Cheney hails Bush's policies, scorns Kerry

Democrat Miller joins in decrying Mass. senator

Economic woes explained away

Cheney says incumbent has `moral seriousness'

Election 2004 -- The Republican Convention

September 02, 2004|By Julie Hirschfeld Davis | Julie Hirschfeld Davis,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

NEW YORK - Georgia Sen. Zell Miller delivered a scathing condemnation of fellow Democrat John Kerry as "wrong," "weak" and "wobbly" on national security, joining Vice President Dick Cheney last night in denouncing President Bush's opponent as an indecisive, unreliable politician.

As Bush prepared to accept the presidential nomination tonight on the last day of the Republican National Convention, Miller turned on his party and excoriated it as one with a "warped way of thinking" that has divided and weakened the nation in its "manic obsession to bring down our commander-in-chief."

But he saved his harshest rhetoric for Kerry, saying, "For more than 20 years, on every one of the great issues of freedom and security, John Kerry has been more wrong, more weak and more wobbly than any other national figure."

Cheney echoed Miller's message - if not his vitriolic tone - as he offered a spirited defense not only of Bush's policies, but also of the president's leadership style.

"History has shown that a strong and purposeful America is vital to preserving freedom and keeping us safe - yet time and again Senator Kerry has made the wrong call on national security," Cheney said.

"A senator can be wrong for 20 years, without consequence to the nation. But a president - a president always casts the deciding vote. And in this time of challenge, America needs - and America has - a president we can count on to get it right."

Bush arrived in New York last night and visited firefighters and other supporters in Queens as he prepared to deliver his pivotal convention speech tonight, which could determine whether the gathering boosts his campaign going into the two critical months before Election Day.

"Tomorrow night, I'm going to say there's nothing this country can't do when we put our minds together," Bush told the firefighters during his visit.

He has begun to open a slight advantage against Kerry in polls conducted in late August - a possible result of TV ads by the Republican-backed group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth branding the Democrat a traitor to veterans and alleging that he lied to win medals.

But strategists believe Bush must widen his lead to harness the momentum of the party convention.

`Patience and calm'

Cheney, who added experience and gravitas to the Republican ticket during Bush's 2000 bid, said Bush "saw this country through grief and tragedy."

"He has acted with patience, and calm, and a moral seriousness that calls evil by its name," Cheney said. "In the great divide of our time, he has put this nation where America always belongs: against the tyrants of this world, and on the side of every soul on Earth who yearns to live in freedom.

"He is a person of loyalty and kindness - and he brings out these qualities in those around him," Cheney said. "He is a man of great personal strength - and more than that, a man with a heart for the weak, and the vulnerable, and the afflicted."

Delving into Kerry's 19-year record as a Massachusetts senator, Cheney argued that the Democrat was a serial waffler whose various positions on going to war in Iraq were part of a larger pattern of changing his votes on issues from trade to education.

Delegates interrupted Cheney with chants of "flip-flop, flip-flop!" as they waved their arms back and forth in the air.

"His back-and-forth reflects a habit of indecision, and sends a message of confusion," Cheney said. "On the question of America's role in the world, the differences between Senator Kerry and President Bush are the sharpest, and the stakes for the country are the highest."

After Cheney's speech, he was joined onstage by his wife, Lynne; daughter, Liz; and her husband and three children. Cheney's other daughter, Mary, and her lesbian partner, who were sitting in the vice president's box during Cheney's speech, left the hall quietly as the rest of the family waved to the crowd from the stage.

Miller, who has routinely broken with his party to side with Republicans and recently published a book denouncing Democrats, recited a series of weapons systems that Kerry has voted against.

"This is the man who wants to be the commander-in-chief of our U.S. armed forces?" he asked rhetorically. "U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?"

A dozen years ago, Miller spoke in the same hall at his own party's convention, attacking Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, and urging that voters unseat him as president in favor of Bill Clinton.

But last night, the Georgia Democrat said Kerry, who has criticized Bush for failing to forge an international consensus before invading Iraq, "would let Paris decide when America needs defending. I want Bush to decide."

"President Bush is committed to providing the kind of forces it takes to root out terrorists," Miller said. "From John Kerry, [terrorists] get a `yes-no-maybe' bowl of mush that can only encourage our enemies and confuse our friends."

Economic concerns

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