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Weighing defeat, Kerry sees lessons to guide future

Page 4 of 5 -- Kerry later confirmed that his decision to sign the form is not conditional on any others signing, but he expressed lingering bitterness over double standards on military service.

''Let me make this clear: My full military record has been made public," Kerry said. ''All of my medical records and all of my fitness reports, every fitness report involving each place I served, is public. Where are George Bush's still? Where are his military records? End of issue."

A promising start Kerry's general-election campaign began with the Democratic National Convention in Boston, and he said he takes responsibility for all strategic decisions in the rush of events that followed.

The convention was upbeat, showcasing the party's unity and readiness to lead the war on terrorism. Despite the anger that many Democratic voters felt toward Bush, the convention dwelled less on criticisms of the president than on Kerry's background and credentials to be commander in chief.

After the election, some political strategists suggested the Democrats had gone too soft on Bush. Kerry said he disagrees.

''We came out ahead," Kerry said of the Democratic convention, adding, ''I'm not going to second-guess that now."

The centerpiece of the convention was Kerry's acceptance speech, which he wrote himself.

''It was a personal speech that laid out a very personal vision for the country and it was well received," Kerry added. ''I mean, most commentators thought it was the best speech I had ever given. It rose to the occasion, which is always a tough bar to get over, and the convention folks loved it, and left there feeling like it was a great convention. You didn't hear a notion of negativity and doubt over what we did at that convention until after the campaign was over, and I'm not going to do this revisionism, folks."

Before the convention, Kerry had floated the idea of delaying a month before officially accepting the nomination, because as soon as he became the nominee he would face strict spending limits. Bush, whose convention was five weeks later, could spend as much as he wanted during the interim. Kerry's trial balloon drew a negative response, especially in Boston, and he agreed to accept the nomination on schedule. Kerry said his decision was partly emotional.

''I think it was important to accept the nomination in Boston," he said. ''I'm glad I did. Emotionally, to me."

But he said the five-week gap in August when he was on a strict budget put him at ''a huge disadvantage." Unable to advertise heavily while saving money for the fall, he lost momentum. But he said he doesn't regret accepting the nomination in his hometown.

Likewise, Kerry declined to reconsider his decision later in the fall to refrain from using Osama bin Laden's taped television appearance on the Friday before the election to highlight Bush's failure to capture the Al Qaeda leader.   Continued...

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