Republican Senator John McCain said Thursday that, as president, he would bring an era of reform to Washington, bolster the economy and pursue alternate energy strategies, with the help of his vice presidential running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. In his address to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, the former combat pilot and Vietnam prisoner of war told Americans he is more qualified than his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, for the presidency. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from St. Paul.
John McCain, who survived more than five years in a Vietnamese prison, and has run for the Republican nomination once before and lost to current President George Bush, achieved his long-sought goal Thursday, when he accepted his party's nomination.
With his reputation as a political independent threatened over the past year by his strong support for the Iraq war and other policies of President Bush, McCain told delegates he is a reformer in Washington, who does not work for a party, but for the people of the United States, a country, he loves.
"I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's," said John McCain. "I loved it, not just for the many comforts of life here, I loved it for its decency, for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn't my own man anymore. I was my country's."
McCain also praised his choice for vice president, first-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who was a relative unknown just a week ago. Earlier Thursday, delegates nominated her by acclamation, the first woman Republicans have ever nominated for that job. The night before, she electrified the crowd with a speech in which she pledged to stand by McCain as he seeks to bring change to Washington politics.
"I'm very proud to have introduced our next vice president to the country," said McCain. "But I can't wait until I introduce her to Washington. And let me offer an advance warning to the old, big-spending, do-nothing, me-first, country-second Washington crowd: change is coming."
McCain said he would help create jobs by keeping taxes low and to produce more energy at home.
Earlier in the program, delegates viewed a video showing the September 11, 2001, al-Qaida attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center towers in New York. And McCain re-stated his position that the United States can win the battle in Iraq and prevail in the war against terrorism with vigilance.
"We have dealt a serious blow to al-Qaeda in recent years," he said. "But they are not defeated, and they'll strike us again if they can."
McCain also reached out to supporters of his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, saying, despite the campaign fight ahead, "more unites us than divides us."
Earlier, Senator Lindsey Graham, said McCain's support of President Bush's decision to send additional troops to Iraq was "the right thing to do," even though it was unpopular, and he criticized McCain's Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, for opposing the "surge" of troops.
"If Barack Obama cannot appreciate that our troops are winning in Iraq, he should not be their commander-in-chief," said Lindsey Graham.
Several speakers over the past few days repeatedly attacked Obama, questioning his experience and leadership credentials.
Campaigning in Pennsylvania Thursday, Senator Obama responded to reporters' questions about the numerous political attacks on him by Republicans.
"This is what they do," said Barack Obama. "They do not have an agenda to run on. They have not offered a single concrete idea so far in two nights about how they would make the lives of middle class Americans better."
When McCain completed his address, he was joined by Governor Palin, both waving to delegates amid thunderous applause.
Outside the convention site, protesters confronted police, who made several arrests. Since the convention began Monday, several hundred people have been arrested during daily protests.
With the two parties' nominating conventions concluded, the final stretch of the election campaign begins. Over the next eight weeks leading up to the November 4 election, the two presidential candidates will hold three debates, and Governor Palin will debate Obama's running-mate, Senator Joe Biden.
If elected, Senator McCain would become America's oldest first-term president, 72, when sworn in next January. First-term Senator Obama, 47, if elected would become America's first African-American president.