The Note

Kerry's speech today may first be noticed for the accoutrements. Democrats are starting to put some of their heavy national security artillery pieces on the deck behind Kerry to buttress them. Former Defense Secretary William Perry, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and others (including some billed as "special guests") will join Sen. Kerry on stage today.

Key excerpts:

"We are still bogged down in Iraq — and the administration stubbornly holds to failed policies that drive potential allies away. What we have seen is a steady loss of lives and mounting costs in dollars, with no end in sight. The lesson here is fundamental: At times, conflict comes, and the decision must be made. For a President, the decision may be lonely, but that does not mean that America should go it alone."

"If I am President, as part of a Military Families Bill of Rights, we will fully fund veterans health and veterans benefits — and our veterans will no longer be the neglected soldiers of America. America entered into a covenant with those it drafted and those who enlisted, but the truth is that, with every story of a veteran who goes without adequate health care every day, that covenant is broken. There are countless veterans who fought our wars who are now fighting year after year for the benefits they earned. Last year they had to defeat a Bush Administration proposal to increase fees and co-payments, which was nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt drive an additional one million veterans from the VA health care system. The president then came back with a plan to drive 500,000 from the system by 2005. And then he submitted a similar proposal this year."

Incidentally, ABC's Kate Snow has been given the following information about the mystery guest: He or she "1. is someone my mom would know 2. is bigger than a breadbox 3. 'looks cute in a uniform' 4. 'stepping into politics for the first time.'"

The Note guessed: Jessica Lynch?

But we actually think it's former Joint Chiefs Chairman John Malchase David Shalikashvili.

In an story discussing the Bush ad's impediment on Kerry's West Virginia visit yesterday, USA Today's Jill Lawrence subtly let's the cat out of the bag on the super secret guest appearing with Kerry today: Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has never been involved in politics. LINK

And then the Republican response …

Vice President Cheney Speaks On National Security Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum Simi Walley, California

Key excerpts obtained by ABC's Kate Snow:

"We must support those around the world who are taking risks to advance freedom, justice, and democracy — just as President Reagan did. American policy must be clear and consistent in its purposes. And American leaders — above all the commander in chief — must be confident in our nation's cause, and unwavering until the danger to our people is fully and finally removed."

"The American people will have a clear choice in the election of 2004 — at least as clear as any since the election of 1984."

While the excerpts do not specifically mention Kerry by name, a source familiar with the speech tells ABC News that "a significant portion of the speech will be more direct and specific."

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