- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 5, 2000

With his splendid delivery of his superb nomination acceptance speech Thursday evening, Texas Gov. George W. Bush has seriously complicated the slash-and-burn strategy that Vice President Al Gore's campaign has in store for him. By outlining a program that promises to meet "the test of leadership," Mr. Bush eloquently made the case for voters to choose "a new beginning" during this era of prosperity. Confident that his message will be accepted, Mr. Bush predicted "An era of tarnished ideals is giving way to a responsibility era, and it won't be long now."

The Republican presidential nominee poetically wove the ideas of American promise, character, courage, challenge and greatness into a call for the sons and daughters of his father's generation "a great generation … of Americans who stormed the beaches, liberated concentration camps and delivered us from evil" to seize the moment to build and better the nation they have inherited. "Never has the promise of prosperity been so vivid," Mr. Bush acknowledged. "But times of plenty, like times of crisis, are tests of the American character."

"Greatness is found when American character and American courage overcome American challenges," the Republican presidential nominee observed. Unfortunately, "For eight years, the Clinton-Gore administration has coasted through prosperity," Mr. Bush charged. "This administration had its moment. They had their chance. They have not led. We will."

Promising to meet "the test of leadership," Mr. Bush then outlined his program. Committing his party to be the party of reform, Mr. Bush noted that for decades Social Security has been called the third rail of American politics "the one you're not supposed to touch because it might shock you. But if you don't touch it, you cannot fix it. And I intend to fix it." He pledged to the elderly contrary to the fear-mongering certain to come from Mr. Gore's campaign that the promises made to them would be kept: "No changes, no reductions, no way." He offered younger workers the opportunity to invest a portion of their payroll taxes into personal retirement accounts to build a substantial nest egg over three or four decades.

Arguing that America ought to attack all forms of discrimination, Mr. Bush took aim at the "soft bigotry of low expectations" and condemned the practices of segregating too many children into schools without standards, where students are shuffled from one grade to the next without any regard for whether they can read or write. He pledged to hold schools receiving federal tax dollars accountable. "When a school district receives federal funds to teach poor children, we expect them to learn. And if they don't, parents should get the money to make a different choice."

At a time when federal taxes as a percentage of the economy are at the same level they were during World War II, Mr. Bush pledged to treat today's growing budget surpluses as "the people's money" not "the government's money," as Mr. Gore views them. Tax relief would be based on principle: Families would be free to pass on the fruits of their life's work to those they love as opposed to the government; no American would be compelled to pay more than a third of his income in income taxes; the lowest tax rate would plunge by a third, while the child tax credit would double.

At a time when the U.S. military is "low on parts, pay and morale," Mr. Bush promised Americans a Bush-Cheney administration would "give our military the means to keep the peace. And we will give it one thing more: a commander-in-chief who respects our men and women in uniform and a commander-in-chief who earns their respect." To the increasingly bellicose threats from the Russians and the Chinese and to the ballistic-missile threats posed by rogue nations, Mr. Bush forcefully responded, "At the earliest possible date, my administration will deploy missile defense to guard against attack and blackmail. Now is the time not to defend outdated treaties, but to defend the American people."

Mr. Bush also addressed the challenges posed by the serious social problems of poverty, prison, addiction and despair, much of which have seemingly been walled-off from the wealth, technology, education and the unlimited achievement produced by today's prosperity. "We must tear down that wall," Mr. Bush asserted, while arguing that "big government is not the answer." Here is where Mr. Bush's compassionate conservatism would have a major role. "[T]he alternative to bureaucracy is not indifference. It is to put conservative values and conservative ideas into the thick of the fight for justice and opportunity." He offered tax credits to low-income workers to purchase the private health insurance their families need. He pledged to provide hundreds of thousands of low-income families currently in the government's housing rental program with innovative help to achieve the dignity and stability found in home ownership.

He promised to give taxpayers increased incentives to donate to charities in order to "support the heroic work of homeless shelters and hospices, food pantries and crisis pregnancy centers people reclaiming their communities block by block, heart by heart." Citing the incomparable efforts to instill moral courage that are performed by private, often faith-based organizations, Mr. Bush rightly argues, "Government cannot do this work. It can feed the body, but it cannot reach the soul. Yet government can take the side of these groups, helping the helper, encouraging the inspired."

In this era of prosperity, Mr. Bush offers a different, compelling strategy to meet today's challenges. He convincingly argues that the current administration has squandered unprecedented opportunities. "Now they come asking for another chance, another shot. Our answer? Not this time. Not this year. This is not the time for third chances. It is time for new beginnings."

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