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CONVENTION 2000 / THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION

2 Kennedys Call on Party to Rekindle JFK's Vision

Democrats: 'It is time once again to ask more of ourselves,' president's daughter says in rare political appearance. Other speakers attack Bush and try to rally liberal base.

August 16, 2000|MARK Z. BARABAK and CATHLEEN DECKER | TIMES POLITICAL WRITERS

The kin and kindred souls of President John F. Kennedy raised the torch of the New Frontier to summon Democrats on Tuesday night to extend the nation's prosperity to those left behind.

In the city where Kennedy was nominated 40 years ago, his daughter, Caroline, brother Edward and others at the Democratic convention invoked the memory of the slain president--and the vision he called the New Frontier--to urge the election of Al Gore.

"As I look out across this hall and across this country, I know that my father's spirit lives on," said Caroline Kennedy in a rare political appearance that was an emotional high point of a sentimental evening.

"Now, we are the New Frontier. And now, when many of us are doing so well, it is time once again to ask more of ourselves," she said, echoing her father's inaugural address. "As much as we need a prosperous economy, we also need a prosperity of kindness and decency. We need a president who is not afraid of complexity, who believes in an open and tolerant society and who knows the world can be made new again."

Kennedy arrived onstage at Staples Center to the orchestral music from Camelot, the Broadway musical her mother famously used to describe the 1,000 days of the Kennedy administration.

The last living member of the late president's immediate family was greeted with adoring applause, as was her uncle when he followed her onstage. The moment recalled the introduction of Edward M. Kennedy by her late brother, John Jr., at the 1988 convention.

She did not refer directly to her brother's death in an airplane crash 13 months ago, but she did thank Americans for "sustaining us through the good times, and the difficult ones."

Turning Up the Heat On Bush

For all the poignancy, however, there was serious political business at hand Tuesday night, as Democrats sought to rally the party's liberal base to more enthusiastically support Gore and his centrist "New Democrat" approach.

The tone was more overtly partisan than Monday's opening night. The speeches were more peppery, the attacks on Republicans and their presidential nominee, George W. Bush, more biting.

"George W. is an affable man, a friendly man," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said, but then he criticized the Texas governor on everything from his tax proposal to his failure to condemn the flying of the Confederate battle flag over the South Carolina capitol.

"He stood with Jefferson Davis and chose the Confederate flag over the American flag," Jackson said. "He refused to offer leadership on hate crimes legislation and wants to give the surplus back to the richest 20% to buy more yachts.

"I say there is a lesson here: Stay out of the Bushes!" Jackson shouted, bringing more than 4,000 roaring delegates to their feet.

In a recurring refrain, one speaker after another mocked the Republican show of diversity on the stage at their Philadelphia convention two weeks ago.

"I am not from Central Casting. I am part of the real diversity and the real difference of the Democratic Party," said Commerce Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, a former congressman from San Jose who recently became the first Asian American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history.

Far from the center of events, Gore continued his westward travels toward Los Angeles, meeting up with President Clinton at a campaign stop in Michigan. Their rendezvous in blue-collar Monroe, outside Detroit, was a bit of stagecraft meant to symbolize the passing of preeminence within the Democratic Party.

After brief remarks and a shower of confetti, the two men embraced. Clinton, his wife, Hillary, and their daughter, Chelsea, retreated from the stage. Then, after a pause and wave, Gore plunged into the crowd and the campaign ahead.

Set to Become the Nominee

The vice president is set to arrive today in Los Angeles; tonight he officially becomes the Democratic nominee.

Gore's running mate, Joseph I. Lieberman, arrived in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning and, after a few hours' sleep, set about some political fence-mending. He met with a group of black activists--winning the endorsement of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles)--and later reached out to the entertainment industry by attending a reception at the home of David Salzman, a Hollywood producer and prominent Democrat.

The senator from Connecticut has alienated some of those core party loyalists with his conservative social positions. But a few hours later, making a brief stop on the convention floor, Lieberman was greeted with a thunderous ovation and chants of "Let's go, Joe!" Tonight, he will address the convention after he is formally installed on the Democratic ticket.

In contrast to Monday's session--a devotional look back at the last eight years, highlighted by Clinton's valedictory address--the convention theme abruptly shifted overnight. On Tuesday, it was forward-looking and all Gore, all the time: Al Gore the fighter. Al Gore the father. Al Gore the champion of children. Al Gore the caretaker of the elderly.

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