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Inside Politics

Bush outlines 'where I will lead this country'

President accepts renomination, touching on range of issues

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The Morning Grind's John Mercurio has spent the week at the RNC.

CNN's Bob Franken on the wrap-up of the GOP's New York week.

Sights and sounds of the final night of the convention.
Did President Bush make his case for a second term in office?
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry
Republican Convention
America Votes 2004

NEW YORK (CNN) -- President Bush closed the four-day Republican National Convention Thursday evening with an hourlong address he split equally on domestic and international issues.

Having accepted his party's renomination, Bush told the more than 4,800 delegates and alternates that he wanted them to know "where I stand, what I believe, and where I will lead this country in the next four years."

The president disclosed 15 proposals to strengthen domestic programs related to education, Social Security, taxes, job training and health care. (Transcript)

"I believe every child can learn, and every school must teach. I believe we have a moral responsibility to honor America's seniors .... I believe the most solemn duty of the American president is to protect the American people." ( Special Report: America Votes 2004, the Republican convention )

"I am running for president with a clear and positive plan to build a safer world, and a more hopeful America," Bush said. (CNN's John King on the agenda for a second term)

"To create jobs, my plan will encourage investment and expansion by restraining federal spending, reducing regulation, and making tax relief permanent," Bush said. "We will create American opportunity zones. In these areas, we'll provide tax relief and other incentives to attract new business, and improve housing and job training to bring hope and work throughout all of America." ( Full story )

Turning to foreign policy and the war on terror, Bush countered critics' claims that the war in Iraq excluded significant sacrifices from other countries. And he used the topic to draw distinctions between himself and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

"About 40 nations stand beside us in Afghanistan, and some 30 in Iraq ... In the midst of war, [Kerry] called America's allies, quote, a 'coalition of the coerced and the bribed.' That would be nations like Great Britain, Poland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark, El Salvador, Australia, and others -- allies that deserve the respect of all Americans, not the scorn of a politician."

Defending the pre-emptive strike on Iraq, the president said, "We knew Saddam Hussein's record of aggression and support for terror. We knew his long history of pursuing, even using, weapons of mass destruction.

"After more than a decade of diplomacy, we gave Saddam Hussein another chance, a final chance, to meet his responsibilities to the civilized world. He again refused, and I faced the kind of decision that comes only to the Oval Office, a decision no president would ask for but must be prepared to make."

Bush engaged in a few moments of levity, poking fun at himself before ending his address.

"You may have noticed I have a few flaws, too. People sometimes have to correct my English," he said. "I knew I had a problem when Arnold Schwarzenegger started doing it. Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called 'walking.' "

But in ending his address, he invoked memories of the thousands who died about four miles from the convention site on September 11, 2001.

"I have seen the character of a great nation," Bush said. "The world saw that spirit ... when the people of this city faced peril together ... As long as our country stands, people will look to the resurrection of New York City and they will say: Here buildings fell, and here a nation rose."

New York Gov. George Pataki, who introduced Bush, started his address with memories of that day and said that Bush was the best man to protect the country.

And like his predecessors on the three previous nights, he emphasized what he described as Bush's consistency and pushed his party's position that Kerry is a flip-flopper.

"Almost four years ago, George W. Bush raised his right hand and took the oath of office. And from the first he showed us something we hadn't seen in a while. When he said he was going to do something, he meant it. And then he did it.

"Senator Kerry, on the other hand... Well, what can we say of Senator Kerry," Pataki asked. "This is a candidate who has to Google his own name to find out where he stands.... This fall we're going to win one for the Gipper. But our opponents, they're going lose one with the Flipper." (Transcript)

Kerry wasted no time in striking back. At a rally in Springfield, Ohio, shortly after the Republican convention ended, the Democratic nominee said Bush was "unfit to lead this nation." (Full story)

Recapping themes

On the GOP convention's final night, speeches by an African-American and a Cuban-American reflected on previous days' themes of "people of compassion" and a "land of opportunity."

Texan Michael Williams told conventioneers about his failed attempt to become the first black elected official in Midland, Texas.

"George W. Bush didn't just agree to vote for me. He agreed to be my campaign manager," Williams said. "I'm here to tell you firsthand that [Bush's] commitment to inclusion goes back to a time when nobody was watching."

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Mel Martinez spoke about his arrival to America as a 15-year-old Cuban and his rise to national office.

"I have lived the American dream, and I am determined to ensure the possibility of that dream for others," Martinez said. "I am here to ask you to re-elect President George W. Bush ... I believe in George Bush's idea of 'compassionate conservatism.' From the time I first heard him talk about it, I said, 'compassionate conservatism is the story of my life.' "

In the walk-up to Pataki's address, former U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks told delegates he was neither Republican nor Democrat but that America must fight terrorists.

"The question is do we fight them over there -- or do we fight them here," Franks said. "I choose to fight them over there.

"The past three years have been hard years, a time of hard decisions and tough choices," Franks said. "I have looked into his eyes and I have seen his character. I have seen courage and consistency ... the courage to stand up to terrorists and the consistency necessary to beat them."

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