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KERRY'S SPEECH TELLS HALF OF STORY
NEWS WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT JERRY ZREMSKI ANALYZES AND FACT-CHECKS WHAT WAS SAID DURING THURSDAY'S PRIME-TIME TELEVISION COVERAGE OF THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION.

WASHINGTON -- In accepting the Democratic nomination for president, Sen. John F. Kerry was eloquent, passionate and presidential -- and guilty of grave sins of omission.

He didn't explain his position on Iraq. He vowed to cut the deficit without explaining how. And Kerry's 5,310-word speech included only 73 words about his 19-year Senate career.

That's what pundits noted Friday when asked to square Kerry's speech with reality.

"It was an upbeat, positive speech," said James Campbell, a political scientist at the University at Buffalo who noted a disconnect between Kerry's rhetoric and his record.

By emphasizing his military service in Vietnam and his promises to build a safer, stronger America, Kerry ignored his record of opposing many new weapons systems over the years, said Campbell, a Republican.

"It's about as far as I've seen anybody go," he said. "It's borderline dishonest."

Campbell took issue with Kerry's comments on the Iraq war, in which he said: "I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war."

Kerry never mentioned that he voted for the Iraq war.

"Kerry said he would demand more hard evidence (before going to war) as president -- but why didn't he do it when he was a senator?" Campbell asked.

Kerry said he would "bring allies to our side and share the burden" in Iraq, but he never said how long American troops would be in Iraq, or how many might be needed there.

"I don't think he could do that," said Kevin Hardwick, a political scientist at Canisius College. "He was wise not to."

After all, Hardwick noted, if Kerry offered solutions to the Iraq situation now, they could come back to haunt him if the situation changed.

Hardwick said it is easier for politicians to offer concrete answers on domestic issues.

However, Harry Zeeve, national field director for the nonpartisan Concord Coalition, said Kerry promised to cut the federal deficit in half in four years without explaining how he would do it.

Kerry made some expensive promises, most notably a tax credit to help people pay for health insurance, and said he would not raise taxes on the middle class to pay for them.

He is relying on unspecified spending cuts to trim the deficit. "Neither Kerry nor (President) Bush have set out a hard-choices agenda for which programs they would cut," Zeeve said.

And while Kerry vowed to protect Social Security benefits, he offered no plan to deal with the crisis that will befall the program when baby boomers retire in large numbers, Zeeve said.

As for his Senate record, Kerry only briefly mentioned his penchant for budget-cutting, his fight for putting more police on the streets, and his effort to normalize relations with Vietnam.

"He wasn't invoking his Senate voting record," wrote Peter Jackson of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, on the center's web site. "Why would he?"

Jackson noted that the National Journal, a Washington magazine, showed that Kerry's Senate voting record put him far to the left of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, his Massachusetts colleague.

"In this age of sound bites, it is a foregone conclusion that his opponents will make use of that line and ask voters, 'Seriously, judge him by his record,' " Jackson said.

e-mail: jzremski@buffnews.com

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