Bush Lays Out Second Term Agenda, Criticizes Kerry In Convention Speech
President Bush delivered his acceptance speech last night at the GOP convention in New York City. In remarks that lasted just over one hour, the President laid out his plans for a second term in office, devoting the first half of his address to domestic proposals his "ownership society" agenda and the second half to a defense of his decisions in the war on terror. As Newsday reports this morning, the President "offered himself to the voters as an amalgam of the 'compassionate conservative' of 2000 and a steel-souled chief executive tempered by three years of crisis and conflict."
According to the Washington Post, Bush last night promised major changes "in American society's most basic pillars: its health care system, pension plans, tax code and workplaces. Bush expanded on his push for more accountability in the nation's education system, proposing annual assessments and testing of high school students that go beyond those in his signature No Child Left Behind education law." He also "offered an idea that had been proposed by Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards: targeted tax breaks for geographical areas hit hard by difficult economic times."
Throughout the speech, Bush mentioned John Kerry several times, criticizing him for opposing his tax relief packages and the Medicare prescription drug package he signed into law last year, and for voting against a bill funding military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, Bush sought to buttress claims made by previous convention speakers that Kerry's "flip-flopping" makes him less than an ideal choice to lead the country through the war on terrorism. Overall, the Chicago Tribune reports, the President "sharply derided rival John Kerry as an indecisive, spendthrift Democrat who has the wrong vision to lead the nation at a historic moment." However, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says today, Bush "steered clear of the bilious rhetoric of the two main convention speakers Wednesday, Vice President Dick Cheney and Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia."
Toward the end of his speech, Bush became emotional as he discussed his meetings with the relatives of the 9/11 victims, and engaged in self-deprecating humor, saying, "Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called 'walking.'" Bush also said, "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," referring to his mother, Barbara Bush. Bush's humor was well received by media commentators. The AP, for example, says the President "offered Reagan-style optimism in a time of national testing, mixed with self-deprecating humor." The Los Angeles Times, on the other hand, saw the "more personal note" at the end of Bush's speech as an implicit acknowledgment of "the polarizing figure that he has become since winning the disputed 2000 election."
On ABC, news analyst George Stephanopoulos said that in the "last six paragraphs, the President did something he hasn't done before. A few months ago, he was asked at a press conference, what mistakes have you made in your Presidency? He said, 'I can't think of any.' Tonight, in those last six paragraphs, a bit of self-deprecation. . . . I think that is terribly important." Also on ABC, the network's political director Mark Halperin said, "I think the last six paragraphs. . .really are the key to the speech. . . . The President basically said, 'You know me. There are some things about me you like. There are some that you don't.' But it is the part that says, 'You know me,' implicitly saying, 'You don't know John Kerry, and in these dangerous times, you can't afford to change who your commander in chief is.'"