Vice President George Bush, calling himself an underdog on...


NEW ORLEANS -- Vice President George Bush, calling himself an underdog on a mission, accepted the Republican presidential nomination Thursday in a highly personal speech that declared 'America is rising' and mixed attacks on the Democrats with an appeal for a 'kinder, gentler nation.'

Bush used the address to court a wide range of voting blocs and set his goals for the future, presenting himself as a strong national leader who earned the nomination -- not a high-level bureaucrat who cruised to power on privilege and connections.


The vice president viewed the speech as critical to his drive to the White House and sought to craft an identity separate from that of President Reagan without divorcing himself from conservative ideals.

Bush told the GOP's national convention he was loyal to the president for 7 years, 'But now you must see me for what I am: the Republican candidate for president of the United States.'


'When you have to change horses in midstream,' he added, 'doesn't it make sense to switch to the one who's going the same way?'

The vice president, who has said his success may ride, in part, on revealing his personality to the nation, struck a personal tone with the 50-minute speech, referring often to his family and citing the difficulties he sometimes has in getting his message across.

'I may not be the most eloquent, but I learned early that eloquence won't draw oil from the ground,' said Bush, a former Texas oilman. 'I may sometimes be a little awkward, but there's nothing self-conscious in my love of country. I am a quiet man, but I hear the quiet people others don't.'

He also mixed in humor, noting, 'I'll try to be fair to the other side. I'll try to hold my charisma in check.'

He added that when he was working on his speech, his wife, Barbara, urged him to 'take off your shoes and put up your silver foot' -- a reference to Democratic keynote speaker Ann Richards' comment that he was 'born with a silver foot in his mouth.'

And when he talked about his lack of sharp speaking skills, he purposely twisted President Reagan's famous 'make my day' quote and joked: 'go ahead, make my 24-hour time period.'


On a more serious note, Bush tried to counter charges that the GOP is the party of privilege, noting that 'prosperity has a purpose' and saying that meant using prosperity to help others.

'It means teaching troubled children through your presence that there's such a thing as reliable love,' Bush said. 'Some would say it's soft and insufficiently tough to care about these things. But where is it written that we must act as if we do not care, as if we are not moved?'

'Well, I am moved,' Bush said. 'I want a kinder, gentler nation.'

The speech was extraordinarily well-received by the delegates, and Bush ended the address by leading the convention in the Pledge of Allegiance.

'There are a lot of great stories in politics about the underdog winning -- and this is going to be one of them,' Bush said, citing his war record and adding that he is 'a man who sees life in terms of missions -- missions defined and missions completed.'

The vice president, who has long been viewed with skepticism by the party's hard right wing, cited numerous conservative themes in the address, several times jabbing at Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis while he pushed those views, including his pledge to not raise taxes and his call for the death penalty and voluntary prayer in schools.


He was particularly strong on taxes, contending that if Congress pushed him for increases, 'I'll say to them: 'Read my lips -- no more taxes.''

Bush also struck a very personal note while calling for a 'change from abortion to adoption.' Citing his adopted graddaughter, he noted, 'The day of her christening we wept with joy. I thank God her parents chose life.'

Attempting to contrast himself with Dukakis, Bush argued that 'the stakes are high this year and the choice is crucial, for the differences between the two candidates are as deep and wide as they have ever been in our long history.'

'My opponent's view of the world sees a long, slow decline for our country, an inevitable fall mandated by impersonal historical forces,' Bush added. 'But America is not in decline. America is a rising nation.'

'He sees America as another pleasant country on the U.N. roll call, somewhere between Albania and Zimbabwe,' he noted. 'I see America as the leader -- a unique nation with a special role in the world.'

Taking aim at Dukakis's call for bringing 'competence' to government, Bush said while it was important, that was not the only duty of a leader. 'Competence is the creed of the technocrat who makes sure the gears mesh but doesn't for a second understand the magic of the machine,' Bush said.


He also fired a blast at Democrats for contending that the economy was in trouble. 'They call it a swiss cheese economy. Well that's the way it may look to the three blind mice, but when they were in charge it was all holes and no cheese,' Bush said.

Contending that 17 million new jobs had been created in the past five years, he took a shot at Dukakis's frequent call for 'good jobs at good wages' and promised that his 'mission' was to create 30 million jobs in the next eight years.

'Someone better take a 'message to Michael:' Tell him we've been creating good jobs at good wages. The fact is, they talk -- we deliver. They promise -- we perform,' Bush said.

Sounding another familiar theme, Bush stressed strength over 'weakness' in dealing with foreign aggressors and used the opportunity to refer to his war record, when he was a torpedo bomber pilot and was shot down.

'My life has been lived in a shadow of war -- I almost lost my life in one. Bush said. 'I hate war. I love peace. We have peace -- and I am not going to let anyone take it away from us.'


The vice president, who knows he must appeal to conservative Democrats who supported Reagan, also made a pitch for a segment of that vote, ethnic Catholics, with references to the Knights of Columbus and the Holy Name Society -- both Catholic organizations.

Before delivering his address, Bush made two brief public appearances Thursday, including a brief stop at a 'Tribute to Barbara Bush,' where he introduced his wife to the crowd by saying, 'C'mon up sweetie pie.'

'Don't take your eyes off him and see if he looks at me admiringly - as I looked at him,' his wife said.

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