U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney told the convention last night that the United States has reached a defining moment on how to confront the threat of global terrorism.
Cheney said President George W. Bush has responded effectively to immediate threats. The administration, he said, has begun to implement a security strategy that it must be allowed to carry out.
"Under President Bush we have put in place new policies and created new institutions to defend America, to stop terrorist violence at its source, and to help move the Middle East away from old hatreds and resentments and toward the lasting peace that only freedom can bring," Cheney said.
At July's Democratic convention in Boston, presidential challenger John Kerry charged the Bush administration with weakening U.S. efforts in Iraq by failing to cooperate with European allies ahead of the war. The U.S. failure to secure a UN Security Council resolution explicitly endorsing the war in Iraq cost it support of key allies in the aftermath.
Cheney said the administration has led a coalition of allies in toppling regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. And he rejected the notion of a UN role in U.S. national security.
"As the president has made very clear, there is a difference between leading a coalition of many and submitting to the objections of a few," Cheney said. "George W. Bush will never seek a permission slip to defend the American people."
Cheney also stepped up criticism of Kerry's 20-year record as a U.S. senator, citing a series of votes against military appropriations.
"A senator can be wrong for 20 years, without consequence to the nation. But a president, a president always casts the deciding vote," Cheney said. "And in this time of challenge, America needs and America has a president we can count on to get it right."
Even more harsh were the words of another speaker, Senator Zell Miller of Georgia. Miller is a member of Kerry's Democratic party, but Miller told convention participants that he decided to support Bush because of the president's leadership of the war on terror.
Miller recited a list of military programs in use today that Kerry had voted against.
"For more than 20 years, on every one of the great issues of freedom and security, John Kerry has been more wrong, more weak, and more wobbly than any other national figure," Miller said.
Both Cheney and Miller repeatedly sought to portray Kerry as indecisive on crucial issues and far from the mainstream on his voting record. Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, focused heavily on his war record during his nominating convention in Boston earlier in the summer.
But Kerry was combative in a speech delivered earlier Wednesday to U.S. veterans in the southern state of Tennessee. He said Bush has mishandled every step of the Iraq war, boosting terrorism and extremism in the country and region.
"Amazingly, [the Bush administration] had no real plan for post-war or political transition," Kerry said. "All of this happened despite clear and precise bipartisan warnings from Congress and regional experts."