The Arizona Republic
The Arizona Republic
PHOENIX – To the thunderous roar of 15,000 supporters chanting, “Four more years,” President Bush yesterday promised Arizonans that his re-election would mean a safer nation, stronger economy and brighter future for all Americans.
“We have much more to do,” Bush said repeatedly at Phoenix Veterans Memorial Coliseum as he listed top accomplishments of his administration in education, health care, job creation, tax cuts and, evoking the biggest cheers of the night, the wars on terrorism and in Iraq.
Introduced by U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., his rival in 2000, as a president “who will not waver” in fighting terrorism, Bush gave McCain a quick hug. He later referred to the former Vietnam prisoner of war as “a great American and a fine citizen of this state, a person who served his nation with distinction and honor.”
In his 45-minute speech, Bush solidified his commitment to what is coming to be known as the Bush Doctrine, which says preemptive attacks are warranted if evidence shows a threat, instead of adhering to an international code of not striking the first blow in any conflict.
Chronicling the abuses of Saddam Hussein’s regime, Bush said, “We saw a threat. We remembered a vital lesson of September 11, and that lesson is: We must take threats seriously before they fully materialize.”
He said his choice was, “Do I trust the word and deeds of a madman, or do I take action to defend America?”
“I will defend America every time,” he said.
The crowd’s reaction throughout the speech underscored the strong approval many Arizonans have indicated for Bush’s defense and security postures in two Arizona Republic Polls since June.
Speaking with rolled-up shirt sleeves, Bush was flanked by a seating section in which supporters, dressed in red or white, were seated to create a huge red “W.” Above them was a banner proclaiming, “God loves you, President Bush.”
Bush’s speech was studded with occasional barbs against Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards, a U.S. senator from North Carolina.
Bush ridiculed what he cast as a “new nuance” Kerry has added to his stance on the war.
“After months of questioning my motives and even my credibility, Senator Kerry now agrees with me that even though we have not found the stockpiles of weapons that we all believed were there, knowing everything we know today, he would have voted to go into Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power,” Bush said.
“I want to thank my opponent for clearing that up. But just remember, there are 83 days left in the campaign, time enough to change his mind again.”
Kerry campaign officials and the Democratic National Committee heatedly denounced Bush’s comments as a distortion of what Kerry said yesterday in an interview.
Kerry, who voted to give Bush authority to invade Iraq, said he still would have voted that way if he had known there were no weapons of mass destruction, but he said that as president, “I would have used that authority effectively.”
PHOTO CAPTIONS: JACK KURTZ/The Arizona Republic
President Bush and U.S. Sen. John McCain hug after McCain introduced Bush at a rally yesterday at Phoenix’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
President Bush hugs an apparently unhappy baby at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix yesterday.