Wed, Sep 01, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Republicans tout Bush's 9/11 record

WAR LEADER Chest-thumping was the order of the day as the party used the opportunity of its New York setting to hype the `war on terror'

AFP , NEW YORK

US Senator John McCain gestures as he delivers his speech during the first day of the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Monday.

PHOTO: EPA

Ignoring warnings not to make political capital out of September 11, US Republicans did just that going into day two of their convention on Tuesday aimed at sending George W. Bush back to the White House.

Just a few miles from Ground Zero, where the 2001 attacks toppled the World Trade Center, the Republican party kicked off its four-day gala Monday with an emotional appeal that stirred up memories of the worst attack ever on US soil.

Senator John McCain, former New York mayor Rudoph Giuliani and a host of other speakers hailed Bush as a strong leader who deserved another four-year term to continue his post-9/11 war on global terrorism.

Meanwhile many also sharpened their knives for Democratic challenger John Kerry, portraying him as a fickle and waffling politician who consistently had found a way to be on both sides of every issue.

McCain, respected by many Americans for his service in the Vietnam war, hailed Bush's leadership since the attacks and dismissed any suggestion that his fight against terrorism was unjustified.

"We are engaged in a hard struggle against a cruel and determined adversary. Our enemies have made clear the danger they pose to our security and to the very essence of our culture -- liberty," McCain told the convention.

"Only the most deluded of us could doubt the necessity of this war," he said in a speech repeatedly interrupted by applause. "President Bush deserves not only our support, but our admiration."

While McCain held off from personally attacking Kerry, other speakers ridiculed the Democratic senator from Massachusetts.

"This is no time to pick a leader who is weak on the war and wrong on taxes," said Dennis Hastert, Republican speaker of the House of Representatives.

Giuliani, mayor of New York city at the time, said Bush's reaction to the attacks had already "earned [him] a place in our history as a great American president," while also taking repeated swipes at Kerry.

"People in public office at times do change their minds," Giuliani said. "But John Kerry has made it the rule to change his position, rather than the exception."

The symbolism of the September 11 attacks carry great weight for Bush, and the administration has said it has intelligence that al-Qaeda may want to strike again before the election.

A high-tech intelligence analysis centre with staff drawn from 20 agencies opened in New York last week to guard against the possibility of terrorist attacks.

SWAT teams in all-black riot gear, secret service agents, New York police and other security personnel have turned the normally bustling area around Madison Square Garden into a virtual fortress.

The Republicans featured a constant stream of other reminders of the attacks, including Tara Stackpole, whose fireman husband died in the twin towers disaster and whose son is heading to Iraq.

"America must never forget the sacrifices of September 11 or those that are made every day by our sons and daughters in the military service," she said, calling for a moment of prayer.

McCain himself teared up before the crowd as he came to end of his emotional speech.

"Stand up with our president and fight," he said as his eyes welled with tears. "We're Americans, and we'll never surrender."

Nearly 5,000 delegates and thousands more guests jammed New York's famed Madison Square Garden, which was decked out in red, white and blue for the Republican gala that will climax when the president arrives on Thursday.

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