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Published: Sunday, 9/5/2004

Now the REAL campaign

President George W. Bush's speech Thursday night accepting the Republican nomination was an affirmation of what he sees as his achievements in his first term, accomplishments which he and a convention hall full of enthusiastic Republican supporters clearly saw as reasons to re-elect him to a second term.

The speech itself, as such speeches are, did not contain many specifics on what programs Mr. Bush would implement through legislation and regulation in a second term. On the domestic front, he pledged to make his tax cuts permanent and to improve the tax code.

He promised medical liability reform and movement toward what the Republicans are calling an "ownership society," transferring responsibility for financing medical care and retirement from the government to the individual as personal "Social Security" and health care "savings accounts."

Mr. Bush's speech and the rhetoric of the four-day affair in general stressed heavily the quality of his leadership after the 9/11 attack - the reason for the Republicans' choice of otherwise politically hostile New York for the convention. He also continues to tie the war on Iraq to the 9/11 attacks, even though the absence of intelligence establishing a link between the two has been firmly established.

His claims that the United States has brought liberty to Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Libya, and Iraq are at radical variance with the reality of those countries. It is pure fantasy, in fact, for Mr. Bush to claim that the United States has liberated the 50 million people of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Looking at the four days as a whole it is fair to say that the thousands of protesters in New York did have their say, although many ended up getting arrested.

Interesting speakers other than Mr. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney included California superstar Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and the Republicans' odd choice as keynote speaker, Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia.

It was interesting to see who didn't speak, including former President George H.W. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Their absence could indicate that they won't be around for a second Bush term if there is one, or that the campaign leadership perceives them as losing cards in the electoral fray.

Perhaps the most striking phenomenon of the week in terms of the Republican Party's presidential election prospects was the firm confidence and assurance that both Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney conveyed in their appearances before the convention.

They both clearly believe they are going to win a second term. Whether they are gauging national opinion correctly on that score remains to be seen over the next two months. The four debates are the next important steps in the process.



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