Kerry campaign makes stop at CMU

A maze of metal fences, a large patch of muddy grass, and a crowd of thousands transformed Carnegie Mellon's campus into what a sign on Hunt Library October 20 deemed “Kerry Country.”

With less than two weeks remaining before the November 2 elections, Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry brought his campaign to Pittsburgh to rally what Congressman Mike Doyle called “one of the largest crowds we’ve ever seen in this great city.”

“Are you ready for new leadership?" Kerry asked the crowd that packed the Carnegie Mellon campus from the College of Fine Arts lawn to the mall. “Well, help is on the way.”

The Massachusetts Senator opened his speech by directly addressing Pittsburgh citizens. “It’s great to be back to the city that I visit a little more frequently than you may think. And it’s going to be the home of the next First Lady of the United States of America,” he said, referring to his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.

According to The New York Times, Heinz Kerry was under fire that day after making a comment about current First Lady Laura Bush?s never holding a “real job.” Bush was a teacher before becoming First Lady. Heinz Kerry later apologized for the remark.

In his speech at Carnegie Mellon, Kerry supported his wife.

“What I love about her is what America is coming to love about her,” he said. “This is a woman who tells what’s on her mind and tells the truth to the American people.”

Kerry’s speech outlined his political strategy and addressed the problems of the current administration, including the rising costs and general unavailability of health care. Kerry said that under President Bush, there has been a 64 percent increase in healthcare costs, a 12 percent increase in prescription drug costs, and a 17 percent increase in Medicare expenses for senior citizens.

“We are going to stop being the only industrial country on the face of the planet that doesn’t understand that health care isn’t a privilege for the wealthy, or the connected, or the elected. It is a right for all Americans,” he said.

To fund complete health care coverage for Americans, Kerry proposed to “restore pay-as-you-go for Washington, D.C.,” in order to reinstate the "fiscal discipline” of the Clinton administration.

Addressing the war on terror, Kerry reiterated his charge that Bush was too hasty in going to war, and that the President had not used the military option as a last resort. The Senator called for a “smarter, more effective, tougher” effort against terror.

“[Bush] doesn’t have a record to run on. He has a record to run away from, and that’s exactly what he’s doing,” Kerry said.

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Kevin Madden, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, dismissed Kerry’s criticisms of the President.

“You can’t promote policies and offer rhetoric that divides America and then claim you are fit to lead it,” Madden said. “Defining yourself by what you are against, rather than by what you are for, is a very troubling platform for America.”

His plan for foreign affairs called for establishing political alliances.

“The United States of America is stronger, you pay less money, our troops are safer, and we have a greater chance of success when we take the time to do something with other countries at our side, when we build the alliances necessary to lead the world,” he said.

Evoking America’s pioneering history in technology, Kerry pledged to create tax credits to promote manufacturing jobs in order to “excite small business innovation and research.”

“We are going to do the great research in the future that you do right here. You’re the groundbreakers in information technology, computers, and all the possibilities of the future,” he said. “When I’m President, I will re-commit America to science, research, development and exploration.”

A cleaner environment is also a pressing issue, according to Kerry, who said that roughly 44 percent of American bodies of water contain water that is unfit for swimming and fishing. Kerry pledged a new goal for America: By the year 2020, 20 percent of America’s electricity will be provided by alternative, renewable sources.

“We have to acknowledge that there is no way possible for this nation to drill our way out of [the energy] predicament. We have to invent our way out,” he said.

Actor and Carnegie Mellon alumnus Ted Danson, one of the featured speakers of the evening, commented on environmental issues.

“My good Republican father would be horrified by what [Bush’s] administration has done to the environment,” he said.

Rock musician Jon Bon Jovi, who travels with and supports the Kerry campaign, also made an appearance. He performed “Living on a Prayer” before Kerry’s speech, a song that the Presidential hopeful later quipped referred to President Bush’s economic plan.

“All over the world, people are watching and waiting to see what you’re going to decide, because you’re not just electing the President of the United States; you’re choosing the leader of the free world,” Kerry said.

According to Khristyn Brimmeier, the Western Pennsylvanian Communications Director for the Kerry-Edwards campaign, the local campaign committee and the University had less than a week to plan the event. Brimmeier cited two reasons why the committee selected Carnegie Mellon as the rally site: The school had a space large enough to accommodate the volume of people, and the university atmosphere was important in appealing to young voters.

The limited planning time was evident in meager organization: A line of people stretched from the Fence all the way down to Craig Street for most of the afternoon, and there was little crowd control beyond the use of metal detectors at the gate.

“This was much more organized at Pitt,” one woman in the crowd said, referring to Kerry’s campaign stop there in the spring.