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Cheney: How do you think I got the job?

Prem Panicker in New York | September 02, 2004 12:58 IST

Vice-President Dick Cheney, Wednesday evening's marquee act at the Republican National Convention, took over from Georgia Senator Zell Miller following a brief introduction from his wife, Lynne. Accepting his party's nomination to run for the vice-presidency for four more years, Cheney kicked off with a quip.

Dick Cheney (left)

"I have an opponent of my own. People tell me that Senator [John] Edwards got picked for his good looks, his sex appeal and his great hair. I say to them, how do you think I got the job?"

The vice-president spoke of his humble origins, a segment that has seemingly become mandatory in all political speeches, by candidates of both political persuasions.

He then cut to the present, saying that when he and President Bush had taken office, they inherited a recession and American workers were overburdened with federal taxes.

"Then came the events of September 11th, which hit our economy very hard. So President Bush delivered the greatest tax reduction in a generation and the results are clear to see. Businesses are creating jobs. People are returning to work."

He then spoke of the war on terror, on the neutralization of the Taliban and the defeat of al Qaeda.

Skirting past the issues of weapons of mass destruction, that he had raised often in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, Cheney spoke of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein being in jail and 25 million Iraqis in freedom as one of the achievements of his tenure.

Libya, he pointed out, had surrendered its nuclear capability to the US within weeks of the Iraq war. And, he added, President Bush's firm resolve, and his determination to root out all possible sources of danger to the American people, had ensured the shut down of a nuclear bazaar that had proliferated dangerous technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

"The world's most dangerous source of nuclear proliferation has been put out of business," he said to applause, without mentioning that it was Pakistan he was referring to.

He then launched into the predicted attack on John Kerry, referring to his various votes in the Senate to paint him an indecisive figure, unsure of his own direction and all too easily swayed by public opinion. Kerry, he said, had time and again been on the wrong side with his votes.

"A Senator can be wrong for 20 years without undue consequences to the nation," Cheney said, arguing that a President has to get it right, every single time - ergo, Kerry did not have what it took to be president.

With delegates waving 'flip-flop' slippers passed on by RNC volunteers, Cheney spoke of votes Kerry had reportedly cast, for and against various positions, and said, "Senator Kerry has disagreed with many of his own fellow Democrats. But his liveliest disagreement is with himself.

"Kerry says he sees two Americas. It is mutual. America sees two John Kerrys," Cheney said, leading into his pitch for a second term for President Bush and for himself.

The speech played well to the galleries. Unlike the first two days of the convention, however, on Wednesday there was little attempt to go beyond preaching to the choir.

Neither Cheney nor Miller tailored their words to the constituency of swing voters, something the RNC had taken care to do over the first two days of the convention.

Thus, neither of the star speakers attempted to rebut the various charges against the Bush Administration, from tax policies favoring the rich, to the subsequently falsified claims of WMDs in Iraq and Saddam Hussein's purported links with 9/11.

Earlier in the day, the RNC fielded an array of speakers to promote the Day Three theme of 'A Land of Opportunity'.

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and two small business owners, including Lurita Doan from Virginia, spoke of how the Bush policies had helped minority and small entrepreneurs succeed in their dreams.

By way of variety, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney launched a broadside at the junior senator from his state, John Kerry. Referring to Kerry's various positions on the same issue, Romney said "We don't need a president in 57 varieties," a dig at the 57 varieties of ketchup sold by the company headed by Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.

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Another notable speaker of the evening was the late Ronald Reagan's son Michael. Unlike his brother Ron Reagan, who during the Democratic Convention in Boston in August had spoken of stem cell research, criticized Bush on that count and asked that American voters chose the Democratic ticket in the interests of science and medicine, Michael Reagan gave the issue a miss and instead, while introducing a video tribute to his late father, said, "My mother, father and birth-mother were pro-life and pro-adoption. Because they were, my father made me a Reagan. I've come to honour my father, not to politicize his name."

One brief moment of unrest marred an otherwise uneventful evening, when ten AIDS activists who had infiltrated the venue to protest during the vice-president's speech were arrested on the floor and shepherded out, taking the total of convention-related arrests in New York over the 1,000-mark.

What Georgia Senator Zell Miller, known as Zell the Zinger, told the delegates

Photograph: Getty Images

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