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Kerry Throws Down the Gauntlet in NH

by Pamela Leavey

John Kerry threw down the gauntlet last night in NH and those who watched his speech at NH’s Jefferson Jackson Dinner know exactly what I am talking about. The speaker was on fire, the crowd was couldn’t get enough, the standing ovations just kept on coming. John Kerry fired away at the Bush administration and the GOP right out of the gate last night… “A lie, a lie, a lie, a lie. What we have in Washington is a house of lies, and in November, we need to clean house.”

The Boston Globe reports, “Kerry, nurturing plans for a second presidential run, sought to recapture support among key Democratic activists last night by offering his strongest words yet on President Bush’s Iraq policy.”

From the look of the reaction in the house last night, when I watched the speech on C-Span, John Kerry did more than recapture the support. C-Span kept the cameras rolling on Kerry for a good 15 – 20 minutes after the speech and there were many who asked, “Are you going to run?” There were the pleas –“Run again Senator — we need you,” or the reminders “I’ve still got your back!” Anyone who thinks Kerry doesn’t have support on the ground is fooling themselves, or simply doesn’t want to admit it. The video of the speech is available here(WM).

In his keynote address to the largest fund-raiser of the year for the Democratic Party in New Hampshire, the site of the nation’s first presidential primary, Kerry accused Republicans of telling “lies” about the conditions in Iraq. He once again called for deadline to withdraw a majority of the troops.

“This war in Iraq is a disgrace,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. “Set a deadline for Iraqis to run Iraq and bring our troops home.”

On that line, Kerry received one of a dozen standing ovations he received during his 30-minute speech.

The senator clearly hoped his crispness on the issue would offset resentment among some party activists for what they considered a muddled performance on the issue in 2004, when he defended his vote authorizing the war but criticized Bush for moving too quickly to oust Saddam Hussein.

“For those who question my opposition to this war, just as they questioned my opposition to Vietnam after I retuned let me tell you: When you know the truth then it is both a right and an obligation to disagree with a president who is wrong,” Kerry said.

Since the 2004 election, Kerry has worked to “solidify his Iraq position by renouncing his vote authorizing the war in dramatic fashion” and in July he proposed a Senate plan with Russ Feingold “that would have a “vast majority” of American troops removed within a year.”

They tell us we’re making progress in Iraq and that there is no civil war,” Kerry said. “That is a lie. There is a civil war and it is costing American and Iraqi lives every single day and we must change course in Iraq.”

On Thursday, President Bush singled out Kerry during a Rose Garden press conference, saying that Kerry wants to “cut and run.” In response, Kerry said in his speech that Bush’s position was the “stand still and lose strategy.”

The sold-out speech in front of 600 Democrats comes at an important time for Kerry as he tries to re create his 2004 New Hampshire primary win.

In addition to Iraq, Kerry accused the Bush administration of “cutting and running” from Afghanistan and having a “know-nothing policy” on North Korea.

Kerry also suggested Republicans were trying to cover up the scandal involving former representative Mark Foley.

“They tell us the congressional page scandal is a Democratic plot to win the midterm elections. That is a lie,” he said. “This issue is here because of a Republican coverup. ”

For influential progressive Chaz Proulx, Kerry seemed like a different candidate in 2004. In that election, Proulx grabbed a Howard Dean bumper sticker after hearing him just once. This time, he said after the speech, he was inclined to support Kerry.

“I get the feeling that whatever was holding him back last time from been fiery and true is gone,” Proulx said.


  • The WaPo reports: “Kerry barely said hello to the New Hampshire Democrats who filled a banquet room here Friday night before unloading on President Bush,” and Dan Balz reporting for the WaPo counted “14 standing ovations.”
  • From Reuters: “Iraq war worsening terrorism, John Kerry charges.”
  • The New Hampshire Union Leader has more about the speech and an interview before the speech: “Kerry: Bush is a liar about Iraq civil war.”

  • On DU: John Kerry Rocks the Granite State
  • From JohnKerry.com: Rockin’ the House at the JJ Dinner
  • The Blue State: (Video) Kerry to make decision about 2008 after next month’s elections
  • Article of Faith: Kerry: A Lie, A Lie, A Lie…
  • Gun Toting Liberal: John Kerry Coming Out Fighting
  • UPDATE: The full text of the speech is now available here.

    One Response to “Kerry Throws Down the Gauntlet in NH”

    1. Bob Woodward: A Conversation With John Kerry

      The Sunday WaPo has excerpts from an interview that Bob Woodward did with John Kerry some time ago. It’s timely in regards to Kerry throwing down the gauntlet in NH on Friday night during his speech at the NH Jefferson Jackson dinner. In an inte…