President Bush's Party now turns to the domestic agenda
Wednesday, September 1, 2004
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
The Third Session of the 38th Republican National Convention was gaveled to order by Convention co-Chair Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas at just after 7 o'clock p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (2300 UTC) on Tuesday 31 August 2004. The Presentation of the Colors was by Joint American Legion Post 1033 of Elmont, Long Island, NY; American Legion Nassau County, NY; the New York Department of the Purple Heart; and the Vietnam Veterans of Long Island Colors team. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Carmen Bermudez, owner of Mission Management and Trust in Tucson, Arizona and the National Anthem was sung by Gracie Rosenberg of Big Sky Ministries of Nashville, Tennessee.
The Invocation was offered by the Reverend Greg Laurie of the Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California: It is true, Lord, we have forgotten You. We have forgotten the sanctity You have placed on human life and the value You have placed on the family unit. But we are grateful, Lord, You have not forgotten us... Thank You, Lord, for second chances... we need You in America this night.
As was the case at the Democrats' Convention in Boston a month earlier, MTV correspondents Gideon Yago and Su Jin Pak introduced the winner of an essay contest, part of the music network's 'Choose or Lose: 20 Million Loud' get-out-the-youth-vote campaign, the Republicans' contest being entitled 'Stand up and Holla'. The winner was history and political science student Princella Smith, 20 years old, whose essay was 'Generation X-ample', in which she opined, of her small hometown in Arkansas: as I grew older, some residents began to lose faith in my generation, labeling us turbulent teens and troubled children and the one I liked least- "Generation X"... President George W. Bush called us to a higher purpose: the President inspires us to be what I call "Generation X-ample". President Bush called on us to change the world: our generation of 18-year-old soldiers has taken a stand against the horrors of Terrorism in order to bring Peace and Democracy to those without hope... I urge everyone to adhere to a universal message that transcends ideology: serve your fellow man and you win every time.
Convention co-Chair Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota took to the podium to call out assistant Convention Secretaries Michael Williams of Texas and Bonnie Garcia of California to preside over Part 3 of the four-part so-called "Rolling Roll Call", which proceeded as follows:
The celebration that followed Pennsylvania having officially made George W. Bush the 2004 Republican presidential Nominee was rather subdued but was accompanied by lusty chants of "Four more years!" from the Convention floor. After Senator Coleman had ordered the suspension of the Roll Call until the following evening (at which time all the States which had passed would presumably cast their votes for President Bush), there was one of those faux 'vox Pop's conducted by the "RNC-TV" "floor reporters" (apparently, so I learned this evening, referred to as "CJ"s- for "Convention Jockeys"), this one from among the Ohio delegation.
The next speaker at the dais was Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina. This time, I promise to stay behind the podium, she joked (a reference to her "in the audience" "Oprah-like" appearance at the 1996 Republican Convention which had nominated her husband, former Kansas Senator Bob Dole, for the Presidency). Mrs. Dole offered that For giving America courageous leadership in times of trial, decisive leadership in times of crisis, we thank you, Mr. President: you have restored honor and dignity to the White House. The Presidency tests all who have been there: it has tested you, sir. Your road has not been easy, your burden has not been light, yet you have displayed the peace that surpasses all understanding- we salute you.
We live in a time of great changes and challenges, Senator Dole opined. For Republicans, through it all, who we are and what we believe has never wavered. The Party of Abraham Lincoln has not wandered in the desert of disbelief or uncertainty. Led now by President Bush this Grand Old Party is still guided by a moral compass, its roots deep in the firm soil of timeless truths. We still believe that character is king.
We still believe that Liberty is the birthright of every soul, the North Carolinian declared... We know our true strength is not in our weapons: we are a great Nation because we are a good People and we are a good People because of what we believe. We believe in the dignity of every life, the possibility of every mind, the divinity of every soul. This is our true North: we believe in Life- the new life of a man and woman joined together under God. Marriage is not important because it is a convenient invention or the latest reality show: Marriage is important because it is the cornerstone of Civilization and the foundation of the Family. Marriage between a man and a woman isn't something Republicans invented, but it is something Republicans will defend.
Senator Dole continued: We value the sacred life of every man, woman and child. We believe in a culture that respects all life- including the most vulnerable in our Society: the frail elderly, the infirm and those not yet born. Protecting life isn't something Republicans invented, but it is something Republicans will defend. We believe in the treasured life of Faith: 2,000 years ago, a man said "I have come to give life, and to give it in full". In America, I have the freedom to call that man "Lord"- and I do. In the United States of America, we are free to worship without discrimination and without intervention and even without activist judges trying to strip the Name of God from the Pledge of Allegiance, from the money in our pockets and from the walls of our courthouses. The Constitution guarantees Freedom of Religion, not freedom from Religion [Mrs. Dole here rather conveniently forgetting that a sitting United States Senator denying a fellow American the Right to be free from Religion is, in and of itself, merely another form of the very discrimination and intervention she herself has just decried REB~A]. The Right to worship God isn't something Republicans invented, but it is something Republicans will defend... These are just some of the principles that guide our Party: some may call them values, others may call them virtues- I like to think of them simply as the truths my parents and grandparents taught me. Despite what you might hear on the news, they are the shared truths of the American People: they are true from Sea to shining Sea.
Mrs. Dole went on: We are now in the earliest years of a new century, writing another chapter in American History, and if we reaffirm these timeless and unchangeable truths: if we choose Life and Liberty, Compassion and Service, Character and Faith, we will honor those who came before us and inspire the children of tomorrow. It will be said of us that we live in a time of great challenge and great hope- and let it also be said that we loved our Country and served Her well and chose leaders wisely. That is what brings us to this Convention, ladies and gentlemen: I'm honored to stand with you in support of a great America- our Nominee, our President: George W. Bush.
Senator Dole was followed by Congresswoman Anne Northup of Kentucky who extolled the virtues of Adoption and governmental aid to families who seek to adopt. Florida State Representative John Quinones, the first Puerto Rican-born member of that State's legislature, introduced George P. Bush- a fellow Hispanic as well as the son of Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the nephew of the President: Our Party has always represented the interests of all people seeking opportunity. We are the home of entrepreneurs, men and women who want to know the pride of accomplishment, the honor of self-sufficiency. We meet in New York to reaffirm our commitment to these individuals, whether new to our country or born in the heartland: that commitment begins with our children. President Bush introduced and signed into law the 'No Child Left Behind' initiative to raise standards, strengthen accountability and improve student achievement in every school in America. It is based on a simple but revolutionary idea: that every child can learn and every child deserves our best effort to help them succeed.
After a long musical interlude, Erika Harold- Miss America 2003- took to the podium to extol the virtues of governmental aid to faith-based charities. She was followed at the dais by former New York City police officer Steven McDonald, who had led the Convention in the Pledge of Allegiance the day before: Every day I live to serve and every day I serve to live. In a lifetime of transforming events, both hopeful and painful, one thing is constant: my need to serve... Today, because of President Bush's leadership and values... the Federal Government is no longer discriminating against charitable groups with a religious mission: in fact, it is welcoming them as partners. I am proud to be an American led by a President who makes sure that the Promise of America is not the privilege of a few but the birthright of all. As a Democrat who is putting principle above politics, I say we need President George W. Bush to secure our future and fulfill this Promise. Detective McDonald's remarks led into a video of one such faith-based organization operating in New York City, the Bowery Mission. This, in turn, led into another "RNC-TV" 'vox Pop' by a "CJ" "interviewing" a Pennsylvania delegate who had participated in a community project at that same mission.
The next speaker was Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas: A fundamental principle of our Democracy and our Republican Party is respect for the dignity, the quality and the sanctity of every human life. We do not measure the value of a life by wealth or social status. We believe that every person is beautiful, unique and has great purpose. Every life must be honored and protected... Under President Bush's leadership, we will work to protect every human life... why? Because each is wonderfully made and what we do for the so-called "least of these" we do for our very Creator. We are leading the world in a heroic rescue of human life. This is the essence of Compassionate Conservatism: it is the mettle of George Bush.
After yet another musical interlude, Senate Majority Leader (and Medical Doctor) Bill Frist of Tennessee was the next speaker at the podium: Let me remind you: in 2000, before someone borrowed his line, George Bush promised that help is on the way. Tonight, America can take comfort that help is here... I'll tell you what Senator Kerry's prescription will be: take a handful of taxes and don't call me in the morning... Another reason health care costs too much is our abused medical liability system: the culprits are the personal injury trial lawyers and we oppose those predators! We must stop them from twisting American medicine into a litigation lottery in which they hit the jackpot and every patient ends up paying... Let us be clear: you can no longer be pro-patient and be pro-trial lawyer. John Kerry has made his choice: he put a trial lawyer on his ticket- by his votes, and by his actions, he is the "Dr. No" of Tort Reform in America.
Before I close, I'd like to touch briefly on Stem Cell Research, Dr. Frist continued: Contrary to the claims of some, embryonic stem cell research is at a very early stage. John Kerry claims that the President has put a sweeping ban on stem cell research. I challenge Mr. Kerry tonight: what ban? Shame on you, Mr. Kerry.... The President... has said that we should conduct this research with the highest ethical and moral standards: an embryo is biologically human- it deserves moral respect. This President will not use your taxpayer dollars to destroy human life or create human embryos solely for the purpose of experimentation.
After one more "RNC-TV" "CJ"'s faux 'vox Pop' (from the Nevada delegation), Elisabeth Hasselbeck of the Style Network came to the podium to discuss funding for breast cancer research and prevention: Help me re-elect a leader in the fight against breast cancer who does not simply wish this disease away, he wills it away with action- President George W. Bush!
After a musical interlude and a video presentation which featured the First Lady, Laura Bush, the next speaker was Secretary of Education Rod Paige: We live in a great country- a Nation of good people in pursuit of great ideals, defined by our Founders and defended by citizen-soldiers and delivered to us. We inherited a great Nation and so should our children. Whatever the size of our armed forces or our economy, no nation can sustain its greatness unless it educates all of its citizens, not just some of us. No one understands this better than President Bush- he's always had a compassionate vision for Education: students challenged by high standards, teachers armed with proper resources, parents empowered with information and choices and young adults with meaningful diplomas in their hands, not despair in their hearts.
Paige's remarks led into a video about an elementary school in St. Louis, Missouri that had apparently benefited from the President's 'No Child Left Behind' initiative. This was followed by yet one more of the "RNC-TV" 'vox Pop's by one of the "CJ"/"floor reporter"s, this time from the Louisiana delegation.
After this, Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele of Maryland strode to the dais. Is this a great Party or what? he asked as he began his remarks. I had planned to give a moving defense of the conservative principles of the Republican Party tonight, Steele told the assembled, but there was one problem: Barack Obama gave it last month at the Democratic Convention, to which the delegates chuckled, after which he noted: I am the first African-American ever elected to statewide office in the great State of Maryland... I became the first Republican Lieutenant Governor of my State... I am proof that the blessings of Liberty are within reach of every American. We have come an incredibly long way since the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, signed the Emancipation Proclamation and we have come a long way since another Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower, sent the National Guard into Little Rock to open the school doors to Black and White children alike- and we have come even further since a majority of Republicans in the United States Senate fought off the segregationist Democrats to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
What truly defines the Civil Rights challenge of today isn't whether you can get a seat at the lunch counter, it is whether you can own that lunch counter to create legacy wealth for your children, Steele opined. Now, at the Democratic Convention, we heard one word over and over again: Hope. But there's a problem, my friends: Hope is not a strategy. Hope doesn't protect your kids from Terrorism. Hope doesn't lower your taxes. Hope doesn't help you buy a home and hope doesn't assure quality education for your children... President Bush doesn't just talk about hope, he stands on a record of putting Hope into action for America. President Bush knows that a competitive marketplace will require providing our children with a first rate education- he knows that too many of our children are headed for the state pen instead of Penn State. He knows that the soft bigotry of low expectations is today's version of blocking the entrance to the schoolhouse door...
Steele continued: You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift, you cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong, you cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer, you cannot further the brotherhood of Man by encouraging class hatred, you cannot help the poor by destroying the rich, you cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and incentive and you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they should be doing for themselves. This last engendered a standing ovation from the assembled. These are the beliefs of our Republican Party... and, today, the standard-bearer of these convictions is George W. Bush!
After yet another musical interlude, the next speaker at the podium was California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: What a greeting: wow! he said in response to the cheers for him from the Convention floor. This is like winning an Oscar. As if I should know, he joked. He offered that There is no place, no country, that is more compassionate, more generous, more accepting and more welcoming than the United States of America... I believe this country is in good hands.
To my fellow immigrants listening tonight, Schwarzenegger said, I want you to know how welcome you are in this Party. We Republicans admire your ambition, we encourage your dreams, we believe in your future. And one thing I learned about America is: if you work hard and play by the rules, this country is truly open to you, you can achieve anything... that's why I believe in this country, that's why I believe in this Party and that's why I believe in this President. Now many of you out there tonight are Republican like me... and maybe, just maybe, you don't agree with this Party on every single issue. I say to you tonight that I believe that that is not only OK but that is what is great about this country: here we can respectfully disagree and still be patriotic, still be American and still be good Republicans.
My fellow immigrants, my fellow Americans: how do you know if you're a Republican? Schwarzenegger asked. Well, I'll tell you how: If you believe that government should be accountable to the People, not the People to the government... if you believe that a person should be treated as an individual, not as a member of an interest group... if you believe that your family knows how to spend your money better than the government does... if you believe that our educational system should be held accountable for the progress of our children, then you are a Republican. If you believe that this country, not the United Nations, is the best hope for Democracy, then you are Republicans. This last elicited chants of "USA, USA" from the delegates. And, ladies and gentlemen, if you believe that we must be fierce and relentless and terminate Terrorism, then you are Republicans!
But there is another way to tell you are a Republican, the Californian opined: Your faith in free enterprise, faith in the resourcefulness of the American People and faith in the U.S. economy. And, to those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say don't be economic 'girlie-men'! This elicited a standing ovation and great cheering from the floor of the Convention. The U.S. economy remains the envy of the world: we have the highest economic growth of any of the world's major industrialized nations...
Now, the other Party says there are two Americas, Schwarzenegger continued. Don't you believe that, either... I'll tell you this: that our men and women in uniform do not believe there are two Americas- they believe there is one America and they are fighting for it! We are one America and President Bush is defending it with all his heart and soul. That's what I admire most about the President: he is a man of perseverance, he's a man of inner strength. He's a leader who doesn't flinch, who doesn't waver and does not back down!
My fellow Americans, make no mistake about it, the California Governor opined: Terrorism is more insidious than Communism because it yearns to destroy not just the individual but the entire international order. The President did not go into Iraq because the polls told him it was popular: as a matter of fact, the polls suggested the opposite [a rather extraordinary statement, by the way- the notion of polls having been against the war in Iraq even at the very beginning of the conflict having been one of the key arguments of the anti-war forces (when, in fact, the national polls actually favored the war on the eve of the invasion of Iraq back in March 2003: I even wrote much about this for this very website at the time [in particular, please see my response to a 'vox Populi' posted about a month before the war began, where I wrote "I don't think the supermajority has any real chance of melting away to even a mere majority during the early stages of the war... No, I rather think President Bush's problems maintaining the current supermajority in support of war- however reluctant much of that support might actually be- will likely come as the war progresses (and, of course, only if it begins to progress badly)"]), but this very same anti- war myth that the supermajority in favor of the war did not even exist in the first place is here being used as a justification for re-electing the very President who launched that war. Revisionism, indeed! REB~A]- but leadership isn't about polls, it's about making decisions you think are right and then standing behind those decisions. That's why America is safer with George W. Bush as President! This eliciting the chant "Four more years!" from the floor of the Convention.
President Bush, Schwarzenegger offered, knows that you don't reason with terrorists, you defeat them. He knows you can't reason with people blinded by hate. You see, they hate the power of the individual- they hate the progress of women, they hate the religious freedom of others and they hate the liberating breeze of Democracy. But, ladies and gentlemen, their hate is no match for America's decency... Someone once wrote that there are those who say Freedom is nothing but a dream: they're right- it's the American Dream... Ladies and gentlemen, America is back- back from the attack on our homeland, back from the attack on our economy and back from the attack on our way of life. We are back because of the perseverance, character and leadership of the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush! There were now even more chants of "Four more years!" from the assembled.
After Governor Schwarzenegger had finished his remarks, Barbara and Jenna Bush- the twin daughters of the President- came to the dais to introduce their father, who then came on live via a video feed from Pennsylvania (the President being still in the midst of making a series of campaign stops enroute to his Convention). President Bush, in turn, remotely introduced the First Lady, who now came to the podium. Of her first campaign with her then- brand new husband (when George W. Bush unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1978), she noted: You learn a lot about your husband when you spend that much time in a car with him. By the end of the campaign, he had even convinced me to vote for him- this time, I don't need any convincing. I'm so proud of the way George has led our country with strength and conviction. Tonight, I want to try to answer the question that I believe many people would ask me... "why do you think we should re-elect your husband as President?"
I could talk about my passion: Education, Mrs. Bush said. When my husband took office, too many schools were leaving too many children behind, so he worked with Congress to pass sweeping education reform. The No Child Left Behind Act provides historic levels of funding with an unprecedented commitment to higher standards, strong accountability and proven methods of instruction. We are determined to provide a quality education for every child in America... I could talk about Health Care: for years, leaders in both Parties said we should provide prescription drug coverage in Medicare. George was able to bring Republicans and Democrats together to get it done. I could talk about the fact that my husband is the first President to provide Federal funding for Stem Cell Research and he did it in a principled way: allowing Science to explore its potential while respecting the dignity of human life. I could talk about the recent record increase in home ownership: home ownership in America, especially minority home ownership, is at an all-time high.
All of these issues are important, the First Lady opined. But we are living in the most historic struggle my generation has ever known: the stakes are so high. So I want to talk about the issue that I believe is most important- for my daughters, for all of our families and for our future: George's work to protect our country and defeat Terror, so that all children can grow up in a more peaceful world... No American President wants to go to war... my husband didn't want to go to war but he knew the safety and security of America and the world depended on it... Once again, as in our parents' generation, America had to make the tough choices, the hard decisions and lead the world toward greater security and freedom...
Our Nation has not always lived up to its ideals, Mrs. Bush noted, yet those ideals have never ceased to guide us: they expose our flaws and they lead us to mend them. We are the beneficiaries of the works of generations before us and it's each generation's responsibility to continue that work. These last three years since September 11th have been difficult years in our country's History... We've learned some lessons we didn't want to know: that our country is more vulnerable than we thought, that some people hate us because we stand for Liberty, Religious Freedom and Tolerance. But we've also been heartened to discover that we are also braver than we thought, stronger and more generous...
Of her husband, the First Lady said: He'll always tell you what he really thinks. You can count on him, especially in a crisis. His friends don't change and neither do his values. He has boundless energy and enthusiasm for his job and for life itself. He treats every person he meets with dignity and respect- the same dignity and respect he has for the office he holds. And he is a loving man with a big heart... George and I grew up in west Texas, where the sky seems endless and so do the possibilities. He brings that optimism, that sense of purpose, that certainty that a better day is before us to his job every day and, with your help, he'll do it for four more years.
The Convention was now entertained by the Harlem Boys' Choir singing a rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic before Convention co-Chair Congresswoman Candice Miller of Michigan came to the podium and called on Esther Jungreis of the Hineni Jewish Heritage Center in New York, a Holocaust survivor, to give the Benediction. It was much more of an Exhortation: Almighty God, we are living at the most challenging time in our History, that our Founding Fathers could never have envisioned: Global Terror and the weakening of moral values menace our very lives... How different the world might have been if a man like President George W. Bush had been at hand in those days of darkness [here referring to the Holocaust REB~A]. Following 9/11, it was President Bush's valor and commitment to do battle against the forces of Terror and Evil that has ensured the security of our Nation. Of all the world's leaders, only President Bush had the courage to raise his voice on behalf of beleaguered Israel and recognize that Terror in any part of the world must be eradicated... More than hope, our President is determined to triumph over Evil and continues to labor- not only for a secure, safe world- but for an America which has timeless values. The miracle that is America is not only to be found in her might but in her spirit, in her faith in God and it was with this faith, with the words of the psalmist [from Psalm 23: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, I will fear no Evil, for Thou art with me: REB~A], that President Bush comforted our Nation on that day of Infamy... trust in the Lord!... God bless America, God bless our President and God bless each and every one of you!
Co-Chair Miller then entertained a motion that the Convention now adjourn until the following evening, a motion that was adopted viva voce. It was 11:08 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time (0308 UTC).