Leaders of the Republican Party launched their national convention last night by hailing Bush as a strong commander-in-chief who has made the tough decisions to protect the United States. The statements came in contrast to the mass antiwar protest on 29 August and to criticisms from the opposition Democratic Party.
Senator McCain, former New York Mayor Giuliani, and other national Republican figures said Bush has responded properly to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. McCain, a Vietnam War veteran, said Bush has proven his ability to manage crises.
"He has been tested and has risen to the most important challenge of our time, and I salute him," McCain said. "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."
McCain defended the war in Iraq, saying the United States had exhausted the diplomatic options to dealing with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Inaction, McCain said, would have led to more serious threats against the United States.
"Our choice wasn't between a benign status quo and the bloodshed of war. It was between war and a graver threat. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise," he said.
At the convention of the Democratic Party in Boston in July, party leaders criticized the Bush administration as reckless in its approach to the war.
Giuliani, the celebrated former New York mayor, said Bush's decision to maintain tough policies in the face of resistance was reminiscent of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
"Ronald Reagan saw and described the Soviet Union as the 'evil empire' while world opinion accepted it as inevitable and belittled Ronald Reagan's intelligence. President Bush sees world terrorism for the evil that it is," Giuliani said.
Giuliani repeated a key Republican Party contention that Democratic candidate John Kerry is indecisive. Giuliani pointed to different votes Kerry took in regard to support for the two wars against Iraq, in 1991 and 2003.
He also sought to portray some European states, such as Germany, as weak in combating terrorism and indicated that Kerry would be overly influenced by them.
"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 often, even on important issues," Giuliani said.
Also praising Bush on the first day of the convention was Zainab al-Suwaij, an Iraqi native who fled the country in 1991. She now heads the American Islamic Congress, an organization formed to promote religious tolerance.
Al-Suwaij said Saddam Hussein had been waging a war against his own people for three decades. She expressed gratitude for his ouster and hope that Iraq will now embrace democracy.
"America under the strong compassionate leadership of President Bush has given Iraqis the most precious gift any nation has ever given to another [applause] -- the gift of democracy and freedom to determine its own future," al-Suwaij said.
The most recent opinion polls just prior to this convention indicated that Bush has gained a few points in the approval ratings. But nearly all surveys show Bush and Kerry essentially locked in a race too close to predict.
The convention continues today with speeches by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. first lady Laura Bush.