Catholics for Kerry

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Via Dkos

Kerry Assails Bush on Iraq

NEW BEDFORD -- Sen. John F. Kerry yesterday called on Americans to be more aware of the "bait and switch" Iraq war and the "hollowing out" of the Army in the pursuit of a mistaken policy.

In a swing through SouthCoast, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee attacked the priorities of the Republican Party and President Bush, elaborating on what they are sacrificing -- health care for children, infrastructure, Social Security -- in the pursuit of tax cuts.

"The Holy Grail of the Republican Party is a tax cut, whether or not we need it," he said in a meeting with The Standard-Times editorial board.

Sen. Kerry puzzled over the apparent lack of interest by Americans in the Iraq war and the near silence in the U.S. mass media about the so-called Downing Street Memo.

That leaked secret document, the minutes of a 2003 cabinet meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, says bluntly that Mr. Bush had decided to attack Iraq long before going to Congress with the matter, and that "intelligence was being fixed around the policy."

It caused an uproar in Great Britain and badly hurt Mr. Blair in national elections but went almost unnoticed in the United States.

"When I go back (to Washington) on Monday, I am going to raise the issue," he said of the memo, which has not been disputed by either the British or American governments. "I think it's a stunning, unbelievably simple and understandable statement of the truth and a profoundly important document that raises stunning issues here at home. And it's amazing to me the way it escaped major media discussion. It's not being missed on the Internet, I can tell you that."

He questioned Americans' understanding of the war and the sense that criticism equals disloyalty, saying, "Do you think that Americans if they really understood it would feel that way knowing that on Election Day, 77 percent of Americans who voted for Bush believed that weapons of mass destruction had been found and 77 percent believe Saddam did 9/11? Is there a way for this to break through, ever?"

Earlier in the day, Sen. Kerry met in a "town hall"-style meeting with about 75 seniors, where he assailed the recently passed Medicare prescription drug benefit, the GOP's tax cuts for wealthy Americans and the attempts to privatize Social Security.

He said to the largely supportive group, "The next time one of those conservative senators or congressmen comes to you and starts talking to you about American values, I want you to look him in the eye and say, what is the value that is represented in providing the wealthiest people in America with a great big tax cut at the expense of the poorest people in the country?"

"I went back and reread the New Testament the other day, and I've got news for you. Nowhere in the three-year ministry of Jesus Christ is there any suggestion at all that you ought to take from the poor and give to the rich and leave children at risk," he said to a loud round of applause.

Invoking the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal's "safety net," Sen. Kerry accused Mr. Bush and the GOP of misleading the public about Social Security and their intentions. "They're never telling the truth," he said.

"There were people who opposed Social Security in the '30s and '40s. There were people who voted against Medicare in the last quarter-century. And they're still there," he said.

He dismissed claims that Social Security will be bankrupt by 2042 or 2052, but "Medicare Part A does go bankrupt in 2020. Why isn't the president talking about that?"

Several seniors quizzed Sen. Kerry about the practice of penalizing Social Security recipients who have other sources of income, especially those who have lost their spouses or who worked for some time outside the Social Security system. Sen. Kerry replied that he and others are backing legislation to ease those cuts, which one city resident said were causing her to have to sell her home.

Dartmouth resident Robert Michaud made a case for private retirement accounts, charging that they have been shown to produce a better rate of return than Social Security. A person making $90,000 a year puts $12,000 into Social Security, he said. Raising that income cap "is not tweaking, it's a crime," he said.

Later in the day, Sen. Kerry attended a forum in Fall River discussing the Head Start program.