With California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger providing the star power and first lady Laura Bush the homespun plaudits, Republicans formally anointed President Bush as their party's presidential nominee Tuesday night in an evening of speeches intended to stress inclusion and compassion as GOP values.
Saying he had been inspired to become a Republican by Richard M. Nixon soon after arriving from his native Austria as a penniless immigrant during the 1968 presidential election campaign, Schwarzenegger spoke glowingly of the American dream, reprised lines from his show business career and hailed Bush's leadership.
The address largely overshadowed the lower-key speech of Laura Bush, who followed Schwarzenegger to the podium. She was introduced by her twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, who giggled repeatedly and made references to their party-going image, and by her husband in a video feed that showed him with a softball game going on in the background.
In her speech, Laura Bush spoke of "personal moments" when she alone has seen her husband deal with difficult challenges.
"I am so proud of the way George has led our country with strength and conviction," she said.
But Schwarzenegger drew the night's loudest and most-sustained applause. Taking the stage to a thunderous ovation from the nearly 5,000 delegates and alternates packing the Madison Square Garden convention site, Schwarzenegger said with a self-deprecating reference to his acting ability, "What a greeting! Wow. This is like winning an Oscar. As if I would know."
He then immediately directed a gibe at the Democrats, saying they should have called their convention by the title of one of his movies: "True Lies."
Schwarzenegger said it was amazing that "a once-scrawny boy from Austria" could grow up to become California governor and speak on behalf of the U.S. president in such a venue. "That is an immigrant's dream," he said. "It's the American dream."
Convention-goers interrupted his speech with chants of "USA, USA," and held up placards that said simply, "Arnold!"
He appealed to fellow immigrants to join the Republican Party, which he said admires their ambition and encourages their dreams.
"I'm proud to belong to the party of Abraham Lincoln, the party of Teddy Roosevelt, the party of Ronald Reagan and the party of George W. Bush," Schwarzenegger said.
"Everything I have -- my career, my success, my family -- I owe to America," he said. "In this country, it doesn't make any difference where you were born. It doesn't make any difference who your parents were. It doesn't make any difference if, like me, you couldn't even speak English until you were in your twenties."
The former actor and body builder brought down the house when he expressed faith in the U.S. economy and added, "To those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say: Don't be economic girlie men."
In a reference to one of his best-known movie lines, Schwarzenegger told the story of a wounded U.S. soldier who told him from his hospital bed that he wanted to rejoin his comrades in Iraq. Then, the wounded man said, "Arnold, I'll be back," Schwarzenegger recalled.
"Ladies and gentlemen, America is back!" he said. "Back from the attack on our homeland, back from the attack on our economy and back from the attack on our way of life. We're back because of the perseverance, character and leadership of the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush."
In their introduction of the first lady, Jenna and Barbara Bush took turns at the microphone as they praised their parents in their first major public speech.
"Our parents are actually pretty cool," Jenna Bush said. "And if we really beg them, they'll even shake it like a Polaroid picture."
Referencing their own brushes with Austin police in 2001 over underage drinking and fake IDs, Jenna said her parents were never satisfied when they paraphrased their father's often-quoted explanation of his own youthful drinking: "When we were young and irresponsible, we were young and irresponsible."
Laura Bush said that "we are living in the midst of the most historic struggle my generation has ever known" and emphasized that the most important issue for her own daughters and for Americans in general was "George's work to protect our country and defeat terror so that all children can grow up in a more peaceful world."
She added, "These are also years of hope for our country and our people. We have great confidence in our ability to overcome challenges."
"No American President ever wants to go to war," Laura Bush said. "Abraham Lincoln didn't want to go to war, but he knew saving the union required it. Franklin Roosevelt didn't want to go to war, but he knew defeating tyranny demanded it. And my husband didn't want to go to war, but he knew the safety and security of America and the world depended on it."
She said Bush was "still the same person I met at a backyard barbecue in Midland, Texas, and married three months later. . . . He'll always tell you what he really thinks. You can count on him, especially in a crisis. . . . And he's a loving man, with a big heart."
Earlier, in a continuing roll call of state delegations on the floor of Madison Square Garden, the battleground state of Pennsylvania put Bush over the top in the delegate count needed to secure the nomination. Convention participants chanted, "Four more years," and hoisted red, white and blue placards with the same slogan.
Bush, who was campaigning Tuesday in Tennessee, Iowa and Pennsylvania, delivers his acceptance speech at the convention Thursday night.
In one of the evening's early speeches, Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina paid tribute to core conservative values that formed part of the Republican platform as approved by the convention, including support for constitutional amendments banning gay marriage and abortion.
"Marriage between a man and a woman isn't something Republicans invented, but it is something Republicans will defend," Dole said. She added: "We believe in a culture that respects all human life including the most vulnerable in our society, the frail elderly, the infirm, and those not yet born. Protecting life isn't something Republicans invented, but it is something Republicans will defend."
She also said the GOP would defend the right to worship God "without intervention and even without activist judges trying to strip the name of God from the Pledge of Allegiance, from the money in our pockets and from the walls of our courthouses."
Dole was followed by President Bush's nephew, George P. Bush, the son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his Mexican-born wife, Columba. He praised the president's education initiative, the No Child Left Behind Act, and appealed for the votes of Latino immigrants.
"Together, we must open the door of opportunity for the reelection of President George W. Bush," he said in Spanish at the end of his speech.
Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who says he is the first African-American elected to statewide office in his state, as well as its first Republican lieutenant governor, lambasted the Democrats who made hope a them of their own convention in Boston last month.
"But there is a problem, my friends," he said. "Hope is not a strategy. Hope doesn't protect you from terrorists, hope doesn't lower your taxes, hope doesn't help you buy a home, and hope doesn't ensure quality education for your kids."
Through much of the evening, however, the theme was the compassion of the American people.
It was a topic that party leaders stressed even as they came under criticism for an attack on Democratic challenger John F. Kerry that they acknowledged had gone too far.
The Democrats were furious over the distribution at the convention Monday night of band-aids with purple hearts on them -- a dig at Kerry reflecting some opponents' claims that a Vietnam war wound for which he received one of three Purple Heart decorations was little more than a scratch. Republican spokesmen initially said they had no knowledge of the episode, but top officials later repudiated the band-aids and said their distribution had been stopped.
As authorities braced for a surge of protest activity from Bush opponents, New York police said a 21-year-old Yale University student, Thomas Frampton, had been arrested Monday night at Vice President Cheney's convention booth after he came within 10 feet of Cheney and shouted slogans against Bush and the war in Iraq. Frampton was charged with assaulting federal officers and impeding the operation of the Secret Service, the Associated Press reported.
Police arrested more than 250 protesters Tuesday as they prepared to march on the convention site, bringing the number of arrests in convention-related protests since late last week to more than 800. Protest organizers had said they expected thousands of demonstrators to join Tuesday's planned protest, which was aimed at companies they charge are profiting from the Iraq war.
In an addition to the convention schedule, retired Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks will address the delegates Thursday night before Bush delivers his acceptance speech, organizers said.
Franks's acceptance of a GOP invitation to speak provides something of a counterweight to the presentation at the Democratic convention in July of a dozen retired flag officers supporting Kerry for president.
Franks, who retired last year, headed the U.S. Central Command during the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A decorated Vietnam veteran, Franks attended the same Midland, Tex., high school as Laura Bush. Like Kerry, he won three Purple Hearts for combat wounds.
Kerry's awards, which have been questioned by a veterans group supporting Bush, were the subject of more recriminations Tuesday when Democrats denounced the distribution at the GOP convention Monday night of the band-aids with purple hearts.
The fake Purple Hearts were handed out by Morton Blackwell, a GOP activist from Virginia who was described by the Kerry campaign as a former mentor to top Bush adviser Karl Rove.
On Tuesday afternoon, however, Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican National Committee, told Washington Post reporters and editors that he had personally intervened Monday night to stop Blackwell from passing out the band-aids.
"We agreed he was not going to do it any longer," Gillespie said. Asked why he had stepped in, he said, "We're focused on the future" rather than the past. He added that he honors Kerry's military service.
In an interview on CNN, Rove called Blackwell a friend but said his activity "was inappropriate." He added, however, that he understood why many veterans remain angry with Kerry for his antiwar activism after returning from Vietnam.
Retired Air Force Gen. Merrill A. "Tony" McPeak, a former Air Force chief of staff who is supporting Kerry, charged that the mockery directed against the Massachusetts senator dishonored veterans in general.
McPeak, countering Monday's convention rhetoric in support of Bush's decision to invade Iraq and effusive tributes to the president's leadership, also argued that America is not safer today than it was before March 2003 invasion.
"It's quite clear that we're making terrorists a lot faster than we're killing them," McPeak said on CNN. He called the war in Iraq "a setback for the United States and the overall strategic war on terror" and criticized Bush's comment in an NBC interview aired Monday that the war on terrorism cannot be won. Instead, Bush said, the aim was to create conditions in which terrorists "are less acceptable in parts of the world." Bush and his aides Tuesday adopted a more resolute tone, vowing to win the war, although not in the traditional sense of obtaining a surrender.
McPeak charged that Bush was "attacking others for weakness and uncertainty when yesterday he pronounced the war on terror was unwinnable." Referring to the subsequent clarifications, McPeak said, "This is the kind of uncertain leadership that the president accuses others of, and he's right smack in the middle of it."