News: Kerry Wants Cincinnati

Right-wing hecklers become fodder for candidate

Jymi Bolden


During a rally at Sawyer Point, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, likely Democratic nominee for president, took on right-wing hecklers and the Bush administration's record. Kerry's visit so early in the campaign points to Ohio's importance in the race.



Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) spoke to a rally April 6 at Sawyer Point, promising 10 million new jobs and a reversal of the Bush tax cuts if he's elected president.

His visit came a day after Vice President Dick Cheney threw the first pitch at Opening Day. Tossing his sports coat off to the side, Kerry addressed Cheney's visit.

"I notice that Dick Cheney came in," said Kerry, the crowd booing. "He threw out the first ball for the first game of the Reds, and they lost. That tells you the whole story, ladies and gentleman."

Minutes later, a group of young Bush supporters who had found their way to the front of the crowd began slapping flip-flops together (suggesting that Kerry flip-flops on the issues) and shouting. At first, Kerry handled the dissenters playfully.

"We got some young Republicans down here who came here to learn something today, and we're going to teach them a lot," he said.

'They don't want the truth'
After trying to continue several times over the raucous of the flip-flop gang, Kerry became more serious.

"There are a lot of Republicans in this country who are scared of the truth," he said.

"The Bush administration is busy spending millions of dollars to try to mislead America again."

As examples of Bush's mis-leadership, Kerry pointed to the war in Iraq and the president's policies on taxes and jobs.

"This president promised America 5.1 million jobs and he's lost 1.8 million," Kerry said. "They are trying to scare Americans, because they can't come here and talk to you about jobs. They can't come here and talk to you about health care, because 4 million more Americans have lost their healthcare under George Bush. They can't come here and talk to you about education, because they've broken the promise of 'no child left behind.' "

After noting that Ohio has lost 170,000 manufacturing jobs, Kerry again found the flip-flop faction overbearing. While obviously annoyed, he managed to use their disturbance to underscore his message that Bush suppresses the truth.

"Obviously, some young Republicans are proving that they are very rude and they have no manners," he said. "They don't want to hear the truth about the real deficit in our nation."

Meanwhile, Kerry supporters began shoving their "Vote for Kerry" signs between the flip-flops.

Jackie Sanders of College Hill and Kristine Niehaus of Mason felt that a fight might break out.

"It was starting to get rough down there," Niehaus said.

Two Cincinnati Police officers finally approached the flip-flop-armed Republicans and the distraction level subsided.

After fleeing to the left side of the stage to avoid a potential fight, Sanders and Niehaus found a second set of noisemakers. Holding signs that read "Vote for a Strong Christian Nation," the second group of right-wingers shouted, "Be a real Christian" and "Vote Bush!"

Kerry, meanwhile, plugged on.

"I know the Cincinnati area has a reputation for being conservative, but let me tell you something," he said. "If you are a thoughtful person, there is nothing conservative about running up deficits as far as the eye can see. There is nothing conservative about piling debt on our children."

No tax deals for the rich
Kerry promised he would create 10 million new jobs in four years, a proposition likely to resonate in Ohio. Although the unemployment rate here fell from 6.2 percent in January to 5.9 percent in February, a decrease in the size of the labor force, not a gain in employment, accounts for the decrease, according to Tom Hayes, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Ohio lagged behind the national unemployment rate of 5.6 percent in February. Cincinnati's unemployment was 7.2 percent in February, though Hamilton County as a whole fared far better, with an unemployment rate of 5 percent.

Kerry put forth several proposals that he said will promote new jobs.

He promised to end policies that encourage companies to leave the United States, such as tax deferments for companies that go overseas.

"We will end the process of giving any awards, any benefit, any incentive to any company that takes American jobs overseas," he said.

Kerry also said he'd aim to decrease U.S. dependency on oil from the Middle East, a goal he says will both reduce the need for military presence there and increase the number of jobs at home.

"I will be the president who puts in place the principle that never should young Americans in uniform be held hostage to America's dependence on oil in the Middle East," he said. "We're going to set a goal that by the year 2020, 20 percent of America's electricity will be produced by alternative and renewable energy and it will create the jobs America needs."

Kerry compared his call for a new energy policy to John F. Kennedy's call to put a man on the moon, saying both require a similar entrepreneurial spirit.

Kerry also addressed health care and education. After rolling back Bush's tax cuts, which disproportionately benefit the wealthy, he says he'll provide tax breaks for 98 percent of Americans.

"I am going to roll back George Bush's unaffordable tax cut to the wealthy and we're going to invest in education and healthcare for all Americans," he said.

"George Bush's plan for healthcare is 'Pray a lot and don't get sick,' " Kerry joked.

Kerry sympathized with parents and students who have seen college tuition skyrocket.

The University of Cincinnati, for example, recently announced it will increase tuition the maximum 9.9 percent that state law allows, which has nearly become a yearly tradition.

Kerry said he'll increase the money spent on government grants and loans, in addition to offering a $4,000 student tax credit.

As for the flip-flop crew, they stayed quiet and disappeared quickly after the rally. If they wanted to silence Kerry, they didn't get far. If anything, they reinforced Kerry's accusation that the current administration comes up short on the issues and turns to noisy distractions instead. ©

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