- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2000

PHILADELPHIA — Two of Gov. George W. Bush's biggest guns — wife Laura and retired Gen. Colin Powell — fired a kinder, gentler opening salvo last night in a 99-day political crusade to take back the White House his father lost eight years ago.
"His core principles will not change with the winds of polls or politics or fame or fortune or misfortune," Mrs. Bush assured thousands of Republican National Convention delegates after a sleepless night preparing for the speech of a lifetime.
America wants a president who reflects "its heart and its values and its leadership in the world," Mrs. Bush said. "They will be looking for someone to uphold that high honor and that trust."
Gen. Powell called on the GOP to follow Mr. Bush's example and reach out to black America, or risk the consequences.
"We must understand the cynicism that exists in the black community. The kind of cynicism that is created when, for example, some in our party miss no opportunity to roundly and loudly condemn affirmative action that helped a few thousand black kids get an education, but hardly a whimper is heard from them over affirmative action for lobbyists who load our federal tax codes with preferences for special interests," said Gen. Powell who suggested Mr. Bush would change that.
"Gov. Bush doesn't just talk about reform. He reforms," said Gen. Powell, who swore off elective office for himself despite pressure to run for president and Mr. Bush's entreaties to be his running mate.
"This is the time, and in Gov. George Bush, we have the leader," Gen. Powell said.
Gen. Powell and Mrs. Bush were the key speakers on opening night from a platform that put no barriers between personalities and delegates, symbolizing an openness not seen since before the riotous and fearful 1968 conventions after the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King.
The former president and his wife Barbara, tanned and smiling, waved to the delegates from seats in the first balcony during a brief standing ovation but then happily waved off a nostalgic chanting demonstration.
Almost nine hours after a Texas delegate put Mr. Bush's name in nomination in a strangely obscure process without press release, hype or transcripts, the Texas first lady and Gen. Powell were feature players in the one-hour prime time television slot.
Voting already had started last night in act one of a four-night playlet that has very little plot and no suspense.
When the alphabetical roll call was suspended after Iowa, the vote stood at 283-5 for Mr. Bush over Alan Keyes, who held onto the five delegates he won in the Arkansas primary. The District of Columbia was the only local delegation reached, and it cast its 15 votes for Mr. Bush.
Although the big moment won't come until Wednesday, there never was any question that Mr. Bush would collect the 1,034 votes needed to approve the nomination put on the record by Texas Lt. Gov. Rick Perry, who will become governor if Mr. Bush is elected president.
The hall was uncrowded at the time, and most TV cameras turned off at 1:20 p.m. when Mr. Perry used his three minutes in the spotlight — from the floor, not the usual podium spot — to set his delegation to a paroxysm of screaming and waving of cowboy hats.
"I proudly place the name of the current governor of the state of Texas and next president of the United States into nomination, George W. Bush," Mr. Perry said.
Mr. Bush appeared briefly via satellite from the campaign trail in Ohio to personally introduce Gen. Powell who returned the favor by praising the governor's outreach to "white, black, Latino, Asian, Native-American."
"I know he can help bridge our racial divides," Gen. Powell said, pointedly using the "big tent" phrase coined by the late Lee Atwater, a strategist who helped put Mr. Bush's father in the White House in 1988.
Gen. Powell said the work must begin with children.
"We have much more work to do and a long way to go to bring the promise of America to every American," said Gen. Powell, himself the son of Jamaican immigrants who grew up a slum kid in the Bronx.
"We either build our children or we build more jails. It's time to stop building jails," he said.
Four years ago Gen. Powell heard scattered boos when he mentioned the abortion issue, saying, "I believe in a woman's right to choose, and I strongly support affirmative action."
He didn't mention abortion last night and his references to choice had to do with where parents want to school their children, a popular issue among Republicans who may not agree with Gen. Powell's support for abortion and affirmative action.
Mr. Bush has said he disagrees with Gen. Powell on both counts, but his campaign strategist Karl Rove said the military leader's speech helps define Mr. Bush's campaign anyway.
"The signal this sends is that Republicans want to take the next step in improving the lives of all Americans and it shows what the governor means by compassionate conservatism," Mr. Rove said.
"I think General Powell's speech shows that Republicans are diverse and tolerant — not just the classic white, rich guys with an attitude," said Jose Alcaraz, 43, a Miami accountant and a convention delegate.
"He's a great leader who differs with a lot of us on some issues. It shows you that the Republican Party is diverse," said Randy Tate, former executive director of the Christian Coalition.
Mrs. Bush, a former librarian plugging books for children, may have dreaded having to speak in public but she seemed confident and sounded very much like her mother in law, former first lady Barbara Bush, as she plugged a reading initiative she said could cost $5 billion.
"One of the major reasons George is running for president is to make sure every child in America has that same opportunity to grow up reading," she said, promising he won't fold under pressure.
"I know because I've known him through big legislative successes and a few defeats," said Mrs. Bush who acknowledged yesterday having a speepless Sunday night in anticipation of her big speech. "George never loses sight of home plate… .
"I am honored — and a little overwhelmed — to help open the convention that will nominate my husband for president of the United States," she said.
Delegates filing into the hall last night found thousands of campaign signs conveniently stacked on their chairs as handy aids for a readymade demonstration to show their excitement later in the evening.


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