Monday, October 11, 2004

Kerry In Miami

Senator Kerry hit all the major voting blocs – African-Americans, Cubans, and Jewish – on his weekend trip to South Florida From the Miami Herald:

Sen. John Kerry sought to court important South Florida voting constituencies in a campaign swing Sunday, taking to the pulpit of a Liberty City church to evoke the 2000 election and claims of lost black votes, and assailing President Bush’s crackdown on Cuba travel.

Flanked by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and one-time rival Al Sharpton — both of whom turned a lively morning service at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty City into a blistering indictment of the Bush administration — Kerry sought to galvanize the black vote he needs to turn out in force in November.

“What’s on the ballot is the American dream, what’s on the ballot is what Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton marched for,” Kerry said. “We have an unfinished march in this nation.”

After his appearance, Kerry met with The Herald’s editorial board for a wide-ranging interview in which he assailed Bush’s policies in the Middle East and the Western Hemisphere. He accused the administration of ignoring Latin America and Haiti and said that as president, he would work with U.S. allies that do business in Cuba to bring pressure on Fidel Castro.

“Our ability to remove Castro is going to be by earning the respect of other nations to begin to get tough,” Kerry said. “Every other country, the Germans, the French, others, have been buying property in Cuba, playing games. There’s no concentrated focus on [Castro’s] repressive anti-human rights behavior, and there should be. But because the U.S. has isolated itself, in a way, we’ve lost the legitimate pressure that ought to be brought on him.”

Moving to shore up his Cuban-American base that wants to see the United States tighten the noose on Castro, Bush several months ago cut back on how much money Cubans could send to family members on the island and how often they could visit.

POLITICAL DIVISION?

But Democrats believe there is an emerging division in the once reliably Republican Cuban-American voting bloc, and Kerry on Sunday argued that Bush’s restrictions will punish families while isolating dissidents on the island.

“It’s counterproductive to the kind of exchange of information we need,” Kerry said. “To shut it off is to empower Castro, and frankly I think that’s a huge mistake.”

Polls suggest that most Cuban Americans back increasingly restrictive policies against Cuba, and Republicans have assailed Kerry for once deriding the trade embargo against the island as a “function of Florida politics.”

Kerry looked to cast himself in the hourlong interview as staunchly anti-Castro, calling the Cuban leader a “brutal dictator” and noting that on a trip to Cuba, he declined to meet with Castro at “one of those one o’clock in the morning seances with Castro — for him to sit around and play that game.”

Kerry said he would encourage “principled travel” to the island — cultural and educational exchanges, as well as visits by family members, calling it “those kinds of things that really help open the door to new ideas, to alternatives and to transition.”

Kerry also criticized the Bush administration for what he said was a slow reaction to crises in Haiti and accused Bush of squandering an opportunity to bring peace to the Middle East.

Republicans have worked assiduously to court traditionally Democratic-leaning Jewish voters.

But Kerry argued that he had a 20-year voting record in the Senate on behalf of Israel.

“For 14 to 16 months, they were just not involved at all,” Kerry said. “And rather than hold some of the Arab countries accountable for their support of terror, money is still flowing to terrorists. They just haven’t been engaged.”

SAFETY OF ISRAEL

He argued that Bush’s focus on Iraq has made Israel less safe.

“Iran has moved closer to having nuclear weapons because he hasn’t done anything,” Kerry said.

He repeated charges that the administration rushed to war in Iraq and pledged to repair U.S. relationships with allies that he said have been “shredded by this president.”

The only big bloc Kerry missed was the gay population, but maybe if he sent his stepsons Chris and Andre Heinz, both of whom could pass for GQ models…