Steven Waldman: 2004 Convention Blog

Beliefnet Editor-in-Chief Steven Waldman writes daily dispatches from the 2004 political conventions.

And how brilliant was this story about an Iraqi man who had been tortured by Saddam Hussein? "During our emotional visit one of the Iraqi men used his new prosthetic hand to slowly write out, in Arabic, a prayer for God to bless America," he said. Bush certainly can't be accused of promoting American religious triumphalism: It's about Muslims calling on Allah to bless America!

Oh, and Did We Mention God Must Be Thanked for Giving Us George W. Bush?

However, it must be remembered that Bush was, in effect, the author not only of his own words but all the words uttered by the major speakers. They all were written or edited by campaign central command. So while Bush's rhetoric was subtle and inspiring, he signed off on speech after speech that heavy-handedly implied he was put in office at this moment by God Almighty.

"He is one of those men God and fate somehow lead to the fore in times of challenge," said George Pataki.

"I thank God that on September 11th, we had a president who didn't wring his hands and wonder what America had done wrong to deserve this attack," he added.

"I thank God we had a president who understood that America was attacked, not for what we had done wrong, but for what we did right," he added again, in case you didn't get the message.

This echoed lines from Rudy Giuliani's speech:

"Spontaneously, I grabbed the arm of then Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and said to Bernie, 'Thank God George Bush is our President.' And I say it again tonight: Thank God George Bush is our President."


The Silent Scream of the Platform

The Republican platform, p. 92: "We support a human life amendment to the Constitution." That means the official position of the party is banning pretty much all abortions, not just partial birth. And yet in the speech Bush merely said he would work to value "the unborn child." His refusal to actually speak about one of the most important positions of the Republicsan Party platform struck me as not exhibiting the forthrightness and moral clarity about which he spoke in other contexts.

Faith-Based Unilateralism

I was surprised Bush had only one line about the faith-based initiative. That seemed like a missed opportunity since his approach to that issue is actually quite similar to the approach he took to Iraq, showing hte same sense of toughness and swagger. He met with resistance from the cumbersome legislative branch, so he went around them and enacted his policies through executive order.

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