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Inside Politics

Bush promises prosperity, security

Convention speech interrupted by hecklers

By Sean Loughlin
CNN Washington Bureau

President Bush told delegates Thursday: "Nothing will hold us back."
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President Bush speaks to the GOP convention.
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• President Bush: Transcript
America Votes 2004
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Casting the country's future as a "valley below," President Bush on Thursday outlined his vision for a second term, promising a nation bountiful at home and secure in the world.

"Since 2001, Americans have been given hills to climb and found the strength to climb them," Bush said, opening his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention by evoking that year's September 11 terrorist attacks.

"Now, because we have made the hard journey, we can see the valley below ... and nothing will hold us back," Bush said.

Hitting on education, health care, jobs and taxes, Bush, 58, outlined about 15 domestic initiatives that he said would allow "Americans to earn a better living, support your family and have a rewarding career."

That prosperity at home, he said, would be matched by a "future of safety and peace" because of U.S. determination to stand up to terrorism.

Bush's agenda for a second term, delivered in a theater-in-the-round setting before a packed house of fired-up delegates, closed out a convention at which Republicans ripped Democratic rival John Kerry as indecisive and cast the president's first four years as an unqualified success.

Bush's hourlong speech -- delivered in clear, measured tones -- was interrupted twice by hecklers, who were hustled out of the convention by security personnel. The Republican convention unfolded this week against a backdrop of anti-Bush protests.

Some of Bush's ideas lacked details, and he did not say how he would pay for them, but his proposals -- some of them familiar -- amounted to the most comprehensive listing yet of what Bush wants to do in a second term.

Bush's stated priorities include: simplifying the federal tax code, reducing federal regulations, revamping labor laws to allow for more flexibility, providing incentives for small businesses to provide health care, increasing funding for job training, and placing limits on lawsuits.

He also spoke of revamping Social Security to allow younger workers to set up "personal" accounts -- a proposal Democrats have criticized as opening the door toward privatization -- and promoting home ownership in the United States. And he proposed economic "opportunity zones" for poorer areas, promising tax relief to lure new businesses.

"In all of these proposals, we seek to provide not just a government program, but a path -- a path to greater opportunity, more freedom, and more control over your own life," Bush said.

Beyond setting out an agenda for a second term, the president's acceptance speech was a amalgam of popular lines from his campaign stump speech -- his condemnation of the "soft bigotry of low expectations" in education -- a reprise of his rationale for going to war against Iraq, a tip of the hat to his conservative base with promises to stand firm against abortion and same-sex marriage, and a familiar critique of Kerry.

"His policies of tax and spend, of expanding government rather than expanding opportunity, are the politics of the past," Bush said. "We are on the path to the future, and we're not turning back."

While Bush's domestic ideas were fresher than his vows to stay the course in fighting terrorism, his words about defending the country seemed to stir the most passion -- both in the speaker and in the audience of partisans.

"I will never relent in defending America -- whatever it takes," Bush declared as the audience roared and began chanting, "U.S.A., U.S.A."

And Bush appeared to grow teary as he paid tribute to families who had lost loved ones in the armed forces.

"In those military families, I have seen the character of a great nation: decent and idealistic and strong," he said.

Even as his campaign billed the speech as a preview of the second Bush term, his address opened and closed with references to 9/11 -- the singular event defining this convention and Bush's first term.

"My fellow Americans, for as long as our country stands, people will look to the resurrection of New York City and they will say: Here buildings fell, and here a nation rose. ... Having come this far, our tested and confident nation can achieve anything," Bush said.

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