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Bush calls for renewal of civility, implementation of 'compassionate conservatism'

Says of Clinton-Gore tenure: 'To what end?'

Laura, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
Laura and George W. Bush with Dick Cheney, at right, celebrate Bush's presidential nomination  

PHILADELPHIA (CNN) -- Texas Gov. George W. Bush accepted the Republican Party's presidential nomination on Thursday night by delivering a multi-faceted, confident address that wrapped his long-espoused doctrine of "compassionate conservatism" with volleys at his Democratic rival, Vice President Al Gore.

A shower of balloons and confetti greeted the end of Bush's acceptance speech, in which he portrayed himself as the best leader for changing times and said the Republican Party had become "the party of ideas and innovation, the party of idealism and inclusion."

The Texas governor's 51-minute speech, which capped the party's convention, covered a broad swath of policy propositions aimed at showcasing the face of the moderate GOP promoted at the four-day event. It also drew discernible differences between the atmosphere offered by a Bush administration versus a "third Clinton-Gore" term.

George W. Bush acceptance speech

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Republican vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney speaks to the Republican National Convention

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Rarely, however, were his attacks on Gore centered on the vice president's record as a lawmaker or presidential campaigner. Rather, Bush sought to link Gore with the scandal and partisan battles that have marked President Clinton's 8-year tenure.

"Our current president embodied the potential of a generation. So many talents, so much charm. Such great skill. But in the end, to what end?" Bush asked.

"For eight years, the Clinton-Gore administration has coasted through prosperity," Bush said. "And the path of least resistance is always downhill."

"They have not led. We will," Bush pledged often in the first portion of his speech, each time to thunderous cheers and applause. The Texas governor's speech was interrupted dozens of times for such approval.

"Not this time, not this year," Bush said of Gore's bid to take Clinton's place in the White House. "This is not the time for new chances, this is the time for new beginnings."

The dawn of compassionate conservatism

"Compassionate conservatism," Bush explained, should not see the government involved in every effort to right the nation's wrongs. But it should not mean that "indifference" must rise up to take the place of demolished bureaucracies, he warned.

"It is to put conservative values and conservative ideas into the thick of the fight for justice and opportunity," Bush said of his doctrine. "This is what I mean by 'compassionate conservatism.' And on this ground we will govern our nation."

And governing, Bush insisted, will consist of "fixing" a number of damaged programs -- as well as the way in which Washington conducts its business.

Bush touts the Republican Party as 'the party of ideas and innovation, the party of idealism and inclusion'  

Of the Social Security system, for example, Bush said his proposal to allow younger retirees to invest portions of their payroll taxes into the stock market would immediately depoliticize the entitlement program.

"Social Security has been called the 'third rail' of American politics -- the one you're not supposed to touch because it shocks you. But, if you don't touch it, you can't fix it. And I intend to fix it," he said.

And of his pledge to provide $483 billion in tax relief over five years, Bush said the federal budget surplus must be returned to the people who provided it.

"The surplus is not the government's money. The surplus is the people's money. I will use this moment of opportunity to bring common sense and fairness to the tax code."

The newly minted Republican nominee also stepped forward on the abortion issue, saying that if Congress sent him a bill banning a late-term procedure opponents refer to as "partial birth" abortion, he would "sign it into law."

He also pledged to work to "protect the natural world around us," shore up the Medicare system, and reduce world nuclear stockpiles and at the same time deploy a robust national anti-intercontinental ballistic missile defense shield.

All of this would be accomplished, he said, in a tension-free air of civility in the nation's capital, thanks in part to his years as a resident of Midland, Texas, a world very far removed from that of Washington, D.C., he explained.

"(My) background may lack the polish of Washington. Then again, I don't have a lot of things that come with Washington. I don't have enemies to fight, and I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years. I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect," he said.

"We are facing something familiar, but they are facing something new," he said of the Gore campaign. "I do not reinvent myself at every turn. I am not running in borrowed clothes. When I act, you will know my reasons. When I speak, you will know my heart."

The speech was well-received. Michigan Sen. Spencer Abraham said Bush "hit more than a home run."

"I've spent five years in the Senate, and we haven't had that kind of leadership in the White House," Abraham said. "We've had poll-taking and not enough action."

"America needs this guy and (running mate) Dick Cheney," said Helen Christman, an alternate delegate from Hawaii. "He didn't pull any punches."

Successful conclusion to the 'rolling roll call'

Bush finally captured the Republican Party's ultimate prize Thursday, when delegates at the party convention officially made him the GOP presidential nominee. A four-day "rolling roll call" of states came to an end at mid-evening, when a handful of large-state delegations cast the last votes to nominate.

Bush's home state was the last to cast votes Thursday. In a brief but spirited display of affection and enthusiasm, members of the Texas delegation lofted their cowboy hats into the air as the state's Lt. Gov. Rick Perry -- who will assume Bush's governorship if he is elected to the White House -- introduced delegate Maria Sanchez, who declared Texas' intention to nominate.

Florida delegation
Jeb Bush, the Republican governor of Florida, casts his state's votes for his older brother  

And in arguably one of the most unusual and candid vote declarations ever made during a convention's roll call, the governor's younger brother, Jeb, the Republican governor of Florida, proclaimed his state's intention to nominate by harkening back to the rigors of childhood and the frustrations of sibling rivalry.

"A unique aspect of all of this is that the governor of the state (Florida), and perhaps the governor of the state of Texas, is the only person on this floor that has had his mouth washed out by the greatest, most popular woman in the world," the youngest Bush said of his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, who sat with former President George Bush just yards away in the convention hall.

Jeb Bush continued that as a child, he had "been spanked by a president of the United Sates, and (had) gotten a 'wedgie' from the next president of the United States," his brother, the GOP's 2000 nominee.

Another Bush personality in the making?

Less than an hour before his famous uncle accepted the Republican presidential nomination, 24-year-old George P. Bush primed the crowd by delivering his first prime-time convention address centering on the party's new, inclusive message.

George P., -- known simply as "P" -- is the son of Jeb Bush and his Mexican-born wife Columba. "P" is the "youth chairman" of the Republican National Convention.

"My Mom and Dad always told me ... if you believe in a cause, how can you not get involved?" the young, photogenic Bush told the cheering crowd.

During his brief appearance before the Philadelphia gathering, George P. recounted his short stint as a teacher in an inner-city public school in Miami as a memorable and meaningful experience. He also touted the Texas governor's campaign agenda as "the best hope ... to help all children in the country get the best possible education they can.

"I really love those kids I taught and tutored. And my experience with them is the reason why I truly believe that the best hope, the best hope for every kid like the Dianas and Hernans and the Ezekiels is to have my uncle in the White House," he said.

Frolicking on the floor

Jubilant delegates spent much of Thursday night ignoring the convention's staged goings-on, and awaited Bush's acceptance speech by dancing in the aisles, yelling to each other across the vast crowds in the convention center aisles, and waving newly-painted Bush-Cheney signs.

Some of those signs were of the usual political pep-rally variety, but others were a little more unusual. One held high as Bush spoke read, "coherent foreign policy."

The night's musical interludes were supplied by a variety of country and Latin acts, and actress Bo Derek made a brief stage appearance.

Front-and-center before the Georgia delegation, just to the left of the convention stage, delegate B.J. Lopez designated herself as the group's cheerleader. Lopez said this year's gathering has been "bittersweet" for Peach State Republicans after the unexpected death of Sen. Paul Coverdell, who passed away two weeks ago after a brain aneurysm.

The Georgia delegates kept a floor seat open in Coverdell's memory.

"The first night they were dedicating the platform to him, and everybody was very tearful," said Lopez. State delegates, she said, needed to take a couple of days to get into "the swing of things" and enjoy the festivities. By Thursday night the delegation's mood had brightened, and most members were eagerly anticipating Bush's appearance.

Elizabeth Cox, a long-time party activist from Summit, New Jersey, said she was attending her 12th GOP convention. This trip, she said, was her most tranquil.

"I think it's running like clockwork this year," she said. "It's nice to see everybody more or less unified," said Cox, who characterized herself "as a Bush supporter for 20 years."

Signs for Bush
Supportive signs abound on the final night of the convention  

During the 1964 GOP gathering in San Francisco, Cox supported Pennsylvania Gov. William Scranton over the party's eventual nominee, Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, a staunch conservative.

"In those days you could still have demonstrations ... there was even a battle in the ladies room," Cox reminisced.

"People at that time still wore dresses for Scranton or Goldwater, and I remember one side or the other got locked in the stalls," she grinned, refusing to say whether the ladies in question were Goldwater or Scranton supporters.

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