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Bush, The Sequel

From "compassionate conservatism" to "the soft bigotry of low expectations," President Bush's second acceptance speech to a Republican convention echoed themes and phrases from his first.

But the president's Thursday night speech also reflected the dramatic impact of Sept. 11 on the Bush presidency and the country. While Mr. Bush outlined an agenda of domestic policy initiatives, the war on terrorism dominated the address.

"If America shows weakness in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy," Mr. Bush said. "This will not happen on my watch."

While he proposed a host of ways to create jobs — ending frivolous lawsuits, helping small businesses band together to purchase health insurance, increasing college aid and job training — Mr. Bush said little about the current state of the economy, except to claim, "Because we acted, our economy is growing again, and creating jobs and nothing will hold us back."

On other domestic issues, familiar themes rang out. He hailed his education reforms and the Medicare drug benefit, called for funding faith-based social services and banning same-sex marriage and called not once but twice for medical liability reform.

The most sweeping new domestic proposal was a bid to reform the tax code to create "a simpler, fairer, pro-growth system." Delegates held up signs promoting a Web site called The president directed viewers to to see more of his plans for a second term.

Even on terrorism, the president repeated favorite phrases, including a well-worn defense of the war in Iraq.

"Do I forget the lessons of Sept. 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," he said, to a roar of cheers and applause.

Mr. Bush was visibly moved when talking about military families and returned to the Sept. 11 theme as he neared the end of his remarks. Of the World Trade Center site, he said, it will someday be said, "Here buildings fell. Here a nation rose."

The president made the speech from a raised platform in the center of the arena floor. It reflected the importance of his speech to the convention and, perhaps, to the campaign.

Amid a cascade of red, white and blue balloons at the conventions close, delegates indicated Mr. Bush had fulfilled his mission.

"They gave us what he'd like to accomplish but also told us that he will stand firm," said Linda Scowdon of Missouri.

"I looked into the glum faces of the media," said a buoyant Robert Geddes of Idaho.

Kristen Koller of St. Louis appreciated the call for supporting the troops. An Ohio delegate said the speech was "pretty good." A California delegate simply smiled.

Sen. John Kerry's response was contained in remarks the Democratic nominee was set to deliver late in the night at a Springfield, Ohio rally.

"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," Kerry was to say.

The familiar ring of the president's phrases may have bolstered the central case of the convention: that Mr. Bush is man of steadfast principle. The notion that Kerry lacks that fortitude has been a theme in New York, and it was again Thursday evening.

Both New York Gov. George Pataki and Mr. Bush hit Kerry for his infamous line in which he said he voted for a bill to provide funding for troops in Iraq, before he voted against it."

Pataki even widened the attack on the Democrats to include a failure to deal with al Qaeda before Sept. 11. "How I wished they had protected us," Pataki said of the Clinton administration, "but they didn't do it."

When Mr. Bush listed elements of Kerry's record, the crowd hissed.

"If you say the heart and soul of America is found in Hollywood, I'm afraid you are not the candidate of conservative values," he said, to cheers.

The other theme of the night was Mr. Bush himself.

The speeches and presentations were effusive in their praise of the president, starting with the opening prayer, in which Missouri's Keith Butler prayed that God guide the president "as he leads America and the world against the forces of evil."

America has been a land of opportunity for me because George Bush believed in me a quarter of a century ago," declared former Texas railroad commissioner Michael Williams, a black Republican and a friend of the president.

Between almost every speech or musical act, the crowd was shown a short film on the president. In one the president was shown fishing, and then speaking about the growing influence of Latinos in America. Another featured testimonials by the Bush daughters. A third featured the president talking about the first lady. Mr. Bush wore the same worn looking, button-down shirt in all three.

Mr. Bush was introduced by a film that set out to show the human said of the president, and focused solely on his one-on-one encounters after Sept. 11

"Some things about George Bush are well known," the narration went - for example, "his lack of pretense."

"He was always comforting everyone and then he'd come back saying how inspired he'd been by then," it said. "He just rose to the occasion."

By Jarrett Murphy