***UPDATED WITH VIDEO AND FULL TEXT BELOW***
Those waiting to hear a more aggressive critique of John McCain at the Democratic National Convention need to tune in tonight for Sen. John Kerry.
In prepared remarks, the 2004 Democratic nominee pillories McCain with the strongest language yet uttered from the convention podium.
Kerry describes McCain as "insulting" and "desperate' for questioning Obama's patriotism, and "pathetic" for continuing to support President Bush's war policy; he digs at McCain's age, saying voters should elect a president based on judgment and character, not "years on this earth"; and he hammers McCain and Bush on foreign affairs, charging that their policies have left "Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban and dictators everywhere...on the march."
"I have known and been friends with John McCain for almost 22 years," Kerry says at one point during a riff on the GOP nominee's flip-flops, "but every day now I learn something new about candidate McCain."
"Let me tell you, before he ever debates Barack Obama, John McCain should finish the debate with himself," Kerry charges. "Candidate McCain says he would now vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote. Are you kidding? Talk about being before it before you're against it."
Finally, Kerry ties McCain to the "fear and smear" tactics of Karl Rove, charging that his campaign has "nothing left but personal attacks."
Beyond the harsh criticisms, Kerry's speech also includes a great deal of praise for Barack Obama's character and record, and also a nod to the Massachusetts Senator's failed presidential run. "I will always remember how we stood together in 2004, not just in a campaign, but for a cause," he concludes. "Now again we stand together in the ranks, ready to fight."
The full text as prepared for delivery:
Thank you so much. Four years ago, you gave me the honor of fighting our fight. I was proud to stand with you then, and I am proud to stand with you now, to help elect Barack Obama as President of the United States.
In 2004, we came so close to victory. We are even closer now, and let me tell you, this time we're going to win. Today, the call for change is more powerful than ever, and with more seats in Congress, with more people with more passion engaged in our politics, and with a President Obama, we stand on the brink of the greatest opportunity of our generation to move this country forward.
The stakes could not be higher, because we do know what a McCain administration would look like: just like the past, just like George Bush. And this country can't afford a third Bush term. Just think: John McCain voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. Ninety percent of George Bush is just more than we can take.
Never in modern history has an administration squandered American power so recklessly. Never has strategy been so replaced by ideology. Never has extremism so crowded out common sense and fundamental American values. Never has short-term partisan politics so depleted the strength of America's bipartisan foreign policy.
George Bush, with John McCain at his side, promised to spread freedom but delivered the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. They misread the threat and misled the country. Instead of freedom, it's Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban and dictators everywhere that are on the march. North Korea has more bombs, and Iran is defiantly chasing one.
Our mission is to restore America's influence and position in the world. We must use all the weapons in our arsenal, above all, our values. President Obama and Vice President Biden will shut down Guantanamo, respect the Constitution, and make clear once and for all, the United States of America does not torture, not now, not ever.
We must listen and lead by example because even a nation as powerful as the United States needs some friends in this world. We need a leader who understands all our security challenges, not just bombs and guns, but global warming, global terror and global AIDS. And Barack Obama understands there is no way for America to be secure until we create clean energy here at home, not with a little more oil in five, 10 or 20 years, but with an energy revolution starting right now.
I have known and been friends with John McCain for almost 22 years. But every day now I learn something new about candidate McCain. To those who still believe in the myth of a maverick instead of the reality of a politician, I say, let's compare Senator McCain to candidate McCain.
Candidate McCain now supports the wartime tax cuts that Senator McCain once denounced as immoral. Candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain's own climate change bill. Candidate McCain says he would now vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote. Are you kidding? Talk about being for it before you're against it.
Let me tell you, before he ever debates Barack Obama, John McCain should finish the debate with himself. And what's more, Senator McCain, who once railed against the smears of Karl Rove when he was the target, has morphed into candidate McCain who is using the same "Rove" tactics and the same "Rove" staff to repeat the same old politics of fear and smear. Well, not this year, not this time. The Rove-McCain tactics are old and outworn, and America will reject them in 2008.
So remember, when we choose a commander-in-chief this November, we are electing judgment and character, not years in the Senate or years on this earth. Time and again, Barack Obama has seen farther, thought harder, and listened better. And time and again, Barack Obama has been proven right.
When John McCain stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier just three months after 9/11 and proclaimed, "Next up, Baghdad!", Barack Obama saw, even then, "an occupation of "undetermined length, undetermined cost, undetermined consequences" that would "only fan the flames of the Middle East." Well, guess what? Mission accomplished.
So who can we trust to keep America safe? When Barack Obama promised to honor the best traditions of both parties and talk to our enemies, John McCain scoffed. George Bush called it "the soft comfort of appeasement." But today, Bush's diplomats are doing exactly what Obama said: talking with Iran.
So who can we trust to keep America safe? When democracy rolled out of Russia, and the tanks rolled into Georgia, we saw John McCain respond immediately with the outdated thinking of the Cold War. Barack Obama responded like a statesman of the 21st century.
So who can we trust to keep America safe? When we called for a timetable to make Iraqis stand up for Iraq and bring our heroes home, John McCain called it "cut and run." But today, even President Bush has seen the light. He and Prime Minister Maliki agree on - guess what? - a timetable.
So who can we trust to keep America safe? The McCain-Bush Republicans have been wrong again and again and again. And they know they will lose on the issues. So, the candidate who once promised a "contest of ideas," now has nothing left but personal attacks. How insulting to suggest that those who question the mission, question the troops. How pathetic to suggest that those who question a failed policy doubt America itself. How desperate to tell the son of a single mother who chose community service over money and privilege that he doesn't put America first.
No one can question Barack Obama's patriotism. Like all of us, he was taught what it means to be an American by his family: his grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line in World War II, his grandfather who marched in Patton's army, and his great uncle who enlisted in the army right out of high school at the height of the war. And on a spring day in 1945, he helped liberate one of the concentration camps at Buchenwald.
Ladies and gentlemen, Barack Obama's uncle is here with us tonight. Please join me in saluting this American hero, Charlie Payne. Charlie, your nephew, Barack Obama, will end this politics of distortion and division. He will be a president who seeks not to perfect the lies of Swift boating, but to end them once and for all.
This election is a chance for America to tell the merchants of fear and division: you don't decide who loves this country; you don't decide who is a patriot; you don't decide whose service counts and whose doesn't.
Four years ago I said, and I say it again tonight, that the flag doesn't belong to any ideology. It doesn't belong to any political party. It is an enduring symbol of our nation, and it belongs to all the American people. After all, patriotism is not love of power or some cheap trick to win votes; patriotism is love of country.
Years ago when we protested a war, people would weigh in against us saying, "My country right or wrong." Our answer? Absolutely, my country right or wrong. When right, keep it right. When wrong, make it right. Sometimes loving your country demands you must tell the truth to power.
This is one of those times, and Barack Obama is telling those truths.
In closing, let me say, I will always remember how we stood together in 2004, not just in a campaign, but for a cause. Now again we stand together in the ranks, ready to fight. The choice is clear; our cause is just; and now is our time to make Barack Obama the next President of the United States.