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Bush: ‘Freedom of many’ depends on staying the course

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush accepted his party’s re-nomination Sept. 2 and asked Americans to stand with him because the “freedom of many and the future security of our nation” depend on the country maintaining its course.

In addressing the Republican National Convention on its final night in New York City, the president used the last half of his 64-minute speech to defend the war on terror since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, especially the invasion of Iraq.

The United States has “fought the terrorists across the earth – not for pride, not for power, but because the lives of our citizens are at stake,” Bush said. “We are staying on the offensive –- striking terrorists abroad –- so we do not have to face them here at home.”

Bush’s return to the White House is being contested by Democratic nominee John Kerry. While Kerry, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, has criticized Bush’s record on such issues as Iraq and the economy, the differences are especially noticeable on such issues as abortion, embryonic stem cell research and same-sex “marriage” — issues Bush barely touched on during his speech.

Afterward, Kerry, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, said in a written statement, “The election comes down to this. If you believe this country is heading in the right direction, you should support George Bush. But if you believe America needs to move in a new direction, join with us.”

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Bush’s acceptance speech “underscores and reinforces the fact that this is the clearest choice that Americans have had with the greatest consequences for the future of America and the world that we’ve had since 1980, when President Carter was defeated by Ronald Reagan. We the people are at a fork in the road in making a decision about how we would be governed and what direction our leaders will take our nation for a generation.”

The president “answered the critics who were saying he was not telling the country where he would lead it in the next four years,” Land said. “He answered that question in spades. He laid out a strong and positive agenda for fighting the war on terror by expanding the boundaries of liberty around the world and reaffirming America’s privilege and responsibility to be the standard bearer for human freedom. He eloquently reaffirmed ‘freedom is not America’s gift to the world; it is the almighty God’s gift to every man and woman in this world.’

“If this had been a term paper, he would have had to footnote the Declaration of Independence,” Land said. “He could not be making a more American statement than to state that freedom and liberty are the God-given, ‘unalienable rights’ of all human beings, including Afghans and Iraqis.”

The president also “laid out a very forward-looking, innovative domestic agenda that empowers people to make their own decisions about the future for them and their families, rather than having government tell them what to do,” he said.

In the middle of his speech, Bush spent one sentence each addressing issues such as abortion, same-sex “marriage,” his faith-based initiative and the federal judiciary.

“Because a caring society will value its weakest members, we must make a place for the unborn child,” the president said. “Because the union of a man and woman deserves an honored place in our society, I support the protection of marriage against activist judges.”

He did not call for a federal marriage amendment, a proposal that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman, though he previously had endorsed it. He also did not mention stem cell research, though he has blocked federal funding of such research that destroys embryos, while Kerry has promised to rescind that prohibition.

In addressing terrorism, Bush said “America and the world are safer” than they were three years ago. He acknowledged the toughest decision in the war on terror came on Iraq, where Bush has been heavily criticized for the administration’s intelligence failures, the inability to find weapons of mass destruction and the difficulty American troops have had so far in ending hostilities.

When Saddam Hussein refused a final opportunity to disarm after “more than a decade of diplomacy,” he “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,” Bush said. “Do I forget the lessons of September 11th and take the word of a madman, or do I take action to defend our country? Faced with that choice, I will defend America every time.

“I believe in the transformational power of liberty,” the president said. “The wisest use of American strength is to advance freedom. And as freedom advances –- heart by heart and nation by nation -– America will be more secure and the world more peaceful.”

In addressing domestic issues, Bush said a second administration of his would seek to simplify the income tax code, give tax relief permanence, establish business “opportunity zones” in poor communities, help set up health savings accounts for small businesses and enable the poor to purchase such accounts, adopt medical liability reform and expand Pell grants for families in low- and middle-income brackets.

In his four years in the White House, Bush said he has learned “whatever shortcomings you have, people are going to notice them, and whatever strengths you have, you’re going to need them.”

The Nov. 2 presidential election demonstrates why it is “critically important” that every American be registered to vote and vote in an informed way, Land said.

“At this critical time in our nation’s history, it is important that every eligible citizen’s voice be heard,” he said. The ERLC has provided a website, www.iVoteValues.com, “where we will attempt to give them the tools to make an informed choice and to vote their values, their beliefs and their convictions,” Land said.