Bearing the strong imprint of Sen. John F. Kerry, the Democratic Party's 2004 platform offers a stinging indictment of President Bush's national security policies, charging that the administration has "walked away from more than 100 years of American leadership in the world" and left the country less safe.
The platform says Bush's doctrine of preemption has cost the United States the support of traditional allies and accuses the administration of repeatedly missing opportunities to attract international support for the mission in Iraq. The document calls for a new effort to rebuild alliances, saying the path to victory in the war on terrorism "will be found in the company of others, not walking alone."
The party platform also reproaches the administration for its economic policies, arguing that Bush has ignored the needs of middle-class Americans in favor of the wealthy, failed to produce enough new jobs and squandered the budgetary surpluses he inherited.
A Democratic administration will "restore responsibility to our budget" by rolling back part of Bush's tax cut, eliminating some corporate tax breaks, enacting tough spending caps and using other means, the document says. But it also outlines a long list of new spending initiatives or tax cuts for health care, education and other domestic needs.
Written with the active involvement of the Kerry campaign, the draft platform offers the most comprehensive statement to date of how Kerry's governing agenda would differ from the Bush administration's policies.
Nicolle Devenish, communications director for the Bush-Cheney campaign, rejected Democrats' criticisms. "John Kerry's indictment of the 30-nation coalition standing shoulder-to-shoulder with America as we aid the new government in Iraq shows a stunning level of disregard for America's allies, who are united in a fight against a global terror network," she said.
On domestic issues, she said, "Kerry's ongoing efforts to insert pessimism and misery into his every utterance about the growing economy is one the voters will reject in November."
The draft was made available to The Washington Post and other news organizations this weekend. It will be presented to the Democratic National Committee's full platform committee for approval July 9 to 10 in Miami, and will be adopted by the party at the national convention in Boston at the end of the month.
The 2004 platform is shorter than the one adopted in 2000 and is notable for how much more it deals with terrorism and national security than recent platforms. In that sense, it reflects how much the world and the presidency have changed since Bush was elected and shows the Democrats' determination not to appear weak.
"We were very cognizant of the time in which we were writing and functioning," said Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), who chairs the drafting committee. "Almost one-half of this document is centered on national security." She said it is designed to show the party's seriousness about protecting the United States and to reflect Democrats' belief that voters want a change of direction.
The draft echoes in tone and language much of what the Massachusetts senator has outlined on the campaign trail since he wrapped up the nomination in March.
The 16,000-word document skirts some potentially divisive issues within the party, particularly with regard to Iraq. A strong majority of Democrats believes it was a mistake for the president to launch the war in Iraq, but the platform says only, "People of good will disagree about whether America should have gone to war in Iraq."
With polls showing that many Democrats want to bring U.S. forces home as quickly as possible, the draft platform declares, "We cannot allow a failed state in Iraq that inevitably would become a haven for terrorists and a destabilizing force in the Middle East."
While the platform calls for increasing the size of the U.S. military by 40,000 troops, it takes no position on whether more U.S. forces are needed in Iraq. Instead, the document says the United States must find support from other countries. "We must truly internationalize both politically and militarily; we cannot depend on a U.S.-only presence" in Iraq.
DeLauro said the decision to avoid a declaration of whether the war was right or wrong reflected the party's desire to be forward-looking. "This is not a backward-looking document," she said.
She also took issue with a suggestion that the party is divided about whether to stay the course in Iraq. She said Kerry has been explicit about the necessity to stay as long as necessary and said others in the party agree. "The party is not divided on that issue," she said.
But the platform committee may be challenged in Miami by allies of Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio), who has not ended his presidential candidacy, to amend the document by calling for an early withdrawal from Iraq.
Seeking to show that Democrats can be trusted to fight terrorism, the platform repeatedly pledges a comprehensive and aggressive set of anti-terrorism policies. At the same time, it attempts to walk a fine line between the political need to demonstrate toughness and the desire to emphasize international cooperation, in contrast to Bush's policies.
In his State of the Union address in January, Bush said he would not wait for "a permission slip" from other countries before taking steps to defend the United States, an implicit criticism of Democrats' call for collective action. The platform says, "With John Kerry as commander-in-chief, we will never wait for a green light from abroad when our safety is at stake, but we must enlist those whose support we need for ultimate victory."
The draft says the Bush administration has no coherent plan for defending the homeland, argues for a major drive to make the country independent from Middle East oil and, in that context, calls for ending cooperation with governments that do not share U.S. values. It does not name any countries, but that line appears aimed at Saudi Arabia.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the platform calls for creation of a Palestinian state, the first time the Democrats have done so in their platform, one official said. But it hews closely to the pro-Israel line Kerry has staked out, showing strong support for the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The domestic section of the platform focuses heavily on jobs, health care and education.
"President Bush and the Republicans in Congress have ignored the middle class since day one," the draft says. "They have catered to the wealth of the richest instead of honoring the work of the rest of us. They have promised almost everything and paid for almost nothing."
Among the proposals are Kerry's tax plan to discourage companies from moving jobs overseas, his plan to expand health care coverage, his college tuition tax credits and his recommendation for more spending on elementary and secondary education.
Republicans have repeatedly challenged Kerry to prove that he can pay for all his proposals and still cut the deficit in half in four years, as he has pledged. The draft platform does not answer that question, in part because it contains no spending estimates.
DeLauro said the platform is a statement of values and principles, not a budget plan. But she defended the party's record, saying, "Democrats were able to get our fiscal house in order" under President Bill Clinton. Republicans say Clinton never would have balanced the budget without pressure from a Republican-controlled Congress.
On social issues, the draft document pledges to reverse Bush's limit on stem cell research and criticizes the president for proposing to amend the Constitution to bar same-sex marriages.
On the two big entitlement programs that face strain as the baby-boom generation retires, Social Security and Medicare, the platform pledges to fight efforts to privatize either and, while promising reform, offers no specifics other than to say that the best thing for Social Security is a return to fiscal discipline. For Medicare, the platform calls for expanded coverage for prescription drugs and an attack on waste and abuse.