And now a message from John Kerry

Published February 3, 2005 3:28AM (EST)

The man who isn't president offered his response to the State of the Union address tonight even before George W. Bush was done speaking. In an email message to reporters, Sen. John Kerry said that the state of the union may be "strong and confident," as Bush proclaimed, "but millions of Americans know it can and must be stronger."

"The best way we can instill real confidence in their future is if we follow the true mandate of the last election -- a mandate for unity and true bipartisanship," Kerry said. "The political campaigns are over, and now we must get down to work. For the 11 million children in this country without health care, we must make our union stronger. For our brave soldiers in Iraq and their families, we must act now in the wake of the Iraqi elections to give them reasons to be as confident about their future as they are courageous under fire.

"The best way to begin genuine bipartisanship to make America stronger is to work together on the real crises facing our country, not to manufacture an artificial crisis to serve a special interest agenda out of touch with the needs of Americans. "

Kerry said that the problems facing Social Security "50 years down the road can be fixed tomorrow if Washington ends the borrow-and-spend policies that are running up a record debt and dumping it on the backs of our children. The challenge of retirement security can be solved if we sit down in the true spirit of bipartisanship and make it possible for young people to save and invest while still guaranteeing that Social Security remains insurance against poverty and disability that can never be wiped away."

On Iraq, Kerry said that this weekend's election was only a beginning. "The greatest tribute to the memory of the fallen," Kerry said, "is an exit strategy called success."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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