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Inside Politics

Clinton calls on voters to choose Kerry

Former president: GOP's vision is 'far to the right of most'

Former President Bill Clinton told delegates that voters face a clear choice in November.
Day 1 of the Democratic National Convention featured a spirited call to action.

Former President Bill Clinton lauds Sen. John Kerry for his bravery.

Former Pres. Jimmy Carter says reputation of U.S. has been soured.

Al Gore calls for new leadership under Sen. John Kerry.

• Bill Clinton: Kerry 'true patriot'
• Jimmy Carter:  'Unilateral acts'
• Al Gore:  Lessons of 2000
Day Two: Tuesday

• Theme: "A Lifetime of Service and Strength"

• 4 p.m. ET: Session opens

• 7 p.m. ET: Vote on party platform

• 7:25 p.m. ET: The Rev. Al Sharpton

• 8:15 p.m. ET: Sen. Ted Kennedy

• 9:30 p.m. ET: Barack Obama

• 10 p.m. ET: Ron Reagan

• 10:20 p.m. ET: Teresa Heinz Kerry
Which Democrat's speech are you most likely to tune in for?
John Kerry
Bill Clinton
John Edwards
Barack Obama
John F. Kerry
John Edwards
Democratic Convention

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Voters face a stark choice between a Democratic vision of opportunity at home and cooperation abroad versus a Republican vision that is narrow and "far to the right of most Americans," former President Bill Clinton said Monday at the Democratic National Convention.

"We've got to choose for president between two strong men who both love their countries: Our nominee, John Kerry, who favors shared responsibility, shared opportunity and more global cooperation, and their president and their party in Congress, who favor concentrated wealth and power -- leaving people to fend for themselves -- and more unilateral action."

Clinton was the headliner on opening night of the convention at Boston's FleetCenter, where Democratic delegates are gathering this week to nominate Kerry and his vice presidential running mate, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

The former president was introduced by his wife, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who gave Kerry a ringing endorsement as "the man we need to be our president and commander-in-chief."

"John Kerry is a serious man for a serious job in a serious time in our country's history," she said. "I am very optimistic about this election because I think I know a great leader when I see one."

In his remarks, the former president brought delegates to their feet for nine standing ovations, contrasting the policies he followed during eight years in the White House with those of his successor, Bush, on the economy, tax cuts, crime, the budget deficit, international cooperation and security.

With polls showing that Americans give Bush higher marks than Kerry on handling terrorism and national security, both Clintons pointedly sought to bolster the credentials of the Democratic ticket in those areas.

"Their opponents will tell you we should be afraid of John Kerry and John Edwards because they won't stand up to terrorists. Don't you believe it," Bill Clinton said. "Strength and wisdom are not opposing values."

Although direct attacks on President Bush were the exception rather than the rule, strong criticism was occasionally on display.

"What a difference these few months of extremism have made," former President Jimmy Carter said during a speech in which he never uttered the president's name.

"The United States has alienated its allies, dismayed its friends and inadvertently gratified its enemies by proclaiming a confused and disturbing strategy of pre-emptive war.

"In the world at large, we cannot lead if our leaders mislead," Carter said, to thunderous applause.

"Truth is the foundation of our global leadership, but our credibility has been shattered, and we are left increasingly isolated and vulnerable in a hostile world."

Carter talked of serving as a Navy officer under two wartime presidents, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, who knew the "horrors of war" and "exercised restraint and judgment and had a clear sense of mission."

He said Kerry, also a Navy veteran, would be a president like them.

"I am confident that next January he will restore the judgment and responsibility that is sorely lacking today," Carter said. "I am willing to follow him to victory in November." (Full story)

The delegates also cheered when Kerry's former Navy swift boat crewman, the Rev. David Alston, spoke about their service in Vietnam.

"I stand before you only because almighty God saw our boat safely through those rivers of death and destruction by giving us a brave, wise and decisive leader named John Kerry."

Alston, like former Vice President Al Gore earlier, urged people to get out and vote for Kerry.

"Take it from me: Every vote counts," said Gore, referring to the bitterly contested 2000 election that was eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. "Let's make sure that this time every vote is counted."

Gore, who in recent months has given fiery speeches highly critical of Bush, was more subdued in his address Monday. He mentioned Bush only once by name.

Gore assailed the policies of the Bush administration in a series of questions. He asked those who had voted for President Bush if the country was more united or divided today; if the promise of compassionate conservatism had rung hollow; if people were troubled by the erosion of basic civil liberties. (Full story)

"One of our greatest strengths as a democracy is that when we are headed in the wrong direction, we can correct our course," Gore said. "If our leaders make mistakes, we can hold them accountable, even if they never admit their mistakes."

Gore also heaped praise on Kerry, with whom he served in the Senate for eight years.

"He is a friend who will stand by you. His word is his bond. He has a deep patriotism that goes far beyond words. He has devoted his life to making America a better place for all of us," he said.

Attending the four-day convention are nearly 5,000 delegates and alternates -- outnumbered 3-to-1 by the media. (Special Report map: The FleetCenter in Boston)

Other developments

  • Edwards told a crowd Monday in North Carolina that a Kerry-Edwards administration would permit more stem-cell research than is allowed by the Bush administration. (Full story)

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