NEW YORK – President George W. Bush, seeking to soften an image that for many has been hardened by war, turned Tuesday to his weapons of choice: first lady Laura Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the action-hero actor turned moderate California governor.

“No American president ever wants to go to war,” Laura Bush said in remarks prepared for delivery to the delegates gathered here on the second night of the Republican National Convention.

“Abraham Lincoln didn’t want to go to war, but he knew that saving the union required it. Franklin Roosevelt didn’t want to go to war – but he knew defeating tyranny demanded it. And my husband didn’t want to go to war, but he knew the safety and security of the world depended on it.”

She said, “I remember some very quiet nights at the dinner table,” as her husband dealt with the consequences of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks – and “ominous intelligence reports” of “potentially even more devastating attacks” to come.

But she said the president had risen to those challenges, just as previous generations had met their own – in the Cold War and in World War II. She recalled the service of her own late father, in an Army unit that helped liberate the German concentration camp at Nordhausen.

“You can imagine his horror at what he found there,” Laura Bush said. “The methods of the terrorists we face today are different – but my father would know this struggle.”

The first lady’s address followed what for this convention was pure formality – Bush’s nomination to a second term, which occurred as Pennsylvania, not coincidentally a key battleground state, cast the votes that gave him the 1,255 he needed.

From Schwarzenegger, Bush got an often light-hearted rendition of his most serious themes, with a nod to some of the actor’s famous movies.

“If you believe this country, not the United Nations, is the best hope of democracy in the world, then you are a Republican!” Schwarzenegger’s advance text read. “If you believe we must be fierce and relentless and terminate terrorism, then you are a Republican!

“There is another way you can tell you’re a Republican,” he added. “You have faith in free enterprise, faith in the resourcefulness of the American people – and faith in the American economy. To those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say: Don’t be economic girlie men!”

Schwarzenegger voiced enthusiastic support for Bush, notwithstanding their stated differences on issues such as abortion and gay rights. He urged voters, especially fellow Republicans, to do the same.

“Maybe – just maybe – you don’t agree with this party on every single issue,” he said. “I say to you tonight I believe that’s not only okay – that’s what’s great about this country. Here we can respectfully disagree and still be patriotic – still be American – and still be good Republicans.”

Schwarzenegger said that he had declared himself a Republican shortly after his arrival in America, finding in the party an antidote to the socialist policies that he believed had failed in his native Austria. “I’ve been a Republican ever since – and believe me, in my wife’s family, that’s no small achievement!” he said, referring to his wife, Maria Shriver, and their many Kennedy relations.

Taking aim at one of the Democrats’ core slogans, Schwarzenegger derided the idea of “two Americas” divided by class or race. He said that anyone visiting U.S. soldiers would see the reverse – that “they believe we are one America – and they are fighting for it! We are one America – and President Bush is defending it with all his heart and soul!”

For delegates in Madison Square Garden and for television viewers around the country, the convention’s second night was carefully calibrated to showcase people-focused achievements that Bush’s advisers believe are little known because of the focus on terrorism and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rep. Ann Northrop, R-Ky., for example, introduced a video that touted Bush’s push for new laws that eased the way for couples to adopt children. More important, she noted that two or her own six children are adopted.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., the only doctor in the Senate, praised Bush for establishing new drug benefits for seniors – and assailed Kerry for distorting what Frist called the “record levels” of support Bush has approved for stem-cell research.

“John Kerry claims that the president has put a “sweeping ban’ on stem-cell research,” Frist said. “I challenge Mr. Kerry tonight: What ban? Shame on you, Mr. Kerry.”

Education Secretary Rod Paige said Bush had delivered on his 2000 campaign pledge by enacting tougher education standards in the law known as No Child Left Behind. He also introduced a video recalling Bush’s visit last January to Laclede School, a high-achieving inner-city school in St. Louis.

Bush visited the school in January, praising it as a place that has “shattered stereotypes” by raising test scores dramatically in recent years.


Tuesday’s short video opened with shots of the Mississippi River and the Gateway Arch, then cut to the school and news footage of Bush’s visit, in which he is talking with young children and reading to them. The school’s principal, Yolanda Moss, is interviewed throughout about the school and about Bush’s visit.

“The “No Child Left Behind Act’ supports what we’ve been doing here at … Laclede for the last 10-plus years,” Moss tells the interviewer in the video. “I would say “No Child Left Behind is working, I’m an advocate of it, I support it, and I say, “Go President Bush!”‘

Former Miss America Erika Harold of Urbana, Ill., backed the administration’s use of “faith-based initiatives” to address social issues.

“These initiatives turn compassion into action,” Harold said, relating the story of her tour of a Louisiana prison in which faith-based programs for the prisoners have been credited with reducing violence.


Compassionate conservatism was very much the message of the day.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson told Missouri delegates that Bush was bringing education and health care to millions in Afghanistan and Iraq and that he was the first president to spend real dollars on HIV-AIDS programs in Africa.

“I’m telling you that George Bush has delivered worldwide,” said Thompson.

Inside Madison Square Garden Tuesday night, delegates erupted in cheers and hoisted red, white and blue signs that read “Four More Years!”

Bush himself does not arrive in New York until Thursday, the night he speaks himself, but his family was well represented: His daughters Jenna and Barbara were in the arena, as were his parents, former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush.

(c) 2004, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): CVN-GOP

AP-NY-08-31-04 2227EDT

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