"I Will Swear to Uphold the Honor and Dignity of the Office … So Help Me God."

In August of 2000, then-Texas Governor George W. Bush formally introduced himself on the national stage with his acceptance of the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention. What follows are excerpts from that speech. I cannot resist the temptation to add some pointed comments; but ultimately, failed promises — not to mention hypocrisy and outright dishonesty — speak loud enough for themselves.

Mr. Chairman — Mr. Chairman, delegates and my fellow citizens, I proudly accept your nomination …

Together, we will renew America’s purpose …

I am proud to have Dick Cheney by my side. [You and 19% of the population]

He is a man — he is a man of integrity and sound judgment who has proven that public service can be noble service. America will be proud to have a leader of such character to succeed Al Gore as vice president of the United States …

This is a remarkable moment in the life of our nation. Never has the promise of prosperity been so vivid. But times of plenty, like times of crisis, are tests of American character.

Prosperity can be a tool in our hands used to build and better our country, or it can be a drug in our system dulling our sense of urgency, of empathy, of duty. Our opportunities are too great, our lives too short, to waste this moment [Your humble left-wing commentator gnashes his teeth] …

For eight years the Clinton-Gore administration has coasted through prosperity. The path of least resistance is always downhill. But America’s way is the rising road. This nation is daring and decent and ready for change.

Our current president embodied the potential of a generation — so many talents, so much charm, such great skill. But in the end, to what end? So much promise to no great purpose. [other than peace and prosperity and respect in the world]

Little more than a — little more than a decade ago, the Cold War thawed, and with the leadership of Presidents Reagan and Bush, that wall came down.

But instead of seizing this moment, the Clinton-Gore administration has squandered it. We have seen a steady erosion of American power and an unsteady exercise of American influence. Our military is low on parts, pay and morale. If called on by the commander-in-chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report, “Not ready for duty, sir.” [They were keeping the peace in Kosovo, without American casualties, not being stretched to the breaking point and slaughtered in Iraq.]

This administration had its moment, they had their chance, they have not led. We will …

Our generation has a chance to reclaim some essential values, to show we have grown up before we grow old. But when the moment for leadership came, this administration did not teach our children, it disillusioned them.

They had their chance. They have not led. We will … [Now you have disillusioned more Americans than any president since Nixon]

The rising generations of this country have our own appointment with greatness. It does not rise or fall with the stock market. It cannot be bought with our wealth. Greatness is found when American character and American courage overcome American challenges.

When Lewis Morris of New York was about to sign the Declaration of Independence, his brother advised against it, warning he would lose all his property. But Morris, a plain-spoken founder, responded, “Damn the consequences, give me the pen” [I was always haunted by this passage by Bush: not that there aren’t some things more important than money — although that would be hard to guess from the policies of this administration and its allies in Congress towards big business — but Bush here practically guaranteed the end of the prosperity we knew under Clinton in order to pursue his “vision” of greatness, even before 9/11] …

An American president must call upon that character. Tonight in this hall, we resolve to be the party of — not of repose but of reform. We will write not footnotes but chapters in the American story. We will add the work of our hands to the inheritance of our fathers and mothers and leave this nation greater than we found it …

Medicare does more than meet the needs of our elderly; it reflects the values of our society. We will set it on firm financial ground and make prescription drugs available and affordable for every senior who needs them. [as long as Medicare doesn’t negotiate lower drug prices]

Social Security has been called the third rail of American politics, the one you’re not supposed to touch because it might shock you. But if you don’t touch it, you cannot fix it. And I intend to fix it. [indeed]

To the seniors in this country, you earned your benefits, you made your plans, and President George W. Bush will keep the promise of Social Security. No changes, no reductions, no way … [I could not agree more]

One size does not fit all when it comes to educating our children, so local people should control local schools … [except when No Child Left Behind heaps burdens upon local schools and teachers but does not fully fund them]

Another test of leadership is tax relief.

The last time taxes were this high as a percentage of our economy, there was a good reason; we were fighting World War II. Today our high taxes fund a surplus … [God forbid, a surplus!]

I will use this moment of opportunity to bring common sense and fairness to the tax code …

On principle, those with the greatest need should receive the greatest help … [Hypocrisy, thy name is Bush]

The world needs America’s strength and leadership. And America’s armed forces need better equipment, better training and better pay. [and some armor before being sent into combat]

We will give our military the means to keep the peace, and we will give it one thing more: a commander-in-chief who respects our men and women in uniform and a commander-in-chief who earns their respect. [and cuts the benefits for their families and veterans]

A generation shaped by Vietnam must remember the lessons of Vietnam: When America uses force in the world, the cause must be just, the goal must be clear, and the victory must be overwhelming … [no comment]

Now is the time not to defend outdated treaties but to defend the American people.

A time of prosperity is a test of vision, and our nation today needs vision. That’s a fact. That’s a fact. Or as my opponent might call it, a risky truth scheme …

He now leads — he now leads the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but the only thing he has to offer is fear itself. [Fear of greedy, war-mongering idiots? Perhaps. Fear of the rest of the world? That’s your job, George.]

That outlook is typical of many in Washington, always seeing the tunnel at the end of the light …

But I come from a different place and it has made me a different leader. In Midland, Texas …

Our sense of community — our sense of community was just as strong as that sense of promise. Neighbors helped each other. There were dry wells and sand storms to keep you humble, lifelong friends to take your side [They call ’em “cronies”], and churches to remind us that every soul is equal in value and equal in need …

This background leaves more than an accent, it leaves an outlook: optimistic, impatient with pretense, confident that people can chart their own course in life. [as when they’re drowning in sewage in New Orleans]

That background may lack the polish of Washington. Then again, I don’t have a lot of things that come with Washington. I don’t have enemies to fight. [Oh God, I’ve got to vomit] I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years. I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect. [Maybe this was a stand-up comedy routine?]

The largest lesson I learned in Midland still guides me as governor of Texas … Our budgets have been balanced with surpluses. [Uh, we’re still waiting] And we cut taxes, not only once, but twice.

We accomplished a lot. I don’t deserve all the credit, and I don’t attempt to take it. I worked with Republicans and Democrats to get things done …

As governor, I’ve made difficult decisions and stood by them under pressure. I’ve been where the buck stops in business and in government. [Harry Truman just turned over in his grave]

I’ve been a chief executive who sets an agenda, sets big goals, and rallies people to believe and achieve them. I am proud of this record, and I am prepared for the work ahead.

If you give me your trust, I will honor it. [no comment] Grant me a mandate, I will use it. Give me the opportunity to lead this nation, and I will lead …

… our new economy must never forget the old, unfinished struggle for human dignity. And here we face a challenge to the very heart and founding premise of our nation.

A couple of years ago, I visited a juvenile jail in Marlin, Texas, and talked with a group of young inmates. They were angry, wary kids. All had committed grown-up crimes. Yet when I looked in their eyes, I realized some of them were still little boys.

Toward the end of the conversation, one young man, about 15 years old, raised his hand and asked a haunting question, “What do you think of me?” He seemed to be asking, like many Americans who struggle: Is their hope for me? Do I have a chance? And, frankly, do you, a white man in a suit, really care about what happens to me? [as long as you don’t live in New Orleans or …]

A small voice, but it speaks for so many … We are their country too. And each of us must share in its promise or the promise is diminished for all. [well put, George]

If that boy in Marlin [or on a rooftop in New Orleans] believes he’s trapped and worthless and hopeless, if he believes his life has no value, then other lives have no value to him, and we’re all diminished.

When these problems are not confronted, it builds a wall within our nation. On one side are wealth, technology, education and ambition. On the other side of that wall are poverty and prison, addiction and despair. And my fellow Americans, we must tear down that wall. [now even higher than before]

Big government [whose government?] is not the answer, but the alternative to bureaucracy is not indifference. It is to put conservative values and conservative ideas into the thick of the fight for justice and opportunity.

This is what I mean by compassionate conservatism. And on this ground, we will lead our nation … [Hypocrisy, again, thy name is Bush]

We must give our children a spirit of moral courage because their character is our destiny …

We must help protect our children in our schools and streets, and by finally and strictly enforcing our nation’s gun laws. [as long as we let terrorists buy machine guns at gun shows]

But most of all, we must teach our children the values that defeat violence. I will lead our nation toward a culture that values life … [Tens of thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children might beg to differ, if they were still alive.]

Behind every goal I’ve talked about tonight is a great hope for our country. A hundred years from now this must not be remembered as an age rich in possession and poor in ideals. Instead, we must usher in an era of responsibility. [except when you get caught in a web of lies and treachery bordering on treason that has cost thousands of people their lives and our great nation its good name]

My generation tested limits, and our country in some ways is better for it. Women are now treated more equally. [as long as they don’t think they own their own bodies]

Racial progress has been steady; it’s still too slow. [Amen!] We’re learning to protect…

… we’re learning to protect the natural world around us. We will continue this progress, and we will not turn back. [Hypocrisy … the refrain is all too familiar by now]

At times we lost our way, but we’re coming home …

We discovered that who we are is more than important than what we have. [unless what we are is insatiably greedy] And we know we must renew our values to restore our country.

This is the vision of America’s founders. They never saw our nation’s greatness in rising wealth or in advancing armies, but in small, unnumbered acts of caring and courage and self-denial. Their highest hope, as Robert Frost described it, was to occupy the land with character. And that, 13 generations later, is still our goal, to occupy the land with character. [and to occupy others’ land with armies]

In a responsibility era, each of us has important tasks, work that only we can do. Each of us is responsible to love and guide our children and to help a neighbor in need. [as the federal government relentlessly cuts programs for the needy and relentlessly cuts taxes for the rich] Synagogues, churches and mosques are responsible, not only to worship, but to serve. Corporations are responsible to treat their workers fairly and to leave the air and waters clean. [What is beyond hypocrisy if not lies and pure evil?]

And our nation’s leaders our responsible to confront problems, not pass them onto others. [no comment]

And to lead this nation to a responsibility era, that president himself must be responsible.

So when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to not only uphold the laws of our land, I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected, so help me God. [God help you.]

I believe the presidency, the final point of decision in the American government, was made for great purposes. It is the office of Lincoln’s conscience, of Teddy Roosevelt’s energy, of Harry Truman’s integrity and Ronald Reagan’s optimism. [no comment]

For me, gaining this office is not the ambition of a lifetime, but it is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I will make the most of it.

I believe great decision are made with care, made with conviction, not made with polls. [perhaps it’s time to be at least somewhat considerate of the opinions of the people you represent]

I do not need to take your pulse before I know my own mind. I do not reinvent myself at every turn. I am not running in borrowed clothes.

When I act, you will know my reasons. And when I speak, you will know my heart … [unless it’s one of those evil, hypocritical lies (see above)]

I believe true leadership is a process of addition, not an act of division.

I will not attack a part of this country because I want to lead the whole of it … [I gag on those words even if he did not]

We are now the party of ideas and innovation, the party of idealism and inclusion, the party of a simple and powerful hope.

My fellow citizens, we can begin again.

After all of the shouting and all of the scandal, after all the bitterness and broken faith, we can begin again. [to break faith more — and ruin more lives — than those who came before]

The wait has been long, but it won’t be long now.

A prosperous nation is ready to renew its purpose and unite behind great goals, and it won’t be long now.

Our nation must renew the hopes of that boy I talked with in jail and so many like him, and it won’t be long now.

Our country is ready for high standards and new leaders, and it won’t be long now.

An era of tarnished ideals is giving way to a responsibility era, and it won’t be long now. [I hope it will not be]

I know how serious the task is before me. I know the presidency is an office that turns pride into prayer. But I am eager to start on the work ahead, and I believe America is ready for a new beginning …

Americans live on the sunrise side of the mountain. The night is passing, and we’re ready for the day to come.

God bless. God bless America.

[And God willing, the sun will rise again]

Doug Drenkow

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