San Diego Union Tribune

August 6, 2004

Kerry says he'll fight terrorism effectively, bridge racial divides

By George E. Condon Jr.

WASHINGTON Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry yesterday said he will pay more attention to minority concerns than President Bush, whom he also criticized for his immediate reaction in the moments after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Kerry's remarks came in an address and in response to questions at a conference of minority journalists.

The Massachusetts senator cast himself as the candidate "who is truly committed to bridging the divides in this country that continue to separate . . . race from race, group from group and region from region."

He said he and running mate John Edwards are "determined that we are really going to unite the country."

In a reminder that President Bush declined to meet with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Kerry pledged to be a president "who listens to and meets with" leaders of the African-American and Hispanic communities.

Much of Kerry's speech dealt with his promise to keep the pressure on terrorists. "I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history," he said.

His addition of the words "more sensitive" brought some derision from Republicans. "John Kerry's politics of nuance are exactly the last thing we need while we wage a war on terrorism," said Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt. "We need strong and determined leadership . . . not necessarily somebody who would check in with the French before taking a stand."

Kerry was asked what he would have done if he had been informed, as the president was, about an attack on America appearing before school children in Florida classroom. His answer was critical of Bush's decision to remain in the class for another seven minutes something highlighted in Michael Moore's documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11."

"Had I been reading to children, and had my top aide whispered in my ear, 'America is under attack,' I would have told those kids very politely and nicely that the president of the United States had something that he needed to attend to, and I would have attended to it," he said to applause from the journalists, who interrupted his remarks 49 times for applause.

Kerry criticized the lack of minorities in the nation's newsrooms while addressing the conference called "Unity 2004 Journalists of Color."

"I will do my part to bring more diversity into the media" through his appointments to the Federal Communications Commission. He also promised to appoint Native Americans to his White House staff, saying, "I will reopen the doors of the White House itself to the first Americans."

After the speech, Kerry left for St. Louis to resume the cross-country bus and train campaign swing he began at the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.