- The Washington Times - Monday, August 30, 2004

NEW YORK — Vice President Dick Cheney, standing on Ellis Island with the New York City skyline as a backdrop, said yesterday that the conspicuously missing World Trade Center that once towered over Manhattan should serve as a reminder of why America needs to re-elect President Bush.

“America’s still the land of golden dreams, and it’s the duty of our generation to make sure that our children and our children’s children have all of the opportunities that we have enjoyed and more,” Mr. Cheney said.

“That effort has to begin with keeping our nation safe. And a sure reminder of that is the skyline of this great city, which was altered so violently on September 11th, 2001,” he said.

Mr. Cheney spoke on the eve of the 2004 Republican National Convention, which opens today at Madison Square Garden and features prime-time speeches by Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

While Republicans welcomed Mr. Cheney with open arms, a mile-long throng of protesters estimated at 200,000 marched in the streets beating drums and shouting “No More Bush.” One group carried hundreds of coffins to symbolize the 971 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. A small group of masked “self-described” anarchists set fire to a float near the convention site, and police made more than 100 arrests.

Mr. Cheney, appearing with Mr. Giuliani and New York Gov. George E. Pataki, said his job for the next two months will be to tell Americans “how strong and steadfast our president is.”

“He is exactly the leader we need for these times, and we need him for four more years,” Mr. Cheney said to cheers from several hundred supporters.

Disregarding Democrats’ charges that any mention by Republicans this week of the September 11 attacks would be political grandstanding, Mr. Cheney and other speakers at the rally told supporters that the New York skyline is a vivid symbol of the threat the nation still faces.

“We can’t stand here without looking behind and seeing the skyline of the greatest city in the world missing something that meant so much to us, those two towers and all those people that we lost,” Mr. Giuliani said.

“So, throughout this week, as all Americans, we’ll remember them, and we’ll remember the support President Bush and Vice President Cheney gave us through those terrible and difficult days,” Mr. Giuliani told the crowd. “No one has been more steadfast than the president and vice president.”

The city’s skyline — minus the Trade Center towers demolished by terrorists flying hijacked passenger jets — prompts Americans to “remember what we don’t see,” Mr. Pataki said. “Those two towers that stood over the rest of this harbor were a symbol of the strength of this country.”

Mr. Giuliani noted that the altered skyline itself illustrates the resiliency of Americans. Behind the podium, huge orange scaffolding surrounded giant steel beams of a building under construction — 7 World Trade Center, “the last building to come down and the first one to be brought back.”

Mr. Pataki also said a new building — Freedom Tower — soon will soar 1,776 feet high, memorializing the dead and “symbolizing our belief in America.”

“And none of that would have happened but for the leadership that our president and our vice president have provided to New York,” Mr. Pataki said.

Mr. Cheney said that in the days after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, Americans saw “a man calm in a crisis, comfortable with responsibility and determined to do everything necessary to protect our people.”

The vice president and his entourage arrived at the small island aboard a flotilla of watercraft, with at least a dozen police boats swarming around Mr. Cheney’s vessel, Liberty IV. Security was tight, with helicopters overhead and sharpshooters atop the building where newly arrived immigrants once passed through customs inspections. At one point during Mr. Pataki’s speech, an orange chopper flew directly over the small stage, drowning out his words for nearly 30 seconds.

Mr. Cheney arrived at Ellis Island with his wife, Lynne, on their 40th wedding anniversary and with three granddaughters, who briefly joined their grandparents on stage. “If we leave them up here they steal the show during my speech, so we got rid of them,” he said, drawing laughter.

Mr. Cheney made no secret of the reason for his New York visit: “All of us are gathering here this week for one reason and one reason only, and that is to make certain that George W. Bush is president for the next four years.”

Mr. Cheney is scheduled to address the convention Wednesday, when Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said the vice president will speak about Mr. Bush’s leadership qualities from his “unique perspective” because he “sees it every day.”

Mr. Gillespie also said Mr. Cheney’s speech helps soften the gruff persona he has earned in his decades in politics.

“He’s also a good guy,” Mr. Gillespie said. “I wouldn’t be unhappy to see that come out.”

Republicans have made clear that they will not shy away from the memory of the September 11 attacks. Mr. Cheney yesterday recalled Mr. Bush’s bullhorn-wielding visit to the rubble of the collapsed Trade Center towers to cheer on rescue workers still hoping to find survivors three days after the catastrophe.

“We all remember when the president came to New York City to visit with Mayor Giuliani and Governor Pataki, and when the workers at ground zero shouted that they could not hear him, he shouted back, ‘I can hear you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will soon hear from all of us,’” Mr. Cheney said to loud applause.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush campaigned in West Virginia, a swing state, chastising opponent Sen. John Kerry as a flip-flopper who once described coal as a dirty source of energy.

“He’s out there mining for votes. Be careful of somebody whose position shifts in the wind,” Mr. Bush said during the latest stop in his weeklong tour of key states ahead of his arrival in New York on Wednesday.

James G. Lakely contributed to this report.

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