John Kerry: When our country is wrong, we must set it right

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. The stakes could not be higher, because we 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 per cent 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.

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 criticises 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.

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.

John Kerry was speaking at the Democratic National Convention