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Inside Politics
The Morning Grind / DayAhead

For Kerry, Independence from the Left

By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

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Left out? Sen. Hillary Clinton, billionaire George Soros and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean meet today in Washington to rally around John Kerry. Where's Kerry? In Missouri.
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Morning Grind
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Left gathers in Washington's Woodley Park today to rally around John Kerry with rallying cries from George Soros, Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean. And that's all before lunch.

Sen. John Edwards was scheduled to follow Soros on stage this morning at the "Take Back America" conference, but he bowed out.

Edwards cited a scheduling conflict, but the conspiracy wags among us wonder if the veep-wannabe, otherwise ubiquitous, didn't wanna be seen headlining a lefty-left forum during these crucial veep-selection weeks. (Don't buy it? Answer this question: Would a photo of Edwards shaking hands with Arianna Huffington help or hurt his veep prospects? We can already imagine the RNC web ad.)

For his part, Kerry today will be 1,060 miles away from the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, in the aptly named town of Independence, Missouri, where he'll give his third major foreign-policy speech in seven days (excerpts below).

One day after comparing the war in Iraq to World War II, President Bush, for his part, leaves late this morning for Italy and France for the D-Day remembrance. One of his goals in Europe: To win international support for the U.N. resolution on the new Iraqi government. (Special Report: Return to Normandy)

(CNN plans live coverage at 9:50 a.m. ET before Bush's departure of his news conference with John Howard. Check our CNN.com home page for a link to a live Web stream.)

Also today, Camp Kerry folds a new TV ad into the rotation it launched this week.

Speaking of the Left, Gloria Feldt, the president of Planned Parenthood, told The Associated Press yesterday that Kerry "is being poorly advised, poorly served" by advisers on the abortion issue.

In the wake of his comments last month that he would not apply an abortion-rights "litmus test" to most court nominees, Feldt said she thinks Kerry "understands viscerally reproductive rights as being related to women's human rights. ... But he's got to come up with some better language to talk about it."

Feldt said that Kerry, like Al Gore, has become overly cautious and should do a better job of making his positions clear.

Kerry to urge strengthening military

In his speech today in Missouri, Kerry will talk about strengthening the U.S. military.

"Despite all its talk of transforming our military, the Bush administration has done far too little to adapt our forces to the new missions they have to undertake," Kerry will say in his speech, according to an advance copy Camp Kerry distributed to reporters.

"We went into Iraq with too few troops to prevent looting and crime, and we failed to secure nearly a million tons of conventional weapons now being used against our troops," he says.

"We failed to build alliances and squandered the opportunity to generate wider support inside Iraq, in the Arab world, and among the major powers. These mistakes have complicated our mission and complicated our objective: a stable Iraq with a representative government secure in its borders."

Bush-Cheney prebuttal: Spokesman Steve Schmidt says he finds it "ironic" that Kerry chose Harry Truman's presidential library as the site for today's speech.

"Kerry and Truman may both be Democrats, but they have little else in common," Schmidt wrote in a campaign e-mail distributed to reporters. "Truman was known for making hard decisions and sticking to them. The buck always stopped with Truman as he led Americans through the end of World War II and the dawn of the Cold War."

"On decision making, Truman said, 'If it's right, make it, and let the popular part take care of itself.' [He] once said, 'If you fail to make up your mind, then you are not suited for the job.' John Kerry is clearly no heir to the Truman legacy."

Also today ...

  • Camp Kerry will announce a Senior Military Advisory Group (uh, SMAG?) of prominent retired admirals and general officers who are advising the campaign on defense and national security issues. The SMAG will include Gen. John Shalikashvili; Adm. William Crowe; Gen. Wesley Clark; Gen. Daniel Christman; Gen. Tony McPeak; Vice Adm. Lee Gunn; Gen. Joseph Hoar; Maj. Gen. Harry Jenkins; Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy; Adm. Stansfield Turner; and Gen. Johnnie Wilson.
  • The White House confirmed last night that Bush has talked with an attorney about the CIA leaks case. The spokeswoman said Bush was seeking advice from Washington attorney Jim Sharp about the investigation but had not retained him. She said Bush would only do so if he was called to testify before the grand jury. The White House says there is no indication the president is a target of the probe. (Bush consults private attorney over CIA leak probe)
  • And finally, one interesting note from The Associated Press: During his commencement remarks yesterday at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Bush yesterday quoted Dwight Eisenhower's message to the troops before D-Day. However, Bush left out one line -- "You are about to embark upon a great crusade." The AP points out that the president has carefully avoided using the word since using it to describe his war on terrorism, because the word is inflammatory to Muslims. (Bush compares Iraq, terror wars to World War II)

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