at least the week's biggest political (non)story is behind us.
(In a related story, sources say the Democratic National Committee will announce today that it has $50 million in the bank and no debt. That's a good thing, because they'll apparently be paying the electricity bill at Camp Kerry for the month of August).
Moving on, we turn to a semimeaty speech Kerry will deliver in Seattle, Washington, today, kicking off an 11-day foreign-policy tour that will carry him from Memorial Day to the anniversary of D-Day on June 6.
A second speech, next Tuesday in West Palm Beach, Florida, will focus on the nexus between terrorism and WMDs. A third one, to be delivered June 3 in Independence, Missouri, will focus on strengthening the U.S. military to deal with the new threats. During the 11 days, Kerry will also travel to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio.
During his 1 p.m. ET speech today in the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall at the Seattle Center, aides say Kerry will emphasize a few key "imperatives." Camp Kerry will preview the speech at 10 a.m. during a conference call with advisors Richard Holbrooke, Rand Beers and Sandy Berger.
The Bush/Cheney team will give its own review of Kerry's speech at 3 p.m. ET in a separate conference call, this one headlined by Sens. Jon Kyl and George Allen, as well as Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman.
First, Kerry will go out on a limb to declare that America must always be the paramount military power in the world, according to an advance copy of the speech obtained by The Grind. But, he'll argue, we can magnify our power through alliances -- to build a "coalition of the able" that will share intelligence, provide security and hunt down terrorists before they strike.
Second, Kerry will say that the country has to adapt and modernize the military to match its new mission, and he'll promise to ensure that the men and women of the U.S. military are the best-led, best-equipped and most-respected fighting force in the world.
Third, he'll say that a new national security policy demands an end to the U.S. dependence on Mideast oil, saying that "we have been constrained by their control over the oil that fuels too large a part of our economy. This is a weakness that this administration has ignored -- and one that must be addressed."
And finally, he'll call for a greater NATO commitment, expanded international support for training Iraq's security force and the creation of an International High Commissioner to work with Iraqis as they form their government.
"The stakes in Iraq couldn't be higher," Kerry will say, according to the advance copy of his speech. "If President Bush doesn't change course and doesn't secure new support from our allies, we will, once again feel the consequences of a foreign policy that has divided the world instead of uniting it. Our troops will be in greater peril, the mission in Iraq will be harder to accomplish and our country will be less secure."
Kerry ends the day with an 8 p.m. ET rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
For his part, Bush today visits a children's hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, to talk about health care initiatives. It's Bush's ninth visit as president to Tennessee, where he beat Al Gore in 2000, but polls indicate Kerry is showing strength this year. Bush will attend a GOP fund-raiser after the health care event.
Speaking of which, Kerry raised $2.2 million at a hotel fund-raiser last night in Seattle: $1.3 million goes to his campaign, the other $900,000 to the Democratic National Committee. He briefly commented on his decision to accept the nomination in Boston, Massachusetts, this summer, saying Democrats need to have finality to the process, and that while the decision puts him at a financial disadvantage he believes he can overcome that because, "we have two things going for us that they don't -- we have people and ideas."
In a Seattle speech last night, Kerry said he spoke yesterday with President Clinton. He did not elaborate.
Elsewhere on the trail ...Kerry(s) Unplugged: John and Teresa dined alone last night at Canlis, a restaurant that CNN's Mike Roselli tells us specializes in Pacific Northwest seafood as well as steak. Entree prices range from $22 for the vegetarian plate to $75 for a Wasyugyu steak, a Kobe, Japan-style beef. There's also a $70 tasting menu. Oh, and a $58 lobster tail.Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton travels to Phoenix to headline the Arizona Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson dinner/fund-raiser. (Expected haul: $850,000). "She's a rock star," said Jim Pederson, the Arizona Democratic chairman, told The Associated Press.And finally today, RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie and Don King -- together again -- as the RNC's "African-American Economic Empowerment Tour" kicks off in Detroit. From the RNC release: Gillespie teams up with King, the boxing promoter, to "take President Bush's message of opportunity and economic empowerment to African-American business leaders." The team, which includes top national business officials, "will pack a knock-out punch" by empowering African-American leaders with "tools they can use." Detroit is the first stop in the multicity tour that includes Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Miami, Florida; and New York.