W. Bush: 'I will make the most of it'

Friday, August 4th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

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Watch George Bush Speech

He pledged, in accepting the GOP nomination before cheering, placard-waving delegates, to "change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect" and sought to make a virtue of his lack of experience in the nation's capital.

"I don't have a lot of things that come with Washington experience," Mr. Bush said. "I don't have enemies to fight. I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years."

The Republican nominee accused his Democratic opponent, Al Gore, of embodying negative politics and, in a twist on the famous quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt, said, "The only thing he has to offer is fear itself."

The presidency, he added, "was made for great purposes," adding that "for me, gaining this office is not the ambition of a lifetime but it is the opportunity of a lifetime. And I will make the most of it."

And Mr. Bush used a line alluding to President Clinton that has repeatedly attracted cheers from campaign crowds, promising that when he takes the presidential oath, "I will swear to not only uphold the laws of our land, I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected, so help me God."

The 54-year-old governor, who seeks to become only the second president's son ever to win the White House, claimed the nomination before a packed house in the First Union Center that included his parents, George and Barbara Bush; his wife, Laura; their twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara; and dozens of other relatives.

Mr. Bush said his candidacy and this week's convention have renewed the Republican Party and set a revised course for the nation.

"We are now the party of ideas and innovation ... the party of idealism and inclusion ... the party of a simple and powerful hope," he said. "My fellow citizens, we can begin again."

He had scathing comments – some direct, some indirect – for the Democratic administration of Mr. Clinton and Vice President Gore.

"Our current president embodied the potential of a generation," Mr. Bush said. " So many talents. So much charm. Such great skill. But, in the end, to what end?

"So much promise, to no great purpose."

The Clinton-Gore administration, he said, "has squandered" global leadership, done nothing to strengthen Social Security or Medicare, and disillusioned rather than taught the nation's children.

"This administration had its moment," Mr. Bush said. "They've had their chance. They have not led. We will."

He used a similar phrase four other times and then added: "And now they come asking for another chance, another shot.

"Our answer? Not this time. Not this year."

Mr. Bush outlined many of the proposals he has made during the campaign – such as tax cuts, private retirement accounts and a missile defense system – and noted that Mr. Gore, whom he referred to as "my opponent," called each of them "a risky scheme."

"It is the sum of his message – the politics of the roadblock, the philosophy of the stop sign," Mr. Bush said. "If my opponent had been there at the moon launch, it would have been a 'risky rocket scheme.' If he'd been there when Edison was testing the light bulb, it would have been a 'risky anti-candle scheme.'

"And if he'd been there when the Internet was invented, well ..." Mr. Bush said, deriding Mr. Gore's oft-quoted statement about his role in developing the Web, to roars of approval from the crowd.

"He now leads the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt," the GOP nominee said. "But the only thing he has to offer is fear itself.

"That outlook is typical of many in Washington," Mr. Bush continued, contrasting it with his own Midland upbringing, which he said "has made me a different leader."

He invoked the name of the late Democratic Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, with whom he worked closely in Austin, in warning "those who would malign our state for political gain: 'Don't mess with Texas.'"

Earlier in the evening, the lieutenant governor's widow, Jan Bullock, gave a speech praising Mr. Bush for fostering bipartisanship in Austin.

In entrusting this year's campaign to Mr. Bush, the GOP has tied its hopes for future success to a famous name from the past, hoping that he will emulate his father's successful race for the White House in 1988, rather than his failure to win re-election four years later.

Fifteen minutes into the Bush speech, the Gore campaign issued a statement characterizing it as a "Texas two-step" – devoid of substance, full of empty rhetoric. "He offered up only the tired old Republican formula of personal attacks, vague phrases and rehashed platitudes," the Democrat's campaign said.

Though Mr. Bush has been campaigning for the White House for the past 14 months, the speech marked something of a national debut. It was the first time he has presented the case for his candidacy to so large an audience across the country and around the world.

The themes of his speech were the ones he repeatedly sounded in capturing the GOP nomination in last spring's primaries and caucuses.

"We will use these good times for great goals," he said. "We will confront the hard issues – threats to our national security, threats to our health and retirement security – before the challenges of our time become crises for our children.

"And we will extend the promise of prosperity to every forgotten corner of this country," he added.

Mr. Bush called for action in a number of specific areas, including reforming the nation's public schools, strengthening Social Security, modernizing Medicare and adding prescription drug benefits, rebuilding the military and providing tax relief for all Americans.

He said that too many Americans feel left out and left behind.

"We are their country, too," he said. "And each of us must share in its promise, or that promise is diminished for all."

The governor's triumphant night capped a meteoric rise that few could have foreseen when his father was voted out of office after a single term eight years ago.

But after the younger Mr. Bush captured the governorship in 1994 and Bob Dole lost the 1996 presidential election, his name suddenly emerged at the top of the public opinion polls. Even before his smashing re-election in 1998, many Republicans saw him as their best hope of regaining the presidency.

The governor's acceptance speech was preceded by the traditional video of his life and accomplishments and speeches by two longtime friends, Nancy Weiss and the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell of Houston.

Other speakers during the evening included his nephew George P. Bush, and Nancy Brinker of Dallas, who discussed breast cancer research. The program was replete with Texans. Besides Mrs. Bullock, Phyllis Hunter of Sugar Land spoke on the governor's efforts to increase literacy.

And the invocation was given by the governor's pastor, the Rev. Mark Craig of Highland Park United Methodist Church.

As on the first three nights, several celebrity performers were on the program. They included actress Bo Derek; country music star Lorrie Morgan, who sang the national anthem; and recording star Chaka Khan, whose performance closed the convention.