The Fifth (and final) Session of the 38th Republican National Convention was gaveled to order by Convention co-Chair Congressman Henry Bonilla of Texas at 8 o'clock p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (0000 UTC) on Thursday 2 September 2004. The Presentation of the Colors was by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department Colors team. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by former American Olympic medalists and female gymnasts Mary Lou Retton and Kerry Strug, and the National Anthem was sung by Nicole C. Mullen. The Invocation was offered by Bishop Keith Butler of the Word of Faith International Christian Center of Detroit, Michigan.
Tonight would, of course, be President George W. Bush's big night as he would once again claim the mantle of Titular Leader of his Party but, as will be seen throughout this piece, there would be a rather large amount of "filler" before the big moment arrived, especially as compared to the final night of the Democratic Convention on which Senator John Kerry had claimed his Party's nomination (no doubt there are many among those of you reading this who might actually consider that to be a good thing [;-)]). The festivities got underway when former National Football League wide receiver Lynn Swann and former Olympic skating medalist Dorothy Hamill took to the podium to lead a salute to the USA Olympic team which had so recently competed in Athens. There was the first "RNC-TV" "CJ"/"floor reporter" faux 'vox Pop' segment, here one "interviewing" actor Joseph C. Phillips, chairman of the African-American Steering Committee for Bush/Cheney '04. This was followed by a video extolling the President's care for Hispanics in the United States.
There was an "RNC-TV" "CJ" live video feed from Columbus, Ohio combined with live video feeds from Oregon and Wisconsin. A musical interlude was next, during which First Lady Laura Bush was announced and took her seat in the Convention gallery. This was followed by yet another "RNC-TV" "CJ" 'vox Pop' in the Texas delegation. Next came the introduction of several retired high-ranking military officers from all branches of service who were endorsing George W. Bush's re-election: the spokesman for this group was General P.X. Kelly, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.).
General Kelly noted that during my Marine Corps career, I've served with nine Presidents- from Harry Truman to George Herbert Walker Bush- and I know a Commander-in-Chief when I see one. A Commander-in-Chief must have calm resolve, clear purpose and the courage to make difficult decisions- and then he must stand by them the same way the troops in the field must hold their objectives... Each of us on this platform, along with countless others... stand united, united in the firm conviction that the best way to defend America today is to stand behind our resolute Commander-in-Chief and re-elect George W. Bush!
General Kelly then introduced General Tommy Franks, U.S. Army (Ret.), late commander of Central Command who led the War on International Terrorism in Afghanistan, who opined Wow, this Convention rocks! before beginning his formal remarks. America finds itself today at an important crease in History, Franks offered. The attacks of September 11th brought a new enemy to our shores, an enemy unlike any we have faced before. Our Nation is safer today because we have hardened our defenses- we have also taken the fight to the terrorists and we still have work to do. The global War on Terrorism will be a long fight- but, make no mistake about it, we are going to fight the terrorists. The question is: do we fight them over there or do we fight them here? I choose to fight them over there.
Now some argue that we should treat this war as a law enforcement issue, Franks opined, and some say we should fight a less aggressive war- that we should retreat into a defensive posture and hope that the terrorists don't attack us again... I've learned a long time ago that Hope, while so terribly important, is not a strategy. In the years ahead, America will be called upon to demonstrate character, consistency, courage and leadership... I've been with this President in tough and uncertain times and George Bush is the real thing!
The past three years have been hard years, the retired General declared, a time of hard decisions and tough choices. I've looked into this man's eyes and I have seen his character. I've seen his courage and I've seen his consistency- the courage to stand up to terrorists and the consistency to beat them... Terrorism will not stand. Ladies and gentlemen, terrorism against our country began long before 9/11: terrorists have been killing our citizens for more than two decades and I am proud that this President has chosen to make a stand.
An "RNC-TV" "CJ" was next seen "interviewing" the President's mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush who, in turn, introduced a film largely about President Bush as a family man and mostly consisting of the observations of the President's twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna. After this, former Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams came to the dais to talk about knowing George W. Bush back in their mutual hometown of Midland, Texas; Williams then introduced a film about First Lady Laura Bush. After this, there was another "RNC-TV" faux 'vox Pop' with a mother-daughter pair of delegates from Michigan before the Convention was entertained by African-American Gospel singer Donnie McClurkin.
Mel Martinez- President Bush's former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and, as of a Primary earlier this very week, the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate from Florida- next came to the podium. Martinez, who came from Castro's Cuba as a young boy, declared that I have lived the American Dream and I am determined to ensure the possibility of that dream for others. I am here tonight to urge my fellow Americans to join me in protecting our Freedom, our core values and this free land. I am here to ask you to re-elect President George W. Bush!
There was yet another Bush/Cheney campaign video before keyboardist and singer/songwriter Michael W. Smith performed for the Convention while Vice President and Mrs. Cheney took their seats in the gallery.
Governor George E. Pataki of New York took to the podium. I've been Governor of this State for ten years- through challenge and triumph, he noted. And tonight is a great New York night! After then thanking Oregon, Iowa and Pennsylvania specifically for what citizens in those States had done for New Yorkers in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Governor Pataki said: Now, I could tell a story like this about every single State in the country- but there was, of course, another State. It woke up one morning and walked the kids to school- and, suddenly, the streets were full of sirens and there was fire in the sky. You know what they did, the people of this State? They charged into the towers- they stood on line like soldiers to give blood and then, in the days and nights that followed, the tough men and women of our great City came forward: they quieted the fire and dug us out of grief. They got into trucks and went to Ground Zero: the construction workers and iron workers, our police officers and firefighters. And the people of our city stood in the dark each night, waving flags, and calling out "God bless you" as the trucks hurtled by- and the men and women on those trucks waved back as if to say "Hey, no problem." This great State rolled up its sleeves, looked Terrorism straight in the face and spat in its eye. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you New York!
On that terrible day, a Nation became a neighborhood, Pataki continued. All Americans became New Yorkers... Thank you America, from the very bottom of New York's heart. And now, we have some business to do. Every four years, people say this is the most important election of our lifetime- this time it's true. We have a choice between two very different men: different views, different histories. I know them both: we were at college together- the President a year behind me, Senator Kerry a year ahead. John Kerry was head of the Liberal Union, I was head of the Conservative Union: we never got to debate back then but the Senator has asked for a full and frank discussion. Well-- let's start now!
I want to help voters compare President Bush's record of achievement with Senator Kerry's, the New York Governor said. That way they'll be able to see the difference- which is that President Bush has a record of achievement. 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! Given recent history, that's amazing... George W. Bush says what he means, he means what he says, you can trust him!
Well-- what can we say of Senator Kerry? Pataki asked rhetorically. He was for the war and then he was against the war- he was for it, but he wouldn't fund it- then he'd fund it, but he wasn't for it. He was for the PATRIOT Act until he was against the PATRIOT Act- or was he against it until he was for it? I forget- he probably does too. This is a candidate who has to 'Google' his own name to find out where he stands! You saw their Convention a few weeks ago- they had a slogan: 'Hope is on the way'; but, with all their flip-flopping and zig-zagging, their real slogan should be: 'Hype is on the way'! You know, as Republicans we're lucky: this Fall we're going to win one for the Gipper- but our opponents: they're going to lose one with the Flipper! This led to a great cheer, followed by chants of "Flip-flop! Flip-flop!", from the assembled.
I thank God that, on September 11th, we had a President who didn't wring his hands and wonder what America had done wrong to deserve this attack, the New Yorker opined. I thank God we had a President who understood that America was attacked- not for what we had done wrong, but for what we do right. The President took strong action to protect our country- that sounds like something any President would do. How I wish that were so! You know the history: Osama bin Laden declared war on America and then came the attacks: the first World Trade Center, the embassies, the USS Cole- hundreds dead, thousands injured. How I wish the Administration at that time, in those years, had done something- how I wish they had moved to protect us, but they didn't do it. On September 11th, al-Qa'eda attacked again- but, this time, they made a terrible mistake: there's one thing they didn't bank on- they didn't bank on George W. Bush. He didn't run from History- he faced it!
George Bush raised our spirits, Pataki offered. He came to New York and stood on that smoking heap, looked at our heroes and said "I can hear you and soon the whole world will hear you". He declared a new doctrine: the United States would find and remove terrorists, whoever they are and wherever they are- and if you harbor them, there will be hell to pay! He mobilized our forces and went to Afghanistan, where the United States fought and won a war: al-Qa'eda camps were pulverized, the Taliban deposed. George Bush protected our country and he protects it still! With supreme guts and rightness, President Bush went into Iraq. The U.S. had asked for peace, went to the UN time and again, asked Saddam to step aside. But Saddam would not be moved- so President Bush moved him. Our American troops, our citizen-soldiers and the Coalition of the Willing moved him and, soon, a dictator who had used poison gas on his own people was found cowering in the earth. Some people have called this an abuse of power: I call it progress!
There are those who still say that there was no reason to liberate Iraq, the New York Governor declared. They ask about weapons of mass destruction. On September 11th, in New York, we learned that, in the hands of a monster, a box cutter is a weapon of mass destruction. And Saddam Hussein was a monster- a walking, talking weapon of mass destruction. It is good for the world that he is gone. Where does Senator Kerry stand on all this? In Boston, he said that- in the future- "any attack would be met with a swift and certain response". Well, respectfully Senator, that's not good enough- we've already been attacked, time and again. And President Bush understands we can't just wait for the next attack- we have to go after them in their training camps, in their hiding places, in their spider holes before they have the chance to attack us again. Senator Kerry says, "America should go to war, not when it wants to go to war, but when it has to go to war". Well, Senator- the firefighters and cops who ran into those burning towers and died on September 11th didn't want to go to war: they were heroes in a war they didn't even know existed. America did not choose this war- but we have a President who chooses to win it!
This is no ordinary time, Pataki stated, the stakes could not be higher. Fate has handed our generation a grave new threat to Freedom and fortune has given us a leader who will defend that freedom. This is no ordinary time- and George W. Bush is no ordinary leader... let me ask you: what is this election about if it isn't about our love of Freedom? A love for all we are and can be... and love, too, for that statue in New York's great, grand harbor- that noble statue that greeted the lonely and seemed by her very grandeur to be telling them, 'Take heart, take heart, it's going to be better here'. We had to close her down after September 11th- but we opened her again a few weeks ago. That was a good day! And now she stands, tall and immovable: lighting the way to dreams, that symbol of hope- that Statue of Liberty.
Ladies and gentlemen, Pataki declared, on this night, and in this fight, there is another who holds high that torch of Freedom. He is one of those men God and fate somehow lead to the fore in times of challenge and he is lighting the way to better times, a safer land and hope. He is my friend, he is our President-- President George W. Bush!
Following Governor Pataki's remarks, there was a musical interlude followed by a video about the President narrated by former Tennessee Senator and actor Fred Thompson. At the conclusion of this video, George W. Bush, 43d President of the United States and now formally re-nominated for a second four-year term in that High Office, strode out- not onto a regular stage, but onto a "Theatre in the Round" embossed with the Presidential Seal from which he would deliver his Acceptance Speech in the midst of cheering delegates chanting "Four More Years!" I'm honored by your support, the President began, and I accept your nomination for President of the United States.
When I said those words four years ago, none of us could have envisioned what these years would bring, the President continued. In the heart of this great city we saw tragedy arrive on a quiet morning- we saw the bravery of rescuers grow with danger, we learned of passengers on a doomed plane who died with a courage that frightened their killers, we have seen a shaken economy rise to its feet- and we have seen Americans in uniform storming mountain strongholds and charging through sandstorms, and liberating millions with acts of valor that would make the men of Normandy proud. Since 2001 Americans have been given hills to climb and found the strength to climb them. Now, because we have made the hard journey, we can see the valley below- now, because we have faced challenges with resolve, we have historic goals within our reach and greatness in our future: we will build a safer world and a more hopeful America and nothing will hold us back!
In the work we have done, and the work we will do, I am fortunate to have a superb Vice President, Bush declared. I have counted on Dick Cheney's calm and steady judgment in difficult days and I am honored to have him at my side. I am grateful to share my walk in life with Laura Bush: Americans have come to see the goodness and kindness and strength I first saw twenty six years ago- and we love our First Lady... Two months from today, voters will make a choice based on the records we have built, the convictions we hold and the vision that guides us forward. A Presidential Election is a contest for the future: tonight, I will tell you where I stand, what I believe and where I will lead this country in the next four years...
I believe the most solemn duty of the American President is to protect the American People, the President opined. If America shows uncertainty or weakness in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy. This will not happen on my watch! I'm running for President with a clear and positive plan to build a safer world and a more hopeful America. I'm running with a compassionate conservative philosophy- that government should help people improve their lives, not try to run their lives. I believe this nation wants steady, consistent, principled leadership and that is why, with your help, we will win this election! The story of America is the story of expanding Liberty- an ever widening circle, constantly growing to reach further and include more. Our Nation's founding commitment is still our deepest commitment- in our world, and here at home, we will extend the frontiers of Freedom...
My plan begins with providing the security and opportunity of a growing economy, Bush declared. We now compete in a global market that provides new buyers for our goods but new competition for our workers. To create more jobs in America, America must be the best place in the world to do business. To create jobs, my plan will encourage investment and expansion by restraining Federal spending, reducing regulation and making the tax relief permanent. To create jobs, we will make our country less dependent on foreign sources of energy. To create jobs, we will expand trade and level the playing field to sell American goods and services across the globe and we must protect small business owners and workers from the explosion of frivolous lawsuits that threaten jobs across our country...
These changing times can be exciting times of expanded opportunity, Bush declaimed, and here you face a choice: my opponent's policies are dramatically different from ours. Senator Kerry opposed Medicare reform and health savings accounts. After supporting my education reforms, he now wants to dilute them. He opposes legal and medical liability reform. He opposed reducing the marriage penalty, opposed doubling the child credit, and opposed lowering income taxes for all who pay them. This elicited a rain of "boo"s from the assembled. Wait a minute- to be fair, there are some things my opponent is for: he's proposed more than two trillion dollars in new Federal spending so far and that's a lot- even for a senator from Massachusetts. And, to pay for that spending, he is running on a platform of increasing taxes and that's the kind of promise a politician usually keeps. His policies of tax and spend, of expanding government rather than expanding opportunity, are the politics of the past. We are on the path to the future and we are not turning back! At this, the Convention exploded into chants of "Four more years!"
The President continued: In this world of change, some things do not change: the values we try to live by, the institutions that give our lives meaning and purpose. Our society rests on a foundation of responsibility and character and family commitment. Because family and work are sources of stability and dignity, I support welfare reform that strengthens family and requires work. Because a caring society will value its weakest members, we must make a place for the unborn child. Because religious charities provide a safety net of mercy and compassion, our government must never discriminate against them. Because the union of a man and woman deserves an honored place in our society, I support the protection of marriage against activist judges and I will continue to appoint Federal judges who know the difference between personal opinion and the strict interpretation of the Law. My opponent recently announced that he is the candidate of conservative values- must have come as a surprise to a lot of his supporters. There are some problems with this claim: if you say the heart and soul of America is found in Hollywood, I'm afraid you are not the candidate of conservative values- if you voted against the bipartisan Defense of Marriage Act, which President Clinton signed, you are not the candidate of conservative values- if you gave a speech, as my opponent did, calling the Reagan Presidency "eight years of moral darkness", then you may be a lot of things, but the candidate of conservative values is not one of them.
This election will also determine how America responds to the continuing danger of Terrorism, Bush said, and you know where I stand. Three days after September the 11th, I stood where Americans died in the ruins of the Twin Towers. Workers in hardhats were shouting to me, "Whatever it takes!"- a fellow grabbed me by the arm and he said, "Do not let me down". Since that day, I wake up every morning thinking about how to better protect our country: I will never relent in defending America- whatever it takes! So we have fought the terrorists across the earth- not for pride, not for power, but because the lives of our citizens are at stake. Our strategy is clear: we've tripled funding for Homeland Security and trained half a million first responders, because we're determined to protect our homeland. We're transforming our military and reforming and strengthening our intelligence services. We are staying on the offensive, striking terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home and we are working to advance liberty in the broader Middle East, because Freedom will bring a future of hope, and the peace we all want. And we will prevail...
We have led, many have joined and America and the world are safer, the President argued. This progress involved careful diplomacy, clear moral purpose, and some tough decisions and the toughest came on Iraq. 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 and we know that September the 11th requires our country to think differently: we must, and we will, confront threats to America before it is too late. In Saddam Hussein, we saw a threat. Members of both political Parties, including my opponent and his running mate, saw the threat and voted to authorize the use of force. We went to the United Nations Security Council, which passed a unanimous Resolution demanding the dictator disarm or face serious consequences: leaders in the Middle East urged him to comply. 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: do I forget the lessons of September the 11th and take the word of a madman or do I take action to defend our country? Faced with that choice, I will defend America every time. Because we acted to defend our country, the murderous regimes of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban are history, more than 50 million people have been liberated and Democracy is coming to the broader Middle East. In Afghanistan terrorists have done everything they can to intimidate people- yet more than 10 million citizens have registered to vote in the October presidential election, a resounding endorsement for Democracy. Despite ongoing acts of violence, Iraq now has a strong prime minister, a national council, and national elections are scheduled for January.
Bush continued: Our nation is standing with the people of Afghanistan and Iraq because, when America gives its word, America must keep its word. As importantly, we are serving a vital and historic cause that will make our country safer. Free societies in the Middle East will be hopeful societies which no longer feed resentments and breed violence for export- free governments in the Middle East will fight terrorists instead of harboring them and that helps us keep the peace. So our mission in Afghanistan and Iraq is clear: we will help new leaders to train their armies and move toward elections and get on the path of stability and Democracy as quickly as possible- and then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned... Our allies also know the historic importance of our work: about 40 nations stand beside us in Afghanistan and some 30 in Iraq. I deeply appreciate the courage and wise counsel of leaders like Prime Minister Howard, President Kwasniewski, Prime Minister Berlusconi and, of course, Prime Minister Tony Blair. Again, my opponent takes a different approach: in the midst of war, he has called American allies 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. I respect every soldier, from every country, who serves beside us in the hard work of History: America is grateful and America will not forget- the people we have freed won't forget either... I am proud our country remains the hope of the oppressed and the greatest hope for good on this Earth.
Others understand the historic importance of our work, Bush noted. The terrorists know- they know that a vibrant, successful democracy at the heart of the Middle East will discredit their radical ideology of Hate. They know that men and women with hope and purpose and dignity do not strap bombs on their bodies and kill the innocent. The terrorists are fighting Freedom with all their cunning and cruelty because Freedom is their greatest fear and they should be afraid because Freedom is on the march. I believe in the transformational power of Liberty: the wisest use of American strength is to advance Freedom. As the citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq seize the moment, their example will send a message of hope throughout a vital region: Palestinians will hear the message that Democracy and Reform are within their reach and so is peace with our good friend Israel, young women across the Middle East will hear the message that their day of equality and justice is coming, young men will hear the message that national progress and dignity are found in Liberty- not Tyranny and Terror. Reformers and political prisoners and exiles will hear the message that their dream of Freedom cannot be denied forever. And as Freedom advances- heart by heart and nation by nation- America will be more secure and the world more peaceful. America has done this kind of work before and there have always been doubters...
The progress we and our friends and allies seek in the broader Middle East will not come easily or all at once, the President warned. Yet Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of Liberty to transform lives and nations. That power brought settlers on perilous journeys, inspired colonies to rebellion, ended the sin of slavery and set our Nation against the tyrannies of the 20th Century. We were honored to aid the rise of Democracy in Germany and Japan, Nicaragua and Central Europe and the Baltics- and that noble story goes on. I believe that America is called to lead the cause of Freedom in a new Century- I believe that millions in the Middle East plead in silence for their Liberty. I believe that, given the chance, they will embrace the most honorable form of government ever devised by man- I believe all these things because Freedom is not America's gift to the world, it is the Almighty God's gift to every man and woman in this world. This moment in the life of our country will be remembered: generations will know if we kept our faith and kept our word. Generations will know if we seized this moment and used it to build a future of safety and peace: the freedom of many, and the future security of our Nation, now depend on us. And tonight, my fellow Americans, I ask you to stand with me.
Bush continued: In the last four years, you and I have come to know each other- even when we don't agree, at least you know what I believe and where I stand. You may have noticed I have a few flaws, too: people sometimes have to correct my English. I knew I had a problem when Arnold Schwarzenegger started doing it, he joked. Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger which, in Texas, is called "walking". Now and then, I come across as a little too blunt and, for that, we can all thank the white-haired lady sitting right up there [the President pointed in the direction of his mother, the former First Lady, seated in the gallery]. One thing I've learned about the Presidency is that, whatever shortcomings you have, people are going to notice them and, whatever strengths you have, you're going to need them. These four years have brought moments I could not foresee and will not forget... I've learned firsthand that ordering Americans into battle is the hardest decision, even when it is right... I've met with the parents and wives and husbands who have received a folded flag and said a final goodbye to a soldier they loved. I am awed that so many have used those meetings to say that I'm in their prayers and to offer encouragement to me. Where does strength like that come from? How can people so burdened with sorrow also feel such pride? It is because they know their loved one was last seen doing good, because they know that Liberty was precious to the one they lost- and, in those military families, I have seen the character of a great Nation: decent, idealistic and strong. The world saw that spirit three miles from here, when the people of this city faced peril together and lifted a flag over the ruins and defied the enemy with their courage. My fellow Americans, for as long as our country stands, people will look to the resurrection of New York City and they will say 'Here buildings fell- here a Nation rose'...
All of this has confirmed one belief beyond doubt, President Bush declared: having come this far, our tested and confident Nation can achieve anything. To everything we know there is a season: a time for sadness, a time for struggle, a time for rebuilding- and now we have reached a time for hope. This young Century will be Liberty's century. By promoting Liberty abroad, we will build a safer world- by encouraging liberty at home, we will build a more hopeful America. Like generations before us, we have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for Freedom: this is the everlasting dream of America and tonight, in this place, that dream is renewed. Now we go forward- grateful for our freedom, faithful to our cause and confident in the future of the greatest nation on Earth.
President Bush waved from his platform and was soon joined, first, by the First Lady and then by Vice President and Mrs. Cheney, as they acknowledged the cheers of celebrating Republicans. Red, white and blue balloons rained down from the rafters of the Garden, the wives fell back and the Republican nominees were left alone for the inevitable (well-- these two men being Republicans, after all [;-)]) "arms around the shoulders" moment. Then the President's daughters and his parents came out for yet another traditional end of Convention tableau. Next came a storm of multi-colored confetti and the appearance of various and sundry Republican Party functionaries.
The benediction was given by Archbishop Edward Cardinal Egan of New York before there was yet another presentation, country singer Leanne Womack singing amidst seated children. After this Convention Permanent Chair U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert entertained a motion that the Convention be adjourned sine die. It was so adopted viva voce. At 11:35 PM EDT (0335 UTC), the 2004 Republican National Convention- like the Democrats' Convention a little over a month before- passed into History.
At this point, the start of the Labor Day weekend was but a little over 24 hours away. Fall was coming soon. The final phase of the 2004 Presidential Election campaign was about to begin in earnest.