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Bush Accepts Nomination on Final Night of Convention Marked by Historic Protests and Dissent

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President Bush accepted his party’s nomination for another term in the White House last night in Madison Square Garden. The four-day Republican convention in New York was marked by historic protests and acts of dissent on the streets. We hear an excerpt of Bush’s speech and speak with Sam Husseini of the Institute for Public Accuracy about the President’s claims about Iraq. [includes rush transcript]

President Bush accepted his party’s nomination for another term in the White House last night in Madison Square Garden. His speech wrapped up the Republican National Convention and kicked off a two-month race to the Nov. 2 election against Democratic challenger John Kerry.

The four-day Republican convention in New York was marked by historic protests and acts of dissent on the streets. On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of protesters marched in the largest demonstration ever at a political convention. Over the course of the week, thousands of people took to the streets, staging hundreds of rallies, direct actions and civil disobedience against the Bush administration. Though the protests were generally calm, arrests exceeded 1,700 for the week, a record for a political convention.

Last night, President Bush used his hour-long, prime-time address to defend his record over the last four years–particularly his decision to invade Iraq. His speech began and ended with references to the Sept. 11 attacks which have been referenced in nearly every major speech of the convention.

He also promised to simplify the tax system, allow private investments of Social Security funds and push policies that would make it easier to own homes, though he offered few details. He delivered his address on a circular platform specially-constructed to place him closer to the delegates in the arena. Despite the party’s extensive orchestration efforts, the president was twice interrupted by protesters as he delivered his speech.

  • President Bush, accepting his party’s nomination at Madison Square Garden on September 2, 2004.
  • Sam Husseini, Washington-based political analyst and communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy.

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

JUAN GONZALEZ: The final speaker at the convention was President Bush. He delivered his address on a circular platform specially constructed to place him closer to the delegates in the arena. Despite the party’s extensive orchestration efforts, the President was interrupted twice by hecklers as he delivered his speech.

AMY GOODMAN: This is an excerpt of President Bush’s convention speech.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Three days after September 11, I stood where Americans died, in the ruins of the Twin Towers. Workers in hard hats were shouting to me, “Whatever it takes.” A fellow grabbed me by the arm and he said, “Do not let me down.” Since that day, I wake up every morning thinking about how to better protect our country. I will never relent in defending America, whatever it takes. [applause]

DELEGATES: U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

GEORGE W. BUSH: So, we have fought the terrorists across the earth not for pride, not for power, but because the lives of our citizens are at stake. Our strategy is clear. We tripled funding for homeland security and trained a half a million first responders because we are determined to protect our homeland. We are transforming our military and reforming and strengthening our intelligence services. We are staying on the offensive, striking terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home. [applause]

DELEGATES: U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

GEORGE W. BUSH: And we are working to advance liberty in the broader Middle East. Freedom will bring a future of hope and the peace we all want. And we will prevail. [applause] Our strategy is succeeding. Four years ago, Afghanistan was the home base of al Qaeda. Pakistan was a transit point for terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia was fertile ground for terrorist fundraising. Libya was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. Iraq was a gathering threat and al Qaeda was largely unchallenged as it planned attacks.

[shouting in the background]

GEORGE W. BUSH: Today, the government of a free Afghanistan is fighting terror. Pakistan is capturing terrorist leaders. Saudi Arabia is making raids and arrests. Libya is dismantling its weapons programs. The army of a free Iraq is fighting for freedom and more than three quarters of al Qaeda’s key members and associates have been detained or killed. [applause] We have led, many have joined, and America and the world are safer. This progress involved careful diplomacy, clear moral purpose, and some tough decisions. And the toughest came on Iraq. We knew Saddam Hussein’s record of aggression and support for terror. We knew his long history of pursuing, even using weapons of mass destruction. And we know that September 11 requires our country to think differently. We must and we will confront threats to America before it is too late. [applause] In Saddam Hussein, we saw a threat. Members of both political parties including —

[disturbance in the background]

DELEGATES: Four more years! Four more years!

GEORGE W. BUSH: Members of both political parties, including my opponent and his running mate, saw the threat and voted to authorize the use of force. We went to the United Nations Security Council which passed a unanimous resolution demanding the dictator disarm or face serious consequences. Leaders in the Middle East urged him to comply. After more than a decade of diplomacy, we gave Saddam Hussein another chance, a final chance, to meet his responsibilities to the civilized world. He again refused. And I faced the kind of decision that comes only to the Oval Office, a decision no president would ask for, but must be prepared to make. Do I forget the lessons of September 11 and take the word of a madman, or do I take action to defend our country. Faced with that choice, I would defend America every time.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush last night at the Republican National Convention. This is Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: Last night during President Bush’s acceptance speech, he had to stop speaking twice after activists held up anti-war signs before being dragged from the floor of Madison Square Garden. Jodie Evans revealed a pink slip underneath her dress that read, “Fire Bush. Women Say Bring Home the Troops Now.” Earlier in the evening Jorge Medina, whose son Irving was killed in the invasion of Iraq, was ejected for wearing a T-shirt with his son’s photo on it and the words, “Bush Lied, My Son Died.”

JUAN GONZALEZ: When the protesters disrupted Bush’s speech, delegates and others would begin chanting, “Four more years,” in an effort to drown them out. This tactic seemed to have been a coordinated response from the republicans. Twice last night as Bush was speaking the chant began for no clear reason. Moments later, Secret Service agents could be seen dragging a demonstrator from the convention.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier in the week, Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin came within 30 feet of Vice President Dick Cheney as he sat in his box. She unfurled a pink banner that read, “Pro Life. Stop the Killing in Iraq.” She also managed to ask Cheney, “How much money have you made in Iraq today?” She was picked up by Secret Service agents, dragged from the floor down a staircase. That same night, Fernando Suarez del Solar was also ejected from the convention. His son Jesus was killed in Iraq March 2003. He stood near the Texas delegation and held up a sign that read: “Bush Lied, My Son Died.”

JUAN GONZALEZ: The following night, as Dick Cheney was giving his prime-time address, Code Pink activists Gael Murphy and Tiffany Burns unfurled a banner that read, “Cheney and Halliburton Making a Killing in Iraq.”

AMY GOODMAN: Before we go to those protesters, we’re going to turn now to Sam Husseini. Sam Husseini is with the Institute for Public Accuracy. He was watching President Bush’s speech last night. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Sam.

SAM HUSSEINI: Good to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: Your reaction?

SAM HUSSEINI: Well, you could go through a lot of stuff in this speech. The big lie was the clip that you played a moment ago, Amy, when he said we told Saddam to comply. The Arab leaders told him to comply and so on and so forth, and he refused. That’s a lie. Saddam Hussein didn’t refuse. He allowed the weapons inspectors in. The weapons inspectors were doing their work. He gave over 10,000 pages of documents. He was in the process of dismantling the al-Samud missiles which were slightly over the range that was permitted and so on. He was disarming. It’s not that Saddam Hussein refused. It’s that Bush chose to stop the inspections process and Bush chose war. This wasn’t a tough choice that oh, my god, he’s refusing, he might have something. We got to go to — we are going to have to go to war to prevent this. The inspections process was happening and Bush stopped it and wanted to go to war. It seems quite likely now because there’s nothing there. We don’t want the inspections process to continue if you’re not going to find anything in the inspections process, now do you? That’s the big lie; that Saddam Hussein refused after we gave him chance after chance after chance.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Sam, to continue the linking throughout the convention of terrorism to Saddam Hussein, despite all of the evidence that has now come out to the contrary. Your reactions to that?

SAM HUSSEINI: Yeah, there is that. In the sort of blurring of, you know, terror baiting everybody from Saddam Hussein to the protesters to everybody else. But, you know, everybody was watching. It’s amazing to me that Bush can still lie about the central question of how this war started. And with all of the mea culpas put out by The New York Times and The Washington Post, we didn’t scrutinize the administration’s remarks enough about their claims about weapons of mass destruction. Well, if there was a scintilla of truth and honesty to those mea culpas, if the press in the United States was generally repentant about taking Bush’s word for claims about weapons of mass destruction, where are they now? He, last night, in front of everybody, said Saddam Hussein refused to comply with his disarmament obligations.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, as for finding weapons of mass destruction, he has finessed this at this point and that is to say that Saddam Hussein is a weapon of mass destruction and they found him.

SAM HUSSEINI: Well that could go both ways, now, couldn’t it?

AMY GOODMAN: Well, what do you mean?

SAM HUSSEINI: Well, I mean if Saddam Hussein is a weapon of mass destruction, what’s George Bush? You know, I mean this sort of hand waving; Saddam Hussein did bad things and therefore that’s weapons of mass destruction. Well, George Bush did bad things and therefore, you know, what follows from that?

AMY GOODMAN: Right, well that’s obviously not George Bush’s argument, but they have managed to turn that around and speaking with many delegates, the repeated point that they made is it just doesn’t matter. Saddam is a bad person. But the capper last night was actually equating the two; Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction. Sam Husseini, thanks for being with us.

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