Democratic Presidential Nominee Kerry Responds to Criticism From GOP Convention Speakers
Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) on Sept. 3 said that while Vice President Dick Cheney on Sept. 1 called him unfit for office, it is President Bush who is "unfit to lead this country," in part because he has not acted on domestic issues, such as health care for the uninsured and unemployment, the New York Times reports.
Speaking at a rally in Springfield, Ohio, shortly after Bush accepted the Republican Party nomination for a second term, Kerry said that Bush has a "record of failure" as president. Kerry said that part of what makes Bush "unfit for office and unfit for duty" is that he has let "45 million Americans go without health care for four years." Steve Schmidt, a Bush campaign spokesperson, said the remarks are "another example of John Kerry's trying to divide America over the past."
At the Ohio rally, Kerry's running mate, Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) said, "[L]et me ask you, [has the Bush administration] led us to more jobs? Have they led us to better health care for our people? ... Here's the truth: They led us from the edge of greatness to the edge of a cliff. And it's time to lead them out of town." Edwards said that the administration's list of failures includes five million U.S. residents losing health care coverage and the increase of health insurance costs (Halbfinger, New York Times, 9/3). Edwards on Sept. 2 also "made the rounds of morning talk shows" and said that Republican convention speakers used rhetoric to attack Kerry but ignored important issues like jobs and health care, the AP/Dallas Morning News reports.
"What we heard from the Republicans in that hall last night was an enormous amount of anger," Edwards said on CBS's "The Early Show." He added, "If you got up and went to the refrigerator to get a Diet Coke, you would have missed any discussion of what they're going to do about health care, what they're going to do about jobs, what they plan to do about this mess in Iraq" (AP/Dallas Morning News, 9/2). Later on Sept. 2, Edwards attended a rally in Norristown, Pa., where he said, "I can understand why the vice president spent so much of his time talking about John Kerry. It's because he doesn't want to talk about what they did the last four years" (New York Times, 9/3). Edwards on Aug. 31 promoted Kerry's health care plan at campaign stops in West Virginia (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 8/31).
The Kerry campaign on Sept. 1 discussed a plan that in part would extend public insurance coverage to children in households with annual incomes up to 300% of the poverty level, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Speaking in Cleveland on behalf of the campaign, former Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich described the 14-point plan, which includes proposals in areas such as health care, job creation, wages, school reform and job training. Reich said the children's coverage expansion is among the proposal's most important features, adding that under the plan, benefits would reach "well into what we consider the middle class" -- up to an income of about $47,000 for a family of three.
The proposal calls for the federal government to assume the cost of children's Medicaid coverage from states. In exchange, states would be required to expand eligibility for coverage for children, families and adults. The expansion is part of an overall health proposal that would cost an estimated $653 billion over 10 years and would be funded by rescinding a Bush administration tax credit for people with annual incomes of at least $200,000 annually. Kevin Madden, spokesperson for the Bush campaign, said the plan is "really just warmed over, fleshed-out rhetoric that John Kerry again is trying to pass off as policy." He added, "All of [the measures] amount to socialization of health care, and a more expanded role of the federal government will be passed onto taxpayers" (Spector, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/2).
The Bush administration has downgraded health care systems and benefits for military veterans and active duty service members, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of the vice presidential candidate, said on Sept. 2 during a "living room chat" with retired service members and military dependents in North Little Rock, Ark., the Associated Press reports. During the past four years, some Veterans Affairs hospitals have been closed, others have been downgraded to clinics, services have been limited and enrollment fees and copayments for former military members have increased, Elizabeth Edwards said. She said that at the same time, active-duty service members' health care system has been downsized to the point that it is no longer prepared to handle the serious injuries that can occur in war, according to the Associated Press.
If elected president, Kerry would ensure that VA hospitals remain open and staffed adequately, Elizabeth Edwards said. She added that the Bush administration is "nickel-and-diming to death the people who have served us." She said the Bush administration has resisted extending comprehensive military health coverage to military reservists and National Guard troops even though they are "making the exact same commitment" as active-duty soldiers. A Kerry-Edwards administration would "certainly (want) to move toward covering everybody" and reducing health insurance costs, Elizabeth Edwards said. Reed Dickens, Bush campaign spokesperson for the Southern region, said, "The president has given more funding to veterans than any previous administration." He added, "Veterans health care funding has doubled under this president from the previous administration" (Jefferson, Associated Press, 9/3).