Tuesday, August 01, 2000
GOP stresses inclusion
Convention aiming for the middle
By David Espo
The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA Determined to send George W. Bush to the White House, Republicans opened their 37th national convention Monday with a meticulously scripted appeal to voters in the political middle.
Laura Bush speaks to the convention Monday.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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Colin Powell praised the Texas governor's passion for inclusion, then bluntly challenged the GOP to follow his lead.
Mr. Bush knows that the party of Lincoln has not always carried the mantle of Lincoln, Mr. Powell told delegates and a nationwide television audience. He wants the Republican Party to wear that mantle again.
Mr. Bush introduced Mr. Powell to the delegates, appearing via a satellite hookup from Westerville South High School in suburban Columbus, Ohio. He noted the retired general's high-level service in national security positions in two GOP administrations, then said, I hope his greatest service to America might still lie ahead.
That was a none-too-subtle reference to suggestions that Mr. Powell would serve as secretary of state in a Bush administration.
Colin Powell gave a rousing speech.
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The retired general, for all his remarks about education and inclusion, drew perhaps his biggest applause when he said Mr. Bush would follow the example set by Presidents Reagan and Bush in making sure the nation remained strong militarily, striking a chord that would dominate the convention program Tuesday night.
The delegates were overwhelmingly white and male, but the GOP's four-day convention program showcases blacks, Latinos, former Democrats, women and in its opening moments a blind mountain climber who led the delegates in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The convention unfolded at the First Union Center, a sports arena that was transformed to an extravagant set for delegates and TV viewers alike. A rousing gospel chorus brought some spectators to their feet, and quiz show egghead Ben Stein of Comedy Central was a draw to younger viewers.
Mr. Bush's wife, Laura, emerged from the background of her husband's campaign to embrace his character and his candidacy. Mrs. Bush's remarks were salted memories of parent hood: her husband long ago reading Dr. Seuss to their twin girls, and references to dating, drivers' licenses, prom night and ... high school graduation.
She stressed her husband's commitment to education, as did Mr. Powell, and said she knew from personal experience that his core principles will not change with the winds of polls or politics or fame or fortune or misfortune.
The speeches by Mr. Powell and Mrs. Bush capped a day in which the governor's name was placed in nomination without opposition. Republican delegates approved his campaign platform in a quick voice vote in the convention's only day session, rubber-stamping a document crafted to fit the nominee's self-described image as a compassionate conservative.
The platform opposed abortion while reaching out to immigrants and minorities. It opposed gay rights, a gesture to social conservatives that was softened by the decision to give a promi nent speaking role to the only openly gay GOP member of Congress.
Mr. Powell's selection as final speaker on the convention's opening night was designed to underscore Mr. Bush's move to the middle after he alienated some independent and moderate voters in his primary duel with Sen. John McCain.
The only black man ever to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr. Powell said Mr. Bush would bring to the White House the same passion for inclusion he has shown in Texas. I know he can help bridge our racial divides.
The convention is a key pivot point in Mr. Bush's bid to win the White House. The Texas governor secured his delegates by veering sharply to the right last winter when Arizona Sen. John McCain mounted a strong primary challenge. Nomination sealed, Mr. Bush swiftly tacked back toward the center, a political position his platform and his four-day convention were designed to hold.
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