Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry visited Temple’s Liacouras Center Friday to discuss his plans for fighting the war on terror. Kerry outlined a six-point plan to combat terrorism, and criticized President Bush for making nothing but wrong choices since Sept. 11, 2001.
Kerry was accompanied by (D) Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, and Mindy Kleinberg and Lauri Van Auken, both wives of men who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.
“My priority will be to find and capture or kill terrorists before they get us, and I will never take my eye off the ball,” Kerry told over 1,000 students and faculty, as well as other campaign supporters.
His six-point plan included: expanding the military, securing weapons terrorists seek, attacking terrorist assets, making Homeland Security a real priority, focusing on the long-term frontlines of the war on terror, and regaining the trust of other countries.
Kerry said he starts with the belief that the war on terror is “the monumental struggle of our time,” similar to what the Cold War was a generation ago.
“We are confronting an enemy and an ideology that must be destroyed. … We are in a war that must be won,” Kerry said. He made it a point to assert that the war in Iraq is not a clash between civilizations, and that he believes “radical Islamic fundamentalism is not the true face of Islam,” generating applause from the audience.
The capstone of Kerry’s six-point plan to fight terrorism is his goal to rebuild relations with foreign nations. This involves not only working with countries the U.S. disagreed with over Iraq, but also promoting democracy, understanding and economic growth in potentially hostile nations.
The audience was in full support of Kerry, applauding constantly and giving at least eight standing ovations. Students and faculty lined Montgomery Avenue, waiting for about a half an hour to see the Democratic candidate.
Matt Quinn, a freshman at Temple, is not a supporter of either candidate, but was among those in the audience Friday morning.
“I agree with some of his comments on Bush’s agenda, but I think some of them were a little jazzed up,” Quinn said.
Kerry’s entire rally was jazzed up when he spoke at the University of Pennsylvania later in the day. After Sen. Biden introduced Kerry as a man who has actually read and understands history, calling him “the full package,” Kerry joked about Bush living in “fantasy land.”
Governor Ed Rendell, Mayor John Street, Heavyweight Boxing Champion Bernard Hopkins, and a host of other Democratic supporters were in attendance.
The crowds packed into Penn’s Hill Field at 34th and Chestnut streets and jammed the sidewalks and parking lots on Chestnut. Some Bush supporters made their way through the crowd chanting “four more years” and holding signs reading: “Kerry for president of France” and “Penn Loves W.”
Kerry spoke about a wide range of issues at the Penn rally, including terrorism, healthcare, and science.
“You are the smartest generation,” Kerry told attendees. He also talked about his various programs to make college significantly cheaper for those who spend time doing community service in their hometown.
“The young people that turned out were great,” Laura Rabuck said, a junior at Temple. “But I’m definitely a tidbit disheartened with Kerry’s stand on Iraq. I wish he would let us know what his plan is.”
Some say Kerry’s position on Iraq has been one of the weaknesses of his campaign, and many are unsure how he will handle it. One of the Bush campaign’s latest ads show Kerry windsurfing, while claiming he has gone with the wind on the Iraq issue.
At Temple, Kerry took the time to clarify where he stands on Iraq. Kerry criticized Bush for rushing into the war without listening to military experts and expecting U.S. forces would be welcomed as liberators. He labeled the war a “profound distraction,” and where Bush made Saddam Hussein a priority, Kerry would have made Osama bin Laden a priority.
Kerry is not planning an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.
“I will show the world America finishes what it starts,” Kerry said.
Torin Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.