- The Washington Times - Friday, September 3, 2004

NEW YORK — Retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who this week endorsed President Bush, last night told the Republican National Convention that the president is the right man to lead the nation in the war on terror.

“I’ve been with this president in tough and uncertain times, and George W. Bush is the real thing,” said Gen. Franks, who guided U.S. military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“The past three years have been hard years, hard years, a time of hard decisions and tough choices. I have looked into this man’s eyes and I have seen his character. I’ve seen courage and I’ve seen consistency, the courage to stand up to terrorists and the consistency necessary to beat them.”

Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry focused much of his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention on his service in Vietnam in an effort to show he can be a wartime president.

Both campaigns say they must prove their nominee is the strongest person to lead the nation and will be victorious in the war on terror, a key issue with voters.

In his remarks last night, Gen. Franks took a stab at Mr. Kerry’s position during the Democratic primaries that the war should be treated primarily as a law-enforcement issue.

“Now some argue that we should treat this war as a law-enforcement issue. And some say we should fight a less aggressive war — that we should retreat into a defensive posture and hope that the terrorists don’t attack us again,” Gen. Franks said. “Well, my wife, Cathy, and I are simply not willing to bet the future of our grandchildren on the good will of murderers.”

He returned to this idea at the close of his speech, saying, “I choose President George W. Bush because I believe his leadership will help ensure a better future for my grandchildren — Anne Cathryn and Samuel Thomas Matlock.”

Gen. Franks’ comments echoed a central theme of Sen. Zell Miller’s stinging rebuke of Mr. Kerry as weak on national security in a speech to the convention on Wednesday night. The Georgia Democrat told the convention that his support of Mr. Bush across party lines was largely because of concern for his family in the ongoing war against terrorism.

Gen. Franks last night defended the president’s decision to invade Iraq.

“Today in Afghanistan and Iraq, more than 50 million men, women and children have been liberated from tyranny and these countries are no longer safe harbors for those who would launch the next attack against America,” he said.

“The global war on terrorism will be a long fight. But make no mistake about it: We are going to fight the terrorists. The question is: Do we fight them over there or do we fight them here?

“I choose to fight them over there.”

The retired general also asked the convention crowd to applaud the contributions of the countries that have joined the United States in the war on Saddam Hussein and the rebuilding of Iraq.

In a pointed reference to repeated criticisms by Mr. Kerry and other Democrats that Mr. Bush failed to rally enough support from the international community for the action in Iraq, Gen. Franks said, “Some have ridiculed the contributions made by our allies, but I can tell you that every contribution from every nation is important. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in thanking our coalition partners for being there when America and the world needed them most.”

Gen. Franks, who retired last summer after the invasion of Iraq, officially endorsed Mr. Bush Wednesday before he was added to the speaking roster.

In early August, Gen. Franks told ABC’s “This Week” that he hadn’t decided whether to endorse the president.

Gen. Franks said in newspaper interviews this week he does not want to make any negative comments about Mr. Kerry, calling the senator from Massachusetts “fully qualified” to be president “at another place in our history.”

Last night, he summed up his support for Mr. Bush by saying, “I choose George W. Bush because we know that the next 200 years of American history will depend on the decisions our nation makes today.”

Gen. Franks was introduced to the convention crowd by retired Marine Gen. P.X. Kelley, a longtime Bush supporter, and while he spoke, was backed by several retired generals and admirals. A roster of more than 200 other senior military officers who support Mr. Bush was shown on a screen behind him.

At the Democratic National Convention, retired Gen. John Shalikashvili and retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy spoke, along with Mr. Kerry’s former challenger, retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark.

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