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Moderate Republican Leaders Praise Bush's Record in War on Terror - 2004-08-31

Republican Party members have wrapped up the first day of their convention in New York City that will nominate George Bush for a second term as President of the United States. The convention opened with a salute to President Bush's wartime leadership and repeated reminders of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America.

The opening night of the Republican convention was full of reminders of the tragic day nearly three years ago, when almost 3,000 Americans died in the attacks on New York and Washington.

The Republicans are holding their convention not far from the site where terrorists slammed two passenger jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Public opinion polls consistently show President Bush has an advantage over Democratic rival John Kerry when it comes to handling the war on terrorism, and fighting that conflict is a main focus of this convention.

One of the first major speakers was Senator John McCain, a former fighter pilot and prisoner of war in Vietnam.

He recalled the vivid picture of Mr. Bush standing on the rubble of the World Trade Center days after the attacks and promising to stand up and fight for America.

Senator McCain, a rival of President Bush for the nomination four years ago, told delegates the terrorist attacks were a defining moment in the nation's history.

"No American alive today will ever forget what happened on the morning of September 11th. That day was the moment when the hinge of history swung toward a new era. The opening chapter was tinged with great sadness and uncertainty. It shook us from our complacency in the belief that the Cold War's end had ushered in a time of global tranquility. But an absence of complacency should not provoke an absence of confidence. What our enemies have sought to destroy is beyond their reach. It cannot be taken from us. It can only be surrendered."

Senator McCain then gave a ringing endorsement of the president's approach to the war in Iraq, saying the mission was necessary, achievable and noble.

He said while America is safer than on September 11th, 2001, it is still not completely safe.

Senator McCain says the country needs Mr. Bush, who he says has stayed firm in difficult times. "And this President will not rest until America is stronger and safer still, and this hateful iniquity is vanquished," he said. "He has been tested and has risen to the most important challenge of our time, and I salute him. I salute his determination to make this world a better, safer, freer place. He has not wavered. He has not flinched from the hard choices. He will not yield. And neither will we."

Perhaps the most poignant moment came when relatives of those killed on September 11 gave personal testimonies.

Dena Burnett's husband Tom was on the airplane that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers decided to fight the hijackers. "We now know what the passengers and crew members did prevent that airplane from hitting its intended target. What they did was the personification of courage and a testament to the American spirit," she said.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who led this city during the difficult days following the September 11th attacks, took the podium to praise President Bush as a war time leader dedicated to fighting terrorism and protecting Americans.

Mr. Giuliani then ripped into President Bush's opponent, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

The former New York Mayor repeated one of the central charges of the Bush campaign - that Senator Kerry frequently flips flops by changing his positions on important issues.

"President Bush sees world terrorism for the evil that it is. John Kerry has no such clear, precise and consistent vision," he said. "This is not a personal criticism of John Kerry. I respect him for his service to our nation. But it is important and critical to see the contrast in approach between the two men. President Bush, a leader who is willing to stick with difficult decisions even as public opinion shifts, and John Kerry, whose record in elected office suggests a man who changes his position even on important issues."

Republicans opened the convention in New York's Madison Square Garden in an upbeat mood, with a flurry of new polls showing President Bush gaining some ground on Mr. Kerry nationally and in several key states.

Democrats nominated Senator Kerry as their candidate for president last month and he faces President Bush in the November general election.