- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2000

Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush backhanded the scandal-ridden Clinton-Gore administration Thursday night for eight years of missed opportunities and promised to fix the damage if he and Richard B. Cheney are elected.
"They have not led. We will," he said over and over as he repeatedly brought delegates at the Republican National Convention screaming to their feet on the final night.
"After all of the shouting and all of the scandal, after all of the bitterness and broken faith, we can begin again. The wait has been long, but it won't be long now."
Picking up where his running mate left off the night before, Mr. Bush pounded the Clinton administration for an opportunity "squandered."
"For eight years, the Clinton-Gore administration has coasted through prosperity. And the path of least resistance is always downhill," he said.
He said Vice President Al Gore's policy of calling Bush proposals risky schemes adds up to "the politics of the roadblock" in the way of progress.
"He now leads the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But the only thing he has to offer is fear itself … always seeing the tunnel at the end of the light," Gov. Bush said.
"If my opponent had been there at the moon launch, it would have been a 'risky rocket scheme.' If he'd been there when Edison was testing the light bulb, it would have been a 'risky anti-candle scheme.' And if he'd been there when the Internet was invented," Mr. Bush jibed, sparking laughter and then cheers.
His far-ranging speech accepting the nomination promised broad economic change, including tax cuts in every bracket, with 10 percent for the lowest and no one paying more than one-third of his income.
Mr. Bush appeared almost magically before the convention, already standing on stage when a campaign biographical video ended and the lights came up.
By then there were more people standing on chairs than sitting in them and some never sat down during the entire speech.
Despite the cheers he generated, Mr. Bush failed to send the crowd into chants as Mr. Cheney had Wednesday night when he got the delegates roaring "time for them to go" and "no, no" at his jabs at Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore.
Democrats stalking what they called the "GOP's masquerade ball" acknowledged Mr. Bush's pledge to keep his speech short, about half the length of President Bush's 1992 acceptance.
"As advertised, Governor Bush's speech was short. Short on length, short on substance, and short on real ideas for working families," said Gore 2000 spokesman Douglas Hattaway.
The Texas governor, who seeks to avenge the 1992 defeat of his father and become the second son of a president elected to the White House, joined the bilingual cast on the final night of the convention, riding an impressive seven-point bounce in the polls.
The bipartisan voter.com-Battleground tracking poll showed him leading Mr. Gore by 13 points yesterday compared with six points Saturday, and he hammered toward improving that score with rhetoric and ridicule of the Clinton-Gore administration.
In his speech, Mr. Bush reiterated campaign trail promises to sign a bill banning partial-birth abortions and to support school choice vouchers.
He avoided specific reference to impeachment of President Clinton but not to the troubles that led to it and seemed anxious to put distance between himself and the deep divisions on Capitol Hill.
"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," Mr. Bush said.
The formally anointed candidate officially declared the nominee by acclamation after the roll call ended at 2,058-1 said a Bush-Cheney administration that would move into the White House Jan. 20 will exploit the wave of prosperity to:
Overhaul the tax system: "Abolish the death tax and reduce tax rates for everyone, in every bracket."
Build up military forces: "Give our military the means to keep the peace … and a commander in chief who respects our men and women in uniform and a commander in chief who earns their respect."
Expand Medicare coverage for prescription drugs: "Make prescription drugs available and affordable for every senior who needs them."
Improve education: "Local people should control local schools … and parents should get the money to make a different choice."
Assure the safety of Social Security: "I intend to fix it."
His pledge to protect Social Security was framed in the kind of never-ever terms that evoked his father's 1988 "read my lips" pledge against new taxes, which he broke.
"You earned your benefits, you made your plans, and President George W. Bush will keep the promise of Social Security no changes, no reductions, no way."
Mr. Bush's speech, the long-anticipated highlight of the convention in First Union Center, contained no new policy proposals but filled in gaps on the issues he already had raised.
"If you give me your trust, I will honor it. Grant me a mandate, and I will use it. Give me the opportunity to lead this nation, and I will lead," he said, pausing for applause at the end of each phrase.
"We will use these good times for great goals," he told the cheering delegates, while talking also to potential voters of all parties on a climactic night GOP strategists predicted would draw the week's largest television audience.
"In a sense, he's talking to the American people, not the convention. Dick Cheney was talking to the convention," said Christopher J. McCabe, a Maryland delegate to the convention and a state senator.
"Times of plenty, like times of crisis, are tests of American character," Mr. Bush said, accusing the Clinton-Gore administration of failing that test after defeating his father, President George Bush, on a slogan of "It's the economy, stupid."
"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? So much promise to no great purpose.
"They had their chance. They have not led. We will," he said. "We will seize this moment of American promise. We will use these good times for great goals.
"Gaining this office is not the ambition of a lifetime, but it is the opportunity of a lifetime," and said the contest over the next 96 days "will be a tough race, down to the wire."
Mr. Bush even defined his campaign catch-phrase, compassionate conservatism: "It is to put conservative values and conservative ideas into the thick of the fight for justice and opportunity. This is what I mean by compassionate conservatism. And on this ground we will govern our nation."
Mr. Bush also quoted the late poet Robert Frost at one point and became poetic himself at another.
"America's way is the rising road. This nation is daring and decent and ready for change," he said.
When the nominee finished on schedule at 10:59 p.m., he and his wife, Laura, strolled arm in arm across the stage to meet Mr. Cheney and his wife, Lynne.
By that time the air was filled with more than 150,000 balloons and so many pieces of plastic confetti that the stars of the show couldn't be seen at times.
The 4,000-word speech was the finale of a four-day convention that will become a model of unity and staging. Because of Mr. Bush's dominance in early primaries, the gathering was the most tightly scripted convention that did not involve renomination of a sitting president.
Much of the large Bush family sat in the VIP box to watch the eldest son start what could be the road to the White House, the first time a son will have followed his father into that executive mansion since John Quincy Adams.
And one member Bush nephew George P. Bush, 24 took to the speakers' stand to give a bilingual speech dramatizing a vision of diversity that permeated the convention's first three nights. The brief speech reinforced the nominee's pledge to make the GOP the party of "idealism and inclusion."
"A good man, un hombre con grandes sentimientos, who loves his family and his country," said, George P., whom President George Bush his grandfather once called "the little brown one."
"Now is the time to make sure the American dream touches every willing heart, no matter the color of your skin or the accent of your speech," said the younger George Bush, who taught ninth-graders his first year out of college.
Spanish mingled with English in other speeches as well, including by actress Bo Derek and by California Assemblyman Abel Maldonado, who spoke entirely in Spanish, with televised subtitles that drew applause at the right places.
"George W. Bush respects our heritage and values our culture," Mr. Maldonado said. "Cuban brothers, Dominican brothers, Puerto Rican brothers, Mexican brothers … we may come from different countries, but we share the same goals: a better life for our children, a first-class education, a safe world, a world full of opportunities. The man we have nominated understands our concerns and shares our dreams my pal, the next president of the United States, George W. Bush."
Stephen Dinan contributed to this article.

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