Kerry Vows To Restore 'Truth' to Presidency
Democratic Ticket Assails GOP Values as 'Distorted'
By Jim VandeHei and Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, July 11, 2004; Page A01
ALBUQUERQUE, July 10 -- President Bush has governed in a dishonest fashion, trampling values on every issue except fighting terrorism and leaving voters "clamoring for restoration of credibility and trust in the White House again," John F. Kerry and John Edwards said in an interview.
"The value of truth is one of the most central values in America, and this administration has violated" it, Kerry said in an interview with The Washington Post aboard the Democrats' campaign plane Friday. "Their values system is distorted and not based on truth."
The Democratic nominee and his running mate said it was that kind of anger toward the president that prompted entertainers at Thursday's Democratic fundraising concert in New York to attack Bush as a "cheap thug" and a killer. "Obviously some performers, in my judgment and John's, stepped over a line neither of us believes appropriate, but we can't control that," Kerry said. "On the other hand, we understand the anger, we understand the frustration."
Edwards said scathing anti-Bush attacks such as the concert and Michael Moore's new film "Fahrenheit 9/11" reflect an "expression by folks with genuine feelings," adding, "Thank goodness in our country they have a right to express those feelings."
In one of a series of interviews since teaming up on Tuesday, Kerry and Edwards predicted they would win the political fight over which party best exemplifies the values and ethics of most Americans, but Kerry said they would wage that battle on their terms and not what he called the Republican Party's "little political, hot-button, cultural, wedge-driven, poll-driven values."
With their ties loosened and shoes kicked off, the Democratic duo also vowed to forgo negative advertising in this presidential campaign -- an assertion that draws scoffs from Republicans who note that independent Democratic groups have pounded the president with millions of dollars in negative ads.
"We have not stood up and attacked our opponents in personal ways," Kerry said.
This week alone, Kerry has criticized Bush personally in speeches for lying, professional laziness, waiting until right before the election to indict Enron Corp.'s former chief executive, Kenneth L. Lay, lacking values and even having worse hair than the two Democrats. Some advisers are privately counseling Kerry to tone down his attacks on Bush.
Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, said Kerry is firing "baseless political attacks" and "not offering a positive vision for the country."
Kerry was forceful and freewheeling during the interview, while Edwards, who appeared more drained from the intensity of their maiden voyage, was generally deferential toward the Massachusetts senator, sometimes holding back until Kerry had answered a question. When not speaking, Kerry sometimes gazed out of the window at the mountainous West Virginia landscape below.
Kerry and Edwards said they would return to the Senate to oppose a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, but only for a final vote. With debate set to begin next week on the amendment proposed by the president, Kerry emphatically reaffirmed the ticket's position that marriage is between a man and a woman.
"Let's be very firm about it. Both John and I believe firmly and absolutely that marriage is between a man and a woman," Kerry said. "But we also believe that you don't play with the Constitution of the United States for political purposes and amend the Bill of Rights when you don't need to when states are adequately addressing this issue."
Kerry, who recently said he agrees with the Roman Catholic Church that life begins at conception, said he disagrees with his church's teaching that homosexuality is a sin. Edwards twice did not respond when asked if he, too, believes life begins at conception.
With Republicans questioning Edwards's fitness to serve as a wartime president, given the fact that he has less than six years of government experience, Kerry defended his vice presidential pick as more qualified for the job than Bush.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company