Bush: We fight not for pride, not for power, but because lives are at stake

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The Independent US

Portraying himself as a clear-minded and decisive leader, George Bush last night pledged that if elected for a second term, he would continue the fight against terrorists "not for pride, not for power," but to keep America and the world a safe place to live.

Portraying himself as a clear-minded and decisive leader, George Bush last night pledged that if elected for a second term, he would continue the fight against terrorists "not for pride, not for power," but to keep America and the world a safe place to live.

In his acceptance speech climaxing the Republican convention here, Mr Bush offered his country "clear, consistent and principled leadership," insisting he had a "clear and positive plan" both for international affairs, and to set his country right at home.

Mr Bush's speech to a wildly cheering audience at Madison Square Garden arena capped a four-day convention launching the President into the last 60 days of a campaign which will determine whether he achieves the second White House term that eluded his father.

Immediately afterwards he left to campaign in Pennsylvania, a key swing state, which Mr Kerry must carry to win the Presidency. Though there appears to have been a slight shift of momentum towards Mr Bush in recent days, the two candidates are still running neck and neck in opinion polls.

"We have fought the terrorists across the earth not for pride, not for power, but because the lives of our citizens are at stake," Mr Bush told the 2,500 convention delegates here. "We are staying on the offensive abroad so we do not have to face them [the terrorists] here at home." For the turbulent Middle East region, he promised that his administration was working to advance freedom and peace. And, he added, "We will prevail."

The convention offered the President a golden -- and perhaps last -- chance to gain a clear lead over Mr Kerry. It was a prime time, nationally televised climax to what has been a four day party political broadcast for the Republicans belittling John Kerry as a "flip-flopper" who could not be trusted to protect US national security.

Indeed on Wednesday evening, as first keynote speaker Zell Miller and then Dick Cheney, the vice-President, ripped into Mr Kerry, delegates waved floppy plastic sandals (conveniently provided by convention organisers) to show what they thought of Mr Bush's opponent.

Last night however the President took the high road, referring only obliquely to his challenger. Not only did he list his achievements; he also set out an optimistic domestic agenda for his second term.

Pursuing the tax-cutting policies of his first term, Mr Bush promises large-scale revision and simplification of key social programmes. "Many of our most fundamental systems ­ the tax code, health coverage, pension plans, worker training ­ were created for the world of yesterday, not tomorrow," he declared.

He spoke from a specially built circular stage in the centre of the arena, linked to the main platform. The aim was to create a "theatre in the round" effect, highlighting the President's folksy style and increasing the immediacy of his appeal. Less respectful observers described the causeway extending into the arena as the "ego walk".

Kerry advisers here have mostly watched proceedings quietly from the sidelines. But they were stung by the withering attacks from Mr Cheney and Mr Miller, in contrast to the Democratic convention in Boston last month, where the order went out to avoid crude Bush-bashing. The Republicans showed no such squeamishness this week. The proceedings indeed have been negative advertising writ large, a sustained assault on Mr Kerry.

While Mr Miller projected cold anger, the vice-President exuded mocking sarcasm: "John Kerry talks about leading a more sensitive campaign against terror," Mr Cheney acidly commented on Wednesday, "as though al-Qa'ida will be impressed by our softer side."

But Kerry supporters yesterday claimed the negative tone might rebound against Republicans this autumn. "Delegates love this kind of stuff, but when we get past Labor Day [the holiday on Monday which traditionally kicks off the final campaign proper] I think this convention will prove to be a big mistake," Philadelphia Mayor John Street said. "People out in the neighbourhoods want to know what they [the Republicans] have to offer."

Today could bring a more important answer to that question than anything Mr Bush said last night. The August unemployment figures are due and analysts expect only a modest increase in the number of new jobs. If so, this will give further ammunition to Democrats, who charge that the President's tax-cutting policies have not helped ordinary workers but merely put money into the pockets of the rich.

This issue resonates especially in key swing states like Ohio, where Mr Kerry and his vice-Presidential running mate John Edwards were holding a mid-night rally, barely an hour after Mr Bush finished speaking in Madison Square Garden.

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