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2000-08-04

George Bush’s Address

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Last night, the Republican National Convention wrapped up with Texas Governor George W. Bush officially accepting nomination for president by the Republican Party. [includes rush transcript]

Tape:

  • George W. Bush, acceptance speech at the Republican Convention

Guests:

  • Barbara Gonzalez, a contributing columnist for the San Antonio Express-News.
  • Jello Biafra, was the lead singer of the Dead Kennedys. He is also a political activist who ran for the Green Party nomination for president. He chose Mumia Abu-Jamal as his running mate. He is here in Philadelphia with a group calling itself the Camcorder Truth Jihad.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!, Breaking with Convention: Power, Protest and the Presidency, broadcasting live from the Independent Media Center in Central City — in Center City, Philadelphia, after the last night of the Republican National Convention, when Governor George W. Bush of Texas accepted the nomination for President of the Republican — by the Republican Party.

This is Governor Bush:

    GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I proudly accept your nomination.

    We will confront the hard issues — threats to our national security, threats to our health and retirement security — before the challenges of our time become crises for our children. And we will extend the promise of prosperity to every forgotten corner of this country, to every man and woman, a chance to succeed, to every child, a chance to learn, and to every family, a chance to live with dignity and hope.

    And in the next bold step of welfare reform, we will support the heroic work of homeless shelters and hospices, food pantry and crisis pregnancy centers, people reclaiming their communities block by block and heart by heart.

    I think of Mary Jo Copeland, whose ministry called Sharing and Caring Hands, serves 1,000 meals a week in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Each day, Mary Jo washes the feet of the homeless and sends them off with new socks and shoes. "Look after your feet," she tells them, "they must carry you a long way in this world and then all the way to God." Government cannot do this work. It can feed the body, but it cannot reach the soul.

    A little more than a decade ago, the Cold War thawed, and with the leadership of Presidents Reagan and Bush, that wall came down. But instead of seizing this moment, the Clinton-Gore administration has squandered it. We have seen a steady erosion of American power and an unsteady exercise of American influence. Our military is low on parts, pay and morale. If called on by the Commander-in-Chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report: “Not ready for duty, sir.” This administration had its moment. They’ve had their chance. They have not led. We will.

    A generation shaped by Vietnam must remember the lessons of Vietnam. When America uses force in the world, the cause must be just. The goal must be clear, and the victory must be overwhelming.

    I will work to reduce nuclear weapons and nuclear tension in the world to turn these years of influence into decades of peace. And at the earliest possible date, my administration will deploy missile defenses to guard against attack and blackmail.

    Now is the time — now is the time not to defend outdated treaties, but to defend the American people. Tom Lee of El Paso, Texas, captured the way I feel about our great land, a land I love. He and his wife, he said, live on the east side of the mountain. It’s the sunrise side, not the sunset side. It is the side to see the day that is coming, not to see the day that is gone. Americans live on the sunrise side of the mountain. The night is passing, and we are ready for the day to come.

    God Bless, God Bless America.

AMY GOODMAN:

Texas Governor George W. Bush accepting the Republican nomination for president. And you are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, here with Juan Gonzalez. Well, Juan, that caps the four days of the Republican National Convention.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Yes, and it was quite a speech by George W. Bush, whom many people in the country have never really heard expound at length on his views. That was the longest speech he’s made in his campaign. But I think the important thing — and we would be — we would be wrong to underestimate that the change that Bush is attempting to make here in the Republican Party — he talked about the Clinton administration, or Clinton and Gore trying to reinvent themselves. He is trying to reinvent the entire image of a party. And this is — remember, this is a party where in that audience was Strom Thurmond, was Trent Lott, was numerous other Republicans who have spent years battling some of the very issues suddenly that George Bush says the Republican Party should take into account and fighting the very inclusiveness that he’s talking about. But they, of course, were very low-profile in this.

And I think it’s — the reality is that the Republican Party is recognizing two immense changes in American society. One is the demographic change. I heard Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum say to a group of Hispanic Republicans, in fifty years America will be a majority minority nation. Now, aside from the fact that that’s a contradiction in terms, the reality is the Republicans realize that unless they reinvent their image, they will become a true minority party in this nation.

And the other is, I think, that the Bush attempt to reinvent the image of the party is in some way a response to the fact that the social movement in the streets, especially climaxing with the protests in Seattle and moving on now through Washington and here in Philadelphia, is having an impact on the social consciousness of the American people, and that the party has to begin — he said at one point, on one side are wealth and technology, education and ambition; on the other side of the wall are poverty and prisons, addiction and despair. That’s something a Republican wouldn’t have said four years ago or eight years ago, but the reality is that they’re feeling the pressure in the streets, and they’re feeling the demographic changes in the nation, and they’re attempting to reinvent the image without fundamentally dealing with the policies that all of the other Republicans who are low-profile — the Orrin Hatches and the McCollums, and all of the people that we’re familiar with have been asked to keep a low profile while this reinventing of the image goes on.

AMY GOODMAN:

That’s right. Newt Gingrich here, as well. But perhaps more important than the names and faces that people know are the breakdown of the delegates, because this is who the party is beholden to. And when you look at the number of delegates and who they are, the 2,066 delegates and the same number alternates, we’re talking about, of that group of 2,000, 83 percent white, four percent black, three percent Latino. Of that, as well, you’re talking about one-in-five of these delegates being millionaires. And that, perhaps, says it better than who the particular faces are. But very important to note who George Bush is beholden to, and the line he has held in Texas.

We’re joined on the telephone by Barbara Gonzalez, who knows well that record, a contributing columnist for the San Antonio Express-News. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Barbara Gonzalez.

BARBARA GONZALEZ:

Good morning. Good to be here.

AMY GOODMAN:

It’s good to have you with us. George W. Bush’s speech last night, as he attempts to say that the Republican Party is now more inclusive, more accepting, basically saying that the party is more moderate, while the polls of the delegates and the core activists of the Republican Party clearly show an extremely conservative base. What has George Bush done in Texas, because more important than any speech and any tone that is set by words is what has been accomplished in his state, where he — it’s really been the only public office he’s held?

BARBARA GONZALEZ:

George Bush has not done a damn thing for us in Texas. What has happened is that Latinos in Texas for the first time are being included, albeit for some kind of ethnic entertainment. The Latinos, or the people of color who George Bush includes in his party, are people like him, of hyper-individuality. And it has nothing to do, like Juan says, with social change, with changing the social policies or the social landscape in Texas. All it is is an embrace of the fact, as Juan said, that the demographics have changed tremendously and that he doesn’t really need our vote in Texas, but he needs it in other parts of the country.

It’s saddening to me that we’ve reached a place in our country where we might be on the verge of electing — when we talk so much about the American dream, it seems that George Bush — George Bush’s dream is one that represents wealth and privilege of the scion of a dynasty. It’s very disappointing to me.

We have severe problems in Texas. We have colonias that he’s never visited on the border. We have a terrible juvenile justice system. I don’t have to tell you about the death penalty in Texas. George Bush has done nothing to address these issues. He returned a $2 billion surplus that we had in the legislature where he could have raised wage — salaries for teachers to a much higher degree that would have brought them up to par with the rest of the country. He refused to do that. He has shown no moral leadership. When he talks about how we need a president of character and integrity, we have to remember that this is man who avoided the Vietnam War.

AMY GOODMAN:

Barbara Gonzalez, a contributing columnist for the San Antonio Express-News. But put forward on the first night of the convention, Colin Powell, the former chief of staff, very clear what he was putting forward all week. In fact, that night you would have thought that it was a majority minority Republican Party. I mean, if you look at the number of people on the stage who are people of color far outnumbering the whites who spoke that night, you would think that the party was very different than the faces who were in the audience that night.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Well, not only that night, but throughout the convention and into last night, in fact, I think was one Ricky Martin’s songs that he ended, when they were doing the celebration at the end of the convention.

AMY GOODMAN:

And George P. also spoke. George P. Bush, who is the nephew of George W. Bush, a very significant twenty-four-year-old, the son of the Florida governor, George’s brother, Jeb Bush. And of that ten-minute-or-so speech, well, he went back and forth between English and Spanish.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Yes, but interestingly enough, I remember talking to one of the political editors at the Dallas Morning News a few months ago who had done a study of George Bush’s record when it comes to inclusion in his own administration in Texas. I don’t know, Barbara, if you’re familiar with the study —

BARBARA GONZALEZ:

Mm-hmm.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

—- but he told me that of about 4,000 appointments that George Bush has made as governor since he’s been in Texas, that it’s something like over 85 percent were whites in a state that is 25 percent Latino and significant black population. So the inclusiveness is more in the rhetoric than it is in the actual -— in the actual practice of governing.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, we’re going to break for stations to identify themselves. We’ll be back with Barbara Gonzalez of the San Antonio Express News. Jello Biafra will also be joining us, who was the — one of the Green Party candidates for president, one of the nominees, also, well, a cultural icon in the United States. And we’re going to be looking at what has happened in the streets over the last four days, some extremely serious issues that have culminated in conspiracy charges being brought against a number of activists, activists picked up not in the heat of a protest, but walking down the street — their weapons: palm pilots and cell phones — being held on up to $1 million bail, very serious situation being set up not only in Philadelphia, but for Los Angeles, that comes out of Washington and Seattle. This is the picture of America today.

You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN:

You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!, broadcasting on community radio stations around the country; on public access TV stations around the country; on the internet, both live streaming and videocasting at www.democracynow.org, in an unprecedented community-media collaboration; also on DISH Network on channel 9415, which is the new channel, twenty-four hours of Free Speech TV, based in Boulder, Colorado. I’m Amy Goodman, here with Juan Gonzalez, as we continue our reaction to the nomination speech of — the acceptance speech of George W. Bush for nomination by the Republican Party as their presidential candidate. Juan?

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Yes, as I said, an amazing speech by Bush. And, you know, he actually attempted basically to portray himself as a caring, sensitive, compassionate conservative, but the reality of the message that he was bringing of increased military spending, of privatization of Social — of portions of Social Security accounts, of charter schools that would help to begin to tear apart the public school system rather than raise the level of the public school system throughout, I think was one that was clearly, clearly at the right fringe of American politics today.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, we are joined by Jello Biafra, lead singer of the Dead Kennedys, a political activist who ran for the Green Party nomination. He is with a group here in Philadelphia calling itself the Camcorder Truth Jihad. Welcome to Democracy Now!

JELLO BIAFRA:

Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, your reaction to the speech last night of George W. Bush?

JELLO BIAFRA:

Well, no matter how they package it, and no matter how much, when I saw the text before I saw a tape of the speech itself, it could be Gore’s speech, for all practical purposes, right down to giving Gore credit for inventing the internet, I might add. I mean, even though you turn on fog machine to bring the new pop star out, like he’s a heavy metal star or a wrestler, and then douse him blood-red balloons as he exits the stage, it’s still, to me, a very chilling performance. I mean, he did not come across statesmanlike. He comes across as a spoiled, preppy twit that is trying out for the debate team as a freshman in college. I mean, there’s just a very chilling vibe about him, I might — to me.

I mean, when he calls his Vice President Dick Cheney a man of integrity and sound judgment, this is the man who ordered Colin Powell to draw up plans for nuking Baghdad during the Gulf War and voted in favor of legalizing plastic handguns. He calls his father the most decent man he has ever known, which rather scares me as to who else he may hang out with at this point.

And I — he comes across as dangerous when he talks about — one of his priorities is not just paranoia about threats to the national security of the country, but rather than diffuse them or solve them, he wants to confront them. And, you know, claiming there’s some steady erosion of American power, when every corner of the earth is terrified to death of us. Now, outer space gets to be terrified to death of us, as well.

I mean, when his father was president, that was probably the time I actually did fear for my life, because of the action — I mean, because this is a former CIA director, where dirty wars were launched and other dictatorships while he was CIA director, the bombing of Judi Bari, etc. And now, that was King George I, who basically thought — seemed to think America should be run like a banana republic, while King George II is like, well, maybe we should just run this country like a baseball team or, worse yet, run it like Texas. And hey, hey, hey, hey, Kim Jong-il, hey, Saddam, you don’t mess with Texas, man. You just don’t mess with Texas. I mean, this is not what we need right — this is not a vision, if you ask me.

I mean, he’s dead-on right when he says the Reagan-Bush, Clinton-Gore regime has not led — you know, they’re more interested in deal-making than leadership, but what is the difference here? — and then blamed a lot of things not getting fixed, as he puts it, Social Security and Medicare, on the Clinton administration, when obviously it was the gridlock among the yahoos in Congress. Would a Democratic majority in Congress fix that? The corruption level is such that I doubt it, which I think maybe a Green wedge of third-party candidates, preferably Green, so that neither of the big two hold a voting majority, would be a better way to get reform through Congress than depending on old school Repulicrats.

He apes Clinton, calling about new beginnings. He tries to glom onto Martin Luther King, “We Shall Overcome,” which I’m sure has even Adam Clayton Powell turning over in his grave. Identical to Gore in yapping away on Medicare and Social Security. Oh, he even likes Head Start, but apparently not in the state of Texas. And he talks about local people should control local schools. This is the guy who thought it would be real cool to hang out at Bob Jones University among like-minded people, I suppose.

And then he says, well, now that maybe there’s some more money in the bank, we should cut taxes. And that, I think, is one of the biggest myths that we as thinking people need to overcome, one by one with people we know, is that taxes are not always bad. And even some of the commercial pundit polls are supporting that now, that a majority of Americans do not automatically want a tax reduction if it’s going to screw up the schools, social services and infrastructure even worse.

I’m especially frightened by his call to — you know, he brings up this Mary Jo Copeland person, serving a thousand meals a week in Minneapolis, but there is a price to get a meal from her. "Look after your feet," says Bush, quoting her, "they must carry you a long way in this world and then all the way to God." Using church charities to — as against the disadvantaged, in a way, to try and convert people to fundamentalist Christianity, in my opinion, is just plain evil. I mean, the religious right wins either way, because both Bush and Gore have worn their fundamentalist Christianity on their sleeve, and Tipper Gore has been a backdoor liaison to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and Phyllis Schlafly since her attacks on rock music in the ’80s. No amount of makeover is going to change that.

Oh, let’s see. Basically, it will be interesting — compassionate conservatism. How sick are we of this, especially when we see it in practice with Bush’s gubernatorial record in Texas? An execution every two weeks, slashing schools to the bone, you know, never met a maquiladora zone he didn’t like, etc., etc., etc.

AMY GOODMAN:

Jello Biafra — you may recognize his voice without us even telling you — here with the Camcorder Truth Jihad, which is what?

JELLO BIAFRA:

Oh, it’s basically — it’s a name that was given to something that’s been going on for quite awhile. Anyone can join the Camcorder Truth Jihad. All you have to do is pick up a camcorder or a tape recorder and document something that the corporate-controlled propaganda news media doesn’t want you to see. For example, the videotape of the Rodney King beating. For example, Independent Media Center people and media insurrectionists on their own countering CNN’s story during the Seattle police riots that no rubber bullets were being fired, and then within an hour, it’s on the internet, live footage of rubber bullets being fired in Seattle. So I encourage everybody out there who’s tired of being lied to by our Sovietized corporate media to participate in this, because, as we all have to become the media to educate people in a way that the press, when it used be the fourth branch of government policing the other three used to, it’s something everybody can do.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Well, you know, one of the people who did get interviewed by some of the corporate media, but not by very many, last night was the son of George Wallace, who was on the convention floor as a Republican and who actually had something very interesting to say. He said, you know, many of the Republicans here now recognize his father as really being the spiritual head of the resurgence of the Republican Party, because some people forget that in this country thirty, forty years ago, we had something called the Dixiecrats, all of the southern, white, racist politicians who were opposed — who maintained the segregation system, and as the South began to become desegregated because of the Civil Rights Movement and court decisions, they all went over to the Republican Party. And he said, “My father was a Democrat. I was a Democrat. And now I’m a Republican,” which is what has given the Republican Party this greater reach that they’ve had in recent years.

JELLO BIAFRA:

Segregation forever.

BARBARA GONZALEZ:

Which leads us —

AMY GOODMAN:

Barbara Gonzalez of the San Antonio Express-News.

BARBARA GONZALEZ:

Thank you. Which leads us to the reason that George Bush was elected governor in Texas. It happened because the Democrats were so weak. And the Democrats had been very patronizing to Latinos. Latinos had really never been seen, except for Henry Cisneros, on the state landscape. And George Bush won because he had a lot of money behind him, and he was able to defeat our popular Governor Ann Richards, really, with some very sexist overtones.

What I want to convince, or hope for the listeners out there, is that they understand that people like my mother are going — want to vote for George Bush, and how are we going to convince them that this country is based on social — on great ideals of social justice, and it should not be a country that is devoted to the individual’s achievement, to the individual’s ambition, if it betrays the rest of us? That, I think, is the responsibility before us.

AMY GOODMAN:

I also wanted to make a comment about, well, sort of buzz words within this speech, when we played at the top of the show. And I do want to add that the top of show, where we played George Bush’s speech, his acceptance speech for the nomination to the presidency by the Republican Party, that those were excerpts that were pulled together. It was not just the first five minutes of his speech. But in that, you heard him refer to pregnancy crisis centers. We’re at the Independent Media Center in Center City, Philadelphia. Just down the street from us is Planned Parenthood. And it was interesting to see the first day that we arrived, last Saturday, there was a vigil and somewhat of a confrontation outside the Planned Parenthood clinic, as anti-abortion activists were there. Barbara Gonzalez in Texas, what is the picture of abortion and women’s rights, which certainly go beyond abortion?

BARBARA GONZALEZ:

Well, George Bush has been very blurry about abortion in Texas. You know, he — we — how can I put it? He said in the past that he’s included women in different places in his cabinet in Texas here, but he’s been very, very — so moral, so religiously based, that we understand also that he’s anti-abortion. He’s spoken of it clearly, but yet he’s what? He said that he hasn’t — he won’t have a litmus test when he picks his Supreme Court justices.

In Texas recently — I’m trying to remember exactly what happened, but we had a — we had a Supreme Court decision that denied young women the right to get parental permission — or rather, let me put it the other way, that they had to have parental permission if they were under seventeen, I think. And yet, he didn’t show any leadership in talking to the citizens in Texas and persuading — he didn’t show any real leadership in helping people understand why a young girl might need abortion. And he allowed the far religious right in Texas to take over the abortion debate. So I guess what I’m trying say, though it’s very confusing, is that women — that he didn’t show any support towards young women’s need to have an abortion, even in cases that were of incest and rape. That’s how fanatical, I think, his position has been in that regard.

AMY GOODMAN:

Important to show also — to know that Dick Cheney, the vice-presidential nominee. And if you want to get any sense of the signal that is being sent, Dick Cheney is not only the former Secretary of Defense and the head of the largest oil service company in the world — by the way, he still is; he will leave that post as of August 16th, but he is head, CEO and chair of the board of Halliburton — but this is a man who is staunchly anti-abortion, including in the case of rape and incest. He’s the man, as Jello was referring to before, who was opposed to a ban on plastic guns that even the NRA did not oppose, opposed to a ban on cop-killer bullets that, to say the least, infuriated a number of police departments around the country. On all of these major issues, Dick Cheney is very clear where he stands. Jello?

JELLO BIAFRA:

On top of that, Bush made a point in his speech of saying that we need to — schools must support the ideal of parents, elevating character and elevating abstinence as a solution to teen pregnancy, which from time immemorial it’s proven that doesn’t really work. The verdict is in: America likes to screw. Meanwhile, in Europe, sex education begins in kindergarten and goes all the way through grade twelve, and the teen birth rate and the abortion rate is far less than ours.

So it’s, once again, this Donna Reed, Leave It to Beaver fantasy world that Reagan pushed, Pat Robertson pushed, and here we are again, but — and on top of that, I’ve noticed, going around Philadelphia, bumping into volunteers for the Republican Convention and others there, all the anti-abortion zealots have now seized on the partial-birth abortion issue and have an almost identical, robotic, graphic description of a partial-birth abortion that would do Marilyn Manson or any death metal band proud.

AMY GOODMAN:

Barbara Gonzalez, what about the issue of education and vouchers, which stands for more even than education, the issue of education, but goes to the issue of privatization in general?

BARBARA GONZALEZ:

Well, our schools in Texas are so bad, they rank — I think most people know by now that most of our — in our social indices, Texas ranks at the very bottom, at least at the very bottom of third tier in all kinds of social welfare programs. Education is no different. We have terrible public education in Texas. A lot of that, because, fueled, of course, by the suburbs and our highways, and people have moved out to the suburbs.

George Bush has been promoting vouchers throughout the state. And, unfortunately, it’s received good play, because the poor people, families like my own, would have wanted very much for their children to go and get a better education in a suburban school or a private school, which is even more dangerous to me, because he supports the transfer of vouchers to private education. And so, what it does — of course, it’s like every other solution that he puts forth — is that it doesn’t change the social fabric for all of us. In voucher programs, you would have a small percentage of young students going on into a better suburban school or another kind — or a private school. But it doesn’t do anything to all those other kids who don’t have parents who aren’t wise enough to transfer them.

And we can’t provide enough vouchers, at any rate, for everyone, which takes us again to the problems of George Bush, between the I and the we. The same thing — you asked that before with the abortion question. Planned Parenthood does not have a great deal of money in Texas. There’s — there are no — schools are not allowed to talk about — there’s very little sex education, and when that exists, it’s very hard for young girls to go and receive any kind of counseling in the schools. And so, we have very high pregnancy for adolescent girls in Texas.

AMY GOODMAN:

Jello Biafra, last comment?

JELLO BIAFRA:

Well, I suspect other people are also turned off to George Bush and equally turned off to Al Gore. After all, he is also pro-military spending, pro-drug war, pro-death penalty, pro-WTO, pro-corporate, etc., etc. But we’ve got to remember not to let that turn people off to voting itself, because there are candidates worth voting for at the national and state level, as well as ballot initiatives for people to watch in their individual areas. I mean, the conventions are now so dull that the USA Today on after the first night, their big headline was Dennis Miller debuting on Monday Night Football, and the convention was below it. People are turned off.

What will be interesting to see — I’m sure we’re going to get to the heavy-handed backlash and police response against the demonstrators and the leaders here — but what’s going to be interesting is the debates and if there’s direct action around that. After all, it used to be five percent would get you in. As soon as Ralph Nader gets up to five percent, they raise the bar to 15 percent.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, on that note, I want to thank you both for being with us. We will talk about the issue of police brutality in the streets when we come back with the founder of I-Witness Video who’s been there with her video camera.

We’ve been speaking with Barbara Gonzalez, contributing columnist for the San Antonio Express-News in the home state of the new Republican candidate for president, Governor George W. Bush, and Jello Biafra, who is the lead singer of the Dead Kennedys, political activist, ran for the Green Party nomination for president. He came to Philadelphia with the group, the Camcorder Truth Jihad.

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