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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Al Sharpton Addresses Democratic National Convention
Aired July 28, 2004 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much Anderson. A big night here, night three of the Democratic National Convention. Major developments that we're anticipating, at least some speeches that we're going to get. Twelve generals will be on the stage showing their support for John Kerry and John Edwards.
Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of the vice-presidential candidate, will be speaking introducing her husband, John Edwards, the prime time, the major speaker of this third night of the Democratic Convention. Afterwards, we'll have some post-speech analysis including some critics of the Democrats, the roll call of the states will follow. The traditional roll call should last about an hour and a half. And we'll also have some musical performances including one from John Mellencamp.
Day three -- night three, that is of this Democratic Convention is about to begin.
ANNOUNCER: "America Votes 2004". This is CNN's live coverage of the Democratic National Convention.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us. They're already excited here at the FleetCenter in Boston. This Democratic Convention has gotten off to what the Democrats say is a terrific start. We'll see what happens at the second half of this convention -- now continues.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in Boston, together with Judy Woodruff and Jeff Greenfield. What do we anticipate tonight Judy?
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the big man tonight is John Edwards. He is coming out here. He is going to tell the country, not only who he is, but more importantly, who John Kerry is, why he is the right leader for America to be elected this November.
You know this is an election that's very close, Wolf, but it's not close on the question of who'd be a stronger leader, who's better on the war on terror? That's something they've got to begin to sell for them.
BLITZER: Jeff, we're standing by for the National Anthem. It's about to begin, but go ahead.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Very quickly, 12 generals and admirals will testify to John Kerry's military record and if you don't think the Bush/Cheney campaign is paying attention, they released counterargument already. Twenty-one Medal of Honor winners have attacked, Kerry, independent so called swift vote veterans have attacked, Kerry, and on The Drudge Report a story apparently (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about John Kerry (UNINTELLIGIBLE) reenacting his things in Vietnam.
So the counter attack from outside this hall will be underway simultaneously with the attempt to tell us that John Kerry is indeed a military who will keep American strong. And one more thing, if you don't know what song John Mellencamp will be playing for John Kerry's, you haven't listening to I was born in a "Small Town" the last four months, Wolf.
BLITZER: One of the major themes national security. National security tonight showing that these Democrats are strong on national security even though the polls show most Americans think the president is better on national security than John Kerry is.
WOODRUFF: That's right, Wolf. Historically, Democrats have had trouble with that issue. Ever since Vietnam and George McGovern who we talked to in this hall today. Democrats have to time and again prove they're as strong as building up the military, building up the Pentagon, the defenses of this country. John Kerry has that trouble this year. He's been able to overcome a good deal of the traditional argument because of his record in Vietnam, but you know, the Republicans are saying what happened in the intervening 30 some years? Where has he been?
BLITZER: One of the biggest problems that John Kerry has had is this Republican criticism that he flip-flops, that he votes one way, the next day, he votes another way. That is a serious criticism.
GREENFIELD: Everyone I think has experienced the same thing I did when I went to see him in Pennsylvania. Undecided voters who were thinking about maybe replacing Kerry, will feedback to you unprodded. I was for the 87 billion before and I voted against it, a the line the Republicans are use in their campaign. That was probably the most effective shot aimed at John Kerry after he effectively won the nomination and one this entire campaign is able to address with the theme stronger America, stronger America. And why we're going to see so much military talk tonight.
BLITZER: All right, Brian McKnight is about to perform the national anthem. I think all of us should stand up and listen.
BRIAN MCKNIGHT, ENTERTAINER: If you're proud to be an American, place your right hand over your heart with me. Wave your hands like this. Come on.
(SINGING "STAR SPANGLED BANNERS")
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, from the state of Maryland, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus...
BLITZER: Brian McKnight delivering, once again, a beautiful rendition of the national anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner." This is a night when John Kerry is going to be focusing in -- the Democrats are going to be focusing in on national security. One of the principal speakers tonight will be the retired Chairman of the Joint Staff, General John Shalikashvili, who is joining us here -- with Jeff and with Judy.
General Shalikashvili, thanks very much for joining us. I know you have a major speech you're going to be delivering tonight, accompanied by about a dozen admirals and generals all of who support John Kerry.
But our Barbara Starr has spent some time taking a look at John Kerry and the military and has filed this report.
All right. We don't have that, unfortunately. There is a little technical problem.
But General Shalikashvili, what is the main point?
What is your message and your colleagues' message tonight?
GEN. JOHN SHALIKASHVILI, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I think it's very important that people understand that just because the other side is painting John Kerry as weak on defense, the facts just aren't there to support that sort of allegation. John Kerry is the best choice for commander of chief in this very difficult time, in this very dangerous time that this country is going through. And that we all thought it would be important to show the American people that there is plenty of support in the military for John Kerry and that we do truly believe that he is the right choice because he would be the best commander in chief.
BLITZER: But you know the criticism, general, that we keep hearing, he voted to go to war in Iraq and that after the War, he voted against the $87 billion to pay for the body armor, to pay for the support of the troops in Iraq.
SHALIKASHVILI: I know the accusation and the reason he voted for it was not that he was against body armor for troops, that's a red herring. He was trying to make the point that it is time for the Iraqis to pay for that, that loan that was given to them, instead of a gift that was given to them.
WOODRUFF: General, another argument the Republicans make, the Bush Bush/Cheney campaign John Kerry has voted to cut defense. They have produced reams of documents to back up votes that he made in the United States Senate that they say show compare to practically not only the Republicans, but compared to many other Democrats. He has not voted to support the kind of military spending that would create a strong America.
SHALIKASHVILI: The only thing I will tell you is that as you follow John Kerry and you listen to him during this campaign, John Kerry is the one that truly understands the threats we are facing in this post-9/11 period. And he truly up the to challenges ahead. He knows that one of the most important things we must do is insure we that we do not go alone into these conflicts. That we are -- no matter how strong we are, that we are stronger and much more effective if we have allies standing by our side. And I believe that he is the most capable man to make that happen and that the current administration has proven that they cannot.
GREENFIELD: General, how hard do you think it will be to talk to the men and women now in the military about John Kerry's record, given the fact that he even acknowledges when he came back from Vietnam and participated in the anti-war movement, he used language that he called over the top. He talked about war crimes. He described in graphic details events that he now says might not have happened.
Does this not create at least a barrier to winning support for men and women in the military?
SHALIKASHVILI: For sure. And for some people it will be a barrier people will not overcome. For others they will look at John Kerry as a young officer for who didn't have to go to war. He could have done what others in his position did and get deferred or avoid service. He chose -- he chose to go and he led troops in combat -- sailors in combat. And he led them with great valor and great distinction, so you need to balance these things. I happen to believe that he's the man who knows the responsibilities of a commander to his troops and that he stands with his troops.
GREENFIELD: Because if I may, did you have a conversation with Senator Kerry about those early comments?
SHALIKASHVILI: I sure did.
SHALIKASHVILI: I think he says the same thing that he has said publicly, that as a 20-year-old, he used language he wouldn't use today, but that does not mean that in any way it apologized for the conclusions that he reached that the war was wrong.
BLITZER: General Shalikashvili, really, I want you to stand by, if you don't mind, just for a moment. Our John King is out in the Pennsylvania Delegation, and he's get something reaction.
John, tell what you have.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this an interesting night down on the floor as the Democratic ticket, General Shalikashvili and others make the case that John Kerry is poised to be and ready to be the commander in chief. They obviously have to talk tough about his preparations. I believe the U.S. military down here on the floor when Jesse Jackson was speaking, he talked about bringing troops home as soon as possible. Dennis Kucinich just speaking, saying bring the troops home as soon as possible. A great applause down here (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a great number of the delegates are wearing these green stickers that say, "end the occupation of Iraq." So this is a very difficult balance the Democrats are trying to strike in this hall, trying to make the case it is imperative to their chances that John Kerry is ready to be commander in chief before an audience in this hall that is very much anti-war, and making it known when the anti-war speakers take the podium. BLITZER: All right. That's a good point, John. I want General Shalikashvili to respond to it. Are the delegates, in your estimation, more anti-war? They just want to get out of Iraq as quickly as possible, which is a different position than Senator Kerry has, which is don't cut and run.
SHALIKASHVILI: I am not a poll-taker, so I really cannot talk to you the numbers or what the prevailing mood is. But I think it's very important and very telling that we have a man running for president who is prepared to talk to his party about issues that he knows might not be popular with it, but he believes to be right.
WOODRUFF: General, another question. The Bush/Cheney campaign, and they've said it today and they've said it for months, that John Kerry will not take a clear stand on the war in Iraq. As Wolf said earlier, he voted for the war, but it wasn't long after that that he started saying maybe that was the wrong way to go, and as we know, he voted against the funding for reconstruction afterwards. Why is it too much to ask that the nominee of the Democratic Party make it very clear what his position is on the war?
SHALIKASHVILI: John Kerry has made his position very, very clear, that we should not leave until the job is done right. There are many, many Americans who, at the time the decision had to be made whether to support the president to go, were basing their decision on an intelligence we were provided. And many of us, including myself, supported the president receiving that authorization from Congress to go to war.
That doesn't mean that when you find out that intelligence was not correct, that you should not have second thoughts about whether you should have gone. But you cannot paint Kerry as a man saying that because of that, now we get out before the job is done.
GREENFIELD: Which leads to this question -- whatever happened in the past if John Kerry is elected president, he will take office January 20, with the circumstances on the ground. What specifically do you know that says here is what John Kerry would do that the current president is not doing, specifically?
SHALIKASHVILI: Well, in a very sort of shorthand way, first of all, I believe he will be successful in getting allies and alliances involved where this current administration has not been successful. The reasons are probably obvious, but John Kerry believes that having alliances and allies makes you stronger and more effective.
I believe that he firmly has made the point that we draw (ph) the goal together with others, and only if we must will we go alone, as opposed to the current administration, whose view seems to be let's go alone and only if you really have to, then let's bring allies around. That's point number one.
So, hopefully, we will have people and nations sharing the burden, sharing the risk, but also sharing the responsibility and the opportunities.
BLITZER: General Shalikashvili, thanks very much for joining us. General John Shalikashvili, retired...
SHALIKASHVILI: Thank you all. Thank you, Judy.
BLITZER: ... Joint Chiefs of Staff, you will be speaking shortly up on that podium.
BLITZER: National security an important issue for the Democrats here in Boston on this night three of the convention. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, has been taking a look specifically at that issue -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the Democratic Party is by any definition a dovish party. Take a look at how Democrats feel about the war in Iraq. Do they think it was a mistake to go into Iraq? The answer is, 80 percent of Democrats told us they think the war in Iraq was a mistake.
And keep this in mind. Both John Kerry and John Edwards voted to authorize that war in October, 2002. They are to the right of their party. In fact, everyone wants to know what John Kerry would do now in Iraq. We're going to be listening very carefully to what he says his plan now is for Iraq, because he says he would not immediately pull the troops out.
I think what Democrats are very conscious of is what happened to them back in 1972, with George McGovern. The country was overwhelmingly opposed to the war in Vietnam, but when the Democrats nominated the anti-war candidate, George McGovern, he got completely shellacked at the polls in November, because they thought he wasn't committed to the nation's security. The Democrats do not want that to happen to them again -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much. CNN's Candy Crowley is up on the podium. All the speakers are going to be up there, of course, on this night. Candy, tell our viewers, what is happening up there?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, they're actually all waiting for the big moment. You can tell when the crowd begins to sort of gather. I mean, Edwards, as you know, is the headliner tonight, but John and Bill are perfectly right. What we've heard here tonight is the sort of longest sustained anti-war rhetoric from the platform.
Obviously, it is against what John Kerry is now proposing in Iraq, but this is something that Kerry has been wrestling with since the very beginning of his campaign, and that is he has a very anti-war party and he does not necessarily have anti-war votes. He finally came to fruition on how to deal with this in Iowa, when somebody asked him about that, because there were very angry Democrats.
And when he said, listen, if you think I would have handled the war the way George Bush has handled it, then vote for him. And that pretty much gave him some way to pivot into the handling of the war rather than to the going at war. And these people on this floor have already made up their minds that this is an issue they're going to look past. This unity is not about unanimity of positions, it's only about we want George Bush out of office. They've gotten past Kerry's position on the war -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Candy Crowley, up on the podium, we'll be checking back with you often on this night.
We're going to take a quick break, but we're standing by. Al Sharpton, the Reverend Al Sharpton, the former Democratic presidential candidate, he is going to be speaking momentarily. We'll bring that to you later.
John Mellencamp, he will be speaking, and then during the 10:00 hour, Elizabeth Edwards will introduce her husband, John Edwards, on night three of the Democratic National Convention.
ANNOUNCER: 1956 Democratic Convention had an unexpected twist. Presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson did not pick his running mate, and instead left the choice to the delegates. After several tallies, Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver won, defeating John F. Kennedy.
BLITZER: Welcome back to the Democratic National Convention at the FleetCenter here in Boston. Judy and Jeff, we're standing by. The Reverend Al Sharpton is about to speak to this group. He did a lot better, at least in terms of the public response, as opposed to any elections, in these Democratic primaries that a lot of people thought.
WOODRUFF: Well, he was entertaining in the debates, but, Wolf, you know, the fact is when Al Sharpton got in a year ago, a lot of Democrats thought, this is going to divide the party, it's going to be a repeat of Jesse Jackson back in the 1980s. It turns out he had no effect virtually on this race at all. All African-Americans and others who might have been inclined to look at him decided the stakes were too high to vote for anybody like Sharpton, who could split this party.
GREENFIELD: Wolf, there was a real contrast. In 1988, Jesse Jackson won millions of votes, won a handful of primaries. The Reverend Sharpton never even got 10 percent of the votes (UNINTELLIGIBLE) matching funds, and I think a large part of it was that his conduct during the 1980s in New York, frequent -- including some pretty incendiary remarks, one of which got him sued successfully for slander. I don't think that ever fully faded, despite his best efforts. And if I may be permitted a stray thought, how happy is Reverend Jesse Jackson that it's Al Sharpton speaking in prime-time tonight and Jesse Jackson was consigned to the hour before prime-time.
WOODRUFF: Sharpton now does a reality show on cable, or he's about to do it, I mean, how his fortunes have changed over the last year. BLITZER: I suspect most Americans will remember the Reverend Al Sharpton from his appearance on "Saturday Night Live," as opposed to the actual Democratic Party debates.
GREENFIELD: I think he was certainly the funniest member of the debates, and if that were the basis of choosing a candidate, maybe he would have done better. And you're right, certainly a lot more people watched "Saturday Night Live." They probably more of them know that Reverend Sharpton can do a mean moonwalk than speak about his policies on Iraq and the economy.
WOODRUFF: Yeah, he skewered John Kerry, he skewered all the candidates. He went after Kerry, he went after Edwards. All of those who voted for Iraq, because he was very much against it. But, again in the end, you know, my view is he had virtually no impact on this race.
BLITZER: You know, Jeff, I suspect that a lot of our viewers will be watching Al Sharpton deliver this speech and mentally make a contrast to Barack Obama's presentation last night.
GREENFIELD: I think that's a pretty sharp contrast. There are people talking about Barack Obama already as a future national candidate, and if anyone is talking about that way about Al Sharpton, it's in an awfully muted voice.
BLITZER: Nobody is talking about Al Sharpton as the future Democratic presidential candidate...
BLITZER: But Barack Obama, you're right, he's only 42 years old, he electrified this crowd here yesterday, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Very much against the war in Iraq, too. I mean, he talked about it last night, and I think it's worth mentioning again. Obama was one of the earliest people out in the country to come out against the war. He told me today, I happened to talk to him. He said, "I disagreed with John Kerry on that vote." And I said, well, what about the Democratic Party platform? It sort of fudges the issue of Iraq and says people of good will can disagree.
He said, look, it's behind us. We have got to move ahead. The fact is John Kerry -- he made the same point that General Shalikashvili made.
GREENFIELD: One quick point. There is an interesting debate we've set up between Barack Obama who talked all last night about one America, and John Edwards, who talked in this whole campaign about two Americas. They might want to figure out how many Americas there are and get a united party.
BLITZER: The Reverend Al Sharpton is getting ready to come out on that podium right now. This is a speech that a lot of people probably maybe only months ago never would have envisioned he would have been given a prime-time slot here at the Democratic convention. Let's listen to the Reverend Al Sharpton as he's introduced.
REV. AL SHARPTON, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.
Tonight I want to address my remarks in two parts.
One, I'm honored to address the delegates here.
Last Friday, I had the experience in Detroit of hearing President George Bush make a speech. And in the speech, he asked certain questions. I hope he's watching tonight. I would like to answer your questions, Mr. President.
To the chairman, our delegates, and all that are assembled, we're honored and glad to be here tonight.
I'm glad to be joined by supporters and friends from around the country. I'm glad to be joined by my family, Kathy, Dominique, who will be 18, and Ashley.
We are here 228 years after right here in Boston we fought to establish the freedoms of America. The first person to die in the Revolutionary War is buried not far from here, a Black man from Barbados, named Crispus Attucks.
Forty years ago, in 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party stood at the Democratic convention in Atlantic City fighting to preserve voting rights for all America and all Democrats, regardless of race or gender.
Hamer's stand inspired Dr. King's march in Selma, which brought about the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Twenty years ago, Reverend Jesse Jackson stood at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, again, appealing to the preserve those freedoms.
Tonight, we stand with those freedoms at risk and our security as citizens in question.
I have come here tonight to say, that the only choice we have to preserve our freedoms at this point in history is to elect John Kerry the president of the United States.
I stood with both John Kerry and John Edwards on over 30 occasions during the primary season. I not only debated them, I watched them, I observed their deeds, I looked into their eyes. I am convinced that they are men who say what they mean and mean what they say.
I'm also convinced that at a time when a vicious spirit in the body politic of this country that attempts to undermine America's freedoms -- our civil rights, and civil liberties -- we must leave this city and go forth and organize this nation for victory for our party and John Kerry and John Edwards in November.
And let me quickly say, this is not just about winning an election. It's about preserving the principles on which this very nation was founded.
Look at the current view of our nation worldwide as a results of our unilateral foreign policy. We went from unprecedented international support and solidarity on September 12, 2001, to hostility and hatred as we stand here tonight. We can't survive in the world by ourselves.
How did we squander this opportunity to unite the world for democracy and to commit to a global fight against hunger and disease?
We did it with a go-it-alone foreign policy based on flawed intelligence. We were told that we were going to Iraq because there were weapons of mass destruction. We've lost hundreds of soldiers. We've spent $200 billion dollars at a time when we had record state deficits. And when it became clear that there were no weapons, they changed the premise for the war and said: No, we went because of other reasons.
If I told you tonight, "Let's leave the Fleet Center, we're in danger," and when you get outside, you ask me, Reverend Al, "What is the danger?" and I say, "It don't matter. We just needed some fresh air," I have misled you and we were misled.
We are also faced with the prospect of in the next four years that two or more of the Supreme Court Justice seats will become available. This year we celebrated the anniversary of Brown v. the Board of Education.
This court has voted five to four on critical issues of women's rights and civil rights. It is frightening to think that the gains of civil and women rights and those movements in the last century could be reversed if this administration is in the White House in these next four years.
I suggest to you tonight that if George Bush had selected the court in '54, Clarence Thomas would have never got to law school. (APPLAUSE)
This is not about a party. This is about living up to the promise of America. The promise of America says we will guarantee quality education for all children and not spend more money on metal detectors than computers in our schools.
The promise of America guarantees health care for all of its citizens and doesn't force seniors to travel to Canada to buy prescription drugs they can't afford here at home.
The promise of America provides that those who work in our health care system can afford to be hospitalized in the very beds they clean up every day.
The promise of America is that government does not seek to regulate your behavior in the bedroom, but to guarantee your right to provide food in the kitchen.
The issue of government is not to determine who may sleep together in the bedroom, it's to help those that might not be eating in the kitchen.
The promise of America that we stand for human rights, whether it's fighting against slavery in the Sudan, where right now Joe Madison and others are fasting, around what is going on in the Sudan; AIDS in Lesotho; a police misconduct in this country.
The promise of America is one immigration policy for all who seek to enter our shores, whether they come from Mexico, Haiti or Canada, there must be one set of rules for everybody.
We cannot welcome those to come and then try and act as though any culture will not be respected or treated inferior. We cannot look at the Latino community and preach "one language." No one gave them an English test before they sent them to Iraq to fight for America.
The promise of America is that every citizen vote is counted and protected, and election schemes do not decide the election.
It, to me, is a glaring contradiction that we would fight, and rightfully so, to get the right to vote for the people in the capital of Iraq in Baghdad, but still don't give the federal right to vote for the people in the capital of the United States, in Washington, D.C. (APPLAUSE)
Mr. President, as I close, Mr. President, I heard you say Friday that you had questions for voters, particularly African- American voters. And you asked the question: Did the Democratic Party take us for granted? Well, I have raised questions. But let me answer your question.
You said the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It is true that Mr. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, after which there was a commitment to give 40 acres and a mule.
That's where the argument, to this day, of reparations starts. We never got the 40 acres. We went all the way to Herbert Hoover, and we never got the 40 acres.
We didn't get the mule. So we decided we'd ride this donkey as far as it would take us.
Mr. President, you said would we have more leverage if both parties got our votes, but we didn't come this far playing political games. It was those that earned our vote that got our vote. We got the Civil Rights Act under a Democrat. We got the Voting Rights Act under a Democrat. We got the right to organize under Democrats.
Mr. President, the reason we are fighting so hard, the reason we took Florida so seriously, is our right to vote wasn't gained because of our age. Our vote was soaked in the blood of martyrs, soaked in the blood of good men (UNINTELLIGIBLE) soaked in the blood of four little girls in Birmingham. This vote is sacred to us.
This vote can't be bargained away.
This vote can't be given away.
Mr. President, in all due respect, Mr. President, read my lips: Our vote is not for sale.
And there's a whole generation of young leaders that have come forward across this country that stand on integrity and stand on their traditions, those that have emerged with John Kerry and John Edwards as partners, like Greg Meeks, like Barack Obama, like our voter registration director, Marjorie Harris, like those that are in the trenches.
And we come with strong family values. Family values is not just those with two-car garages and a retirement plan. Retirement plans are good. But family values also are those who had to make nothing stretch into something happening, who had to make ends meet.
I was raised by a single mother who made a way for me. She used to scrub floors as a domestic worker, put a cleaning rag in her pocketbook and ride the subways in Brooklyn so I would have food on the table.
But she taught me as I walked her to the subway that life is about not where you start, but where you're going. That's family values.
And I wanted somebody in my community -- I wanted to show that example. As I ran for president, I hoped that one child would come out of the ghetto like I did, could look at me walk across the stage with governors and senators and know they didn't have to be a drug dealer, they didn't have to be a hoodlum, they didn't have to be a gangster, they could stand up from a broken home, on welfare, and they could run for president of the United States.
As you know, I live in New York. I was there September 11th when that despicable act of terrorism happened.
A few days after, I left home, my family had taken in a young man who lost his family. And as they gave comfort to him, I had to do a radio show that morning. When I got there, my friend James Entome (ph) said, "Reverend, we're going to stop at a certain hour and play a song, synchronized with 990 other stations."
I said, "That's fine."
He said, "We're dedicating it to the victims of 9/11."
I said, "What song are you playing?"
He said "America the Beautiful." The particular station I was at, the played that rendition song by Ray Charles.
As you know, we lost Ray a few weeks ago, but I sat there that morning and listened to Ray sing through those speakers, "Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountains' majesty across the fruited plain."
And it occurred to me as I heard Ray singing, that Ray wasn't singing about what he knew, because Ray had been blind since he was a child. He hadn't seen many purple mountains. He hadn't seen many fruited plains. He was singing about what he believed to be.
Mr. President, we love America, not because all of us have seen the beauty all the time.
But we believed if we kept on working, if we kept on marching, if we kept on voting, if we kept on believing, we would make America beautiful for everybody.
Starting in November, let's make America beautiful again.
Thank you. And God bless you.
BLITZER: Al Sharpton was supposed to speak for six minutes. He wound up speaking for about 20 minutes. Judy Woodruff, this may have been one of the first unscripted moments of this convention.
WOODRUFF: We've been talking for the last two nights, Wolf, about what an organized convention and how it's been on time. Al Sharpton just hijacked this convention, at least this part of it. I would have to believe that the Kerry campaign is glad that this is not in primetime, it's after 8:00 on the East coast, but it's not in the later part of the evening when more people were turned in.
He is fired up, he fired up these delegates, but I'm not sure this is the message that Kerry campaign wanted to go on this long.
BLITZER: And we should let our viewers in, Jeff, on a little secret. We got an advanced text of his speech and it wasn't very much like what he delivered.
GREENFIELD: Well, it was kind of like the outline and, in fact, the person who is now going to rush to the Maalox counter is the teleprompter operator who was flipping the teleprompter. We could see this and the whole back and forth, desperately trying to figure out where Reverend Sharpton was going next.
The more serious problem for the Democrats, they all know that the broadcast networks come on at 10:00, everyone remembers Pat Buchanan, in 1992, pushing former President Ronald Reagan out of primetime. Somebody's going to have to do some very fancy footwork to make sure that Elizabeth and John Edwards get their primetime shot, not to mention those retired generals and admirals. So, this is actually, Judy's totally right, well, this was the first moment in three days when the plan had slipped and -- in terms of time, slipped somewhat dramatically.
BLITZER: And even though it wasn't at 10:00 when the three broadcast networks are going to be taking this convention live, there's still plenty -- millions of Americans are watching this convention. And Judy, I'm not sure that this was necessarily the kind of speech the Kerry campaign wanted to see.
WOODRUFF: No. And, you know, they -- Wolf, they've been very clear this week, they want this convention to put out a positive message. Sure, there's going to be some red meat, but I -- I mean, I'd be very surprised, and I haven't asked somebody this question, we will do that tonight, I'd be very surprised if they wanted him to go after George W. Bush the way he did on Iraq, on statehood rights for the District of Columbia. I mean, he threw a lot into that speech. He obviously feels passionately, and a lot of these delegates feel passionately about it, but I'm not so sure it was, quote, "on message" for this -- for the Kerry-Edwards campaign.
BLITZER: Donna Brazile, is one of our contributors. Donna Brazile, the campaign manager for the Al Gore campaign four years ago.
Donna, what's your assessment?
BRAZILE: Well first of all, I think Al Sharpton gave, perhaps, one of the most remarkable speeches I have -- I had -- I've ever heard him give. You know, when you're a Baptist minister, I learned this from working for Jesse Jackson, they start low, go slow, rise high, strike fire and then they decide to leave the stage. Al Sharpton was caught up in the congregation, tonight.
But, Wolf, you know, I think the party will be able to recapture those minutes, because they've built in some cushion with some of the wonderful music you've heard, but overall I thought his message was, in terms of Democrats and reaching the base of the Democratic Party, he reached them tonight. Now it's time, for the next couple of hours, to go back and talk to the rest of America.
BLITZER: But Donna, to the public watching on television, the Kerry people are very sensitive to this, they wanted to try to project the sort of toned down image emerging from the Democratic Party this week, and Al Sharpton, as you and I and all of our viewers now know, certainly didn't tone down anything.
BRAZILE: No, and I don't think you can tone down exactly what his message was tonight, and that was to remind the American people that some of us have come a long way. Especially, he was talking about the journey of the Democratic Party.
But, look, he had to point out why Democrats should be excited about this ticket, why Democrats should be willing to go out there and work for this ticket. I don't think he went too far off script tonight in giving that message.
BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in Victoria Clarke. She's a Republican. She's here covering this convention, helping us better understand her perspective. Tori, give us your perspective on what we just saw.
VICTORIA CLARKE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I was struck by what I heard Judy say, which is the Kerry campaign keeps saying that it wants this to be a positive, upbeat, nondecisive convention. I've sat through most of the speeches now and almost every single one, more than 50 or 60 percent of it, including the last one was bashing the president.
Very negative, very nasty, some cheap shots -- some real cheap shots and I just wonder when somebody's going to call them on it. You know? It's like the magician who says watch my hand, watch my hand, because down here he's doing the magic. They keep saying they want it to be positive, but the words are very different.
BLITZER: Well, do you think, when someone like Al Sharpton, Tori, goes for about 20 minutes and he's supposed to go for about six minutes, does this give the Kerry camp heartburn?
CLARKE: You know, everybody has heartburn in this business. They'll get over it. I don't think it's that big a deal. I think it is a bigger deal that they're saying one thing about what they want this convention to be and they're all doing a very different thing. I think the content is more important than the timing of these things.
BLITZER: All right, Kelly Wallace is out on the floor. We want to get some reactions from the floor as well.
Kelly, you're in the Illinois delegation?
KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am, Wolf, and I'm with Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., Democrat of Illinois, joining me here.
Congressman, the Kerry campaign wanted this to be a positive message, no bashing of President Bush. Did Reverend Sharpton cross the line here?
REP. JESSE JACKSON, JR. (D), ILLINOIS: I'm not so sure Reverend Sharpton crossed the line. Reverend Sharpton has toiled in the vineyards of this campaign, has met with millions of Americans over the course of the last year and a half, he's earned the right to speak at this convention and also to make the case from the African-American perspective, but also from supports of Al Sharpton, just how the anxiety, how serious this election is for those Americans. He must speak to the base and he did tonight.
WALLACE: What about, though -- you've heard from African- Americans who say John Kerry hasn't done enough to include enough African-Americans within his campaign, to reach out enough to African- Americans. What about that criticism for those who say he's not doing enough?
JACKSON: Our first keynote speaker last night was Barack Obama, the first democratic African-American male to be elected to the United States Senate, 39 members of the congressional black caucus have a role in this campaign, including myself. Reverend Jesse Jackson spoke tonight. John Kerry has seven to one support amongst African- Americans. They are going to vote overwhelmingly for John Kerry.
WALLACE: What about your father, Reverend Jackson was speaking at 7:00 p.m.; Reverend Al Sharpton getting a prime-time slot. Are you disappointed that your dad was not in prime-time?
JACKSON: No, my father, this is his sixth Democratic Convention. There's room for many other leaders to have an opportunity to make their case. I'm very proud of what Reverend Jackson had to say. He hit the ball out of the park, as well. Reverend Sharpton, Reverend Jackson, Barack Obama, other people who are speaking tonight, there's room for everyone. WALLACE: Finally, you endorsed, obviously, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. Strong opponent to the war in Iraq. Does John Kerry need to do more to articulate a plan to get U.S. troops out of Iraq? That's what you hear from Democratic delegates, but you're not hearing it on this stage.
JACKSON: I think John Kerry's position is clear, and it's also the Democratic Party's position. We are not going to cut and run. We have to finish the job, even though we're in Iraq under false pretenses. We plan, as a party, to finish the job to ensure that a vibrant democracy exists in Iraq and the people of Iraq have the right to vote and fundamental freedoms.
WALLACE: Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., of Illinois, thanks for joining us.
JACKSON: And thank you for having me.
WALLACE: Appreciate it. Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Kelly, you may just want to tell Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. that Ed Brooke was a Republican African-American senator from the state of Massachusetts. There are going to be three if Barack Obama is elected, three since Reconstruction of that -- African-Americans in the U.S. Senate. Ed Brooke, of course, had served in the Senate for many, many years. John King is in the Massachusetts delegation right now. He's got a guest -- John.
KING: And Wolf, I'm standing with the 1988 Democratic nominee for president, former Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts.
Let me first start by saying, I've aged a great deal in 16 years and you have not, and I'm very resentful of that.
MICHAEL DUKAKIS (D), FMR. GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: Kitty hasn't particularly. I mean, she just keeps getting younger and younger, John, and we keep getting older.
KING: I want to ask you, you know what the Republicans are saying. They are saying John Kerry follows Michael Dukakis and Ted Kennedy, another liberal from Massachusetts.
DUKAKIS: You know, it's interesting, John. If they're so hung up about Massachusetts, how come they all want to send their kids to school here?
DUKAKIS: How come George Bush came to school here? I guess there must be something pretty special about this place.
KING: You remember, you chose the senator from Texas, Lloyd Bentsen, to be your running mate.
DUKAKIS: I did. KING: This Massachusetts senator chose a senator from North Carolina. And a lot of Republicans, even some Democrats, are saying we may not get that state. You went through that in 1988, you did not win Texas.
DUKAKIS: Well, I don't think you pick a running mate because you want to win a state. You pick a running mate because that person, if God forbid something happened to the president, would be a first-rate president, somebody who's going to give real strength to the ticket. I think John Edwards was the right choice. I think he's made this a stronger ticket. They each kind of make each other stronger, and I hope they'll campaign together because they're terrific together.
KING: Let me ask you, finally, one of the key themes of this campaign is that John Kerry is ready to be commander in chief. They will have some generals out tonight, some speeches about that, his Navy service, and yet on the floor, the anti-war sentiment here is dramatic. How delicate of a balance is that for Senator Kerry to walk?
DUKAKIS: I think most of those generals and admirals that have endorsed John Kerry today are doing so because they thought Iraq was a mistake, and these guys know a lot more about what you do with the military than some of the folks that are running the government. So, I think it tells you something about when you use military force and when you don't, and that's going to be a major issue in this campaign.
KING: Governor Dukakis, we thank you for your time. Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, John. Thank the governor for us as well.
Candy Crowley is up on the podium. Candy, what's happening up there?
CROWLEY: Well, we found Al Sharpton, got him off the podium here.
I wanted to talk to you a little bit about your speech and tell you that you were a little off message, I think.
SHARPTON: Well, I think I was right on message. Clearly, the audience clearly felt that, and I told the leaders of the party that not only did I want to address the concerns that I had, but after writing the speech, the president threw the garbage out on African- American voters, and I wanted to answer that. They said go ahead, and that's exactly what I did.
CROWLEY: Well, you forgot to tell the TelePrompTer man. Did they see -- did the Kerry people see the final speech that you...
SHARPTON: They knew the sum of what I was going to say, as they did...
CROWLEY: But they didn't see the actual speech? SHARPTON: No. They understood I was going to, from my heart, answer the question. The speech had already been written when he threw the gauntlet down.
CROWLEY: And when you -- when you came out here, you -- I mean, you were supposed to be six minutes, this has been a very upbeat, positive, no Bush bashing, at least those were the instructions. Do you feel like you crossed over that line?
SHARPTON: First of all, I'll say it the third time, I talked to them about I wanted to answer the president. I didn't bash the president, I answered his questions. Never called him a name. I repeated his questions and I answered those questions. That's not bashing. I think that's answering the questions the president tried to throw into the mix.
CROWLEY: When you talk about why African-Americans have been loyal to the Democratic Party, as you did tonight, there are, of course -- you've got -- you know, three very prominent members of the Bush administration are African-Americans. They do believe in him. You know, what makes for the fact that there are African-Americans that do believe the Republicans are on the right track?
SHARPTON: They will then have to answer -- then how do they explain what I said tonight? And that is that the advances we've made, we made under Democrats. We have not seen this president stand on the side of civil rights. In fact, he sent lawyers to fight against affirmative action in the Supreme Court. So it's not just about blacks having a job in this administration. His father appointed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Many of us do not feel that helped any Americans, and in particular, black Americans, in any way.
We have the right to say we disagree, just like they do, but for the president to suggest that we're taking for granted, and that we're not using proper political strategy, I think it would have been a betrayal of my civil rights background if I didn't answer that.
CROWLEY: Al Sharpton, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) tonight. Thank you.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Candy.
Jeff Greenfield, button this up for us right now.
GREENFIELD: We have heard the most incendiary line of the convention, in my view, that if George Bush had appointed the Supreme Court in 1954, Clarence Thomas never would have gone to law school. He has, in effect, saying George W. Bush sympathized with the segregationists of the 1950s. That is way, way tougher than anything anybody said so far, Wolf.
BLITZER: A lot of things are going to be written about this speech, a lot of things are going to be said, as well.
Stand by throughout this convention. We've given some of these small mini cameras to some delegates to go on and give us a flavor of what's happening behind the scenes. Here is an excerpt from today's "Delegate Diary.
FRANCES WILLIAMS, NEW MEXICO DELEGATE: I'm Frances Williams, and I'm a delegate from the great state of New Mexico.
JACK HANNA, PENNSYLVANIA DELEGATE: My name's Jack Hanna, I'm an alternate delegate from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Pennsylvania.
BRAZILE: Donna Brazile, delegate from the District of Columbia.
DAN WYNTON, CALIFORNIA DELEGATE: I'm Dan Wynton, I'm a delegate from California. The theme of the convention is stronger at home, respected in the world. I think Kerry and Edwards will be the better ticket to restore our country's dignity on foreign policy and other global issues of concern that the world community shares.
ANNOUNCER: Call the Democratic Party to order!
BRAZILE: We're here to not only nominate Senator John Kerry and Senator John Edwards. We're here to essentially tell the American people that the Democratic Party's more energized, more unified, and that we not only have a vision to keep America safe and secure, we are ready to lead this country into the 21st century.
TERESA HEINZ KERRY, JOHN KERRY'S WIFE: No one will defend this nation more vigorously than he will.
BRAZILE: This is an opportunity for John Kerry to be live in living color, back in small towns across America.
HANNA: It is my hope that we present an understanding, an outline, a description of why our nominated candidates, Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards are the best people to lead this country in a new direction.
WILLIAMS: Energized, right now.
I do feel it's important for us to participate in the democratic process. And so I see this as my little contribution to bettering New Mexico and this country.
WYNTON: And I think it's our responsibility as voters to make sure that when we see good people like John Kerry and John Edwards running for president, we do as much as we can to help them so that they can be in a position to help us.
BLITZER: And coming up, a special live edition of "LARRY KING LIVE." Larry is here. Give us a little preview, briefly, Larry, you got a big hour ahead of you.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we've got our panel, the regulars, George Mitchell and David Gergen. We got Max Cleland, who will be heard from a lot in this convention.
BLITZER: He's going to be introducing John Kerry tomorrow night.
KING: General Wesley Clark is with us, and Senator Joe Biden is a key foreign policy adviser.
BLITZER: Senator Mitchell, David Gergen standing by, as well, we're going to go stand by. We're going to have a quick break. Much more coverage coming up here from the Democratic National Convention.
And later tonight, Elizabeth Edwards will introduce her husband, John Edwards, as the Democratic vice presidential candidate. Much more coverage from the Democratic National Convention. "LARRY KING LIVE," coming up right after this.
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