- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 2, 2004

Excerpts of President Bush’s speech last night to the Republican National Convention as prepared for delivery at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Mr. Chairman, delegates, fellow citizens, I am honored by your support, 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. 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. …

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 am running for president with a clear and positive plan to build a safer world, and a more hopeful America. …

My plan begins with providing the security and opportunity of a growing economy. 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. …

The American people deserve — and our economic future demands — a simpler, fairer, pro-growth system. In a new term, I will lead a bipartisan effort to reform and simplify the federal tax code. …

We will offer a tax credit to encourage small businesses and their employees to set up health savings accounts, and provide direct help for low-income Americans to purchase them. …

As I have traveled our country, I have met too many good doctors, especially [obstetricians and gynecologists], who are being forced out of practice because of the high cost of lawsuits. To make health care more affordable and accessible, we must pass medical liability reform now. And in all we do to improve health care in America, we will make sure that health decisions are made by doctors and patients, not by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. …

Boosting ownership

Thanks to our policies, homeownership in America is at an all-time high. Tonight we set a new goal: 7 million more affordable homes in the next 10 years so more American families will be able to open the door and say, welcome to my home. …

We will always keep the promise of Social Security for our older workers. … We must strengthen Social Security by allowing younger workers to save some of their taxes in a personal account — a nest egg you can call your own, and government can never take away. …

These changing times can be exciting times of expanded opportunity. 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. To be fair, there are some things my opponent is for — he’s proposed more than $2 trillion in new federal spending so far, and that’s a lot, even for a senator from Massachusetts. 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 policies of the past. We are on the path to the future — and we are not turning back. …

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.

‘Conservative values’

My opponent recently announced that he is the candidate of “conservative values,” which must have come as a surprise to a lot of his supporters. Now, 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 — and you know where I stand. Three days after September 11th, I stood where Americans died, in the ruins of the Twin Towers. Workers in hard hats 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 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.

Our strategy is succeeding. Four years ago, Afghanistan was the home base of al Qaeda, Pakistan was a transit point for terrorist groups, Saudi Arabia was fertile ground for terrorist fund raising, Libya was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons, Iraq was a gathering threat, and al Qaeda was largely unchallenged as it planned attacks.

‘We saw a threat’

Today, the government of a free Afghanistan is fighting terror, Pakistan is capturing terrorist leaders, Saudi Arabia is making raids and arrests, Libya is dismantling its weapons programs, the army of a free Iraq is fighting for freedom, and more than three-quarters of al Qaeda’s key members and associates have been detained or killed.

We have led, many have joined, and America and the world are safer.

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 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 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. …

Historic struggle

Our troops know the historic importance of our work. One Army Specialist wrote home: “We are transforming a once sick society into a hopeful place. … The various terrorist enemies we are facing in Iraq,” he continued, “are really aiming at you back in the United States. This is a test of will for our country. We soldiers of yours are doing great and scoring victories in confronting the evil terrorists.”

That young man is right — our men and women in uniform are doing a superb job for America. Tonight I want to speak to all of them — and to their families: You are involved in a struggle of historic proportion.

Because of your service and sacrifice, we are defeating the terrorists where they live and plan, and making America safer. Because of you, women in Afghanistan are no longer shot in a sports stadium. Because of you, the people of Iraq no longer fear being executed and left in mass graves. Because of you, the world is more just and will be more peaceful. We owe you our thanks, and we owe you something more. We will give you all the resources, all the tools, and all the support you need for victory.

Again, my opponent and I have different approaches. I proposed, and the Congress overwhelmingly passed, $87 billion in funding needed by our troops doing battle in Afghanistan and Iraq. My opponent and his running mate voted against this money for bullets, and fuel, and vehicles, and body armor. When asked to explain his vote, the Senator said, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” Then he said he was “proud” of that vote. Then, when pressed, he said it was a “complicated” matter. There is nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat.

Our allies also know the historic importance of our work.

Honoring allies

About 40 nations stand beside us in Afghanistan, and some 30 in Iraq. And I deeply appreciate the courage and wise counsel of leaders like [Australian] Prime Minister Howard, and [Polish] President Kwasniewski, and [Italian] Prime Minister Berlusconi — and, of course, [British] Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Again, my opponent takes a different approach. In the midst of war, he has called America’s allies, quote, 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. …

Others understand the historic importance of our work. 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. …

Nation ‘called to lead’

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.

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. 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.

One thing I have 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 have tried to comfort Americans who lost the most on September 11th — people who showed me a picture or told me a story, so I would know how much was taken from them. I have learned first-hand that ordering Americans into battle is the hardest decision, even when it is right. I have returned the salute of wounded soldiers, some with a very tough road ahead, who say they were just doing their job. I’ve held the children of the fallen, who are told their dad or mom is a hero, but would rather just have their dad or mom.

And I have met with 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 am in their prayers — to offer encouragement to me.

A nation’s character

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, and 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, and here a nation rose.

We see America’s character in our military, which finds a way or makes one. We see it in our veterans, who are supporting military families in their days of worry. We see it in our young people, who have found heroes once again. We see that character in workers and entrepreneurs, who are renewing our economy with their effort and optimism. And all of this has confirmed one belief beyond doubt: 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.


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