Another ominous sign is the growing number of towns that U.S. troops simply avoid."

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GOP convention week kicks off amid protests

posted August 30
The Washington Post

NEW YORK — Vice President Dick Cheney launched the Republican convention Sunday in a speech hailing President Bush’s war leadership, as more than 200,000 demonstrators took to the streets here in protest of the Bush administration’s policies.

With the New York skyline as his backdrop, Cheney stood on Ellis Island to give the informal kickoff to Bush’s nominating convention. "All of us are gathering this week for one reason ... and that is to make certain that George W. Bush is president for the next four years," Cheney said.

Across New York harbor in Manhattan, demonstrators marched past Madison Square Garden, this week’s convention site, carrying mock, flag-draped coffins and signs condemning the Iraq war. Delegates arriving for the celebration found a city under tense security.

Republican praise of Bush as war leader will be a dominant theme this week.

"How you approach the world after September 11th is a factor in this election," Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie said at a lunch Sunday.

He defended the decision to choose a slate of speakers who are moderates with policies often at odds with Bush. Gillespie added the party has been heartened by polls showing gains for Bush in a deadlocked race.

The convention, beginning 64 days before the election, is Bush’s chance to dispel concerns about the Iraq war and slow job growth.

In a Time interview published Sunday, Bush said the administration did not anticipate the nature of the Iraqi resistance. "Had we had to do it over again," he said, "we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success, being so successful so fast that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day."

Democrats tried Sunday to exploit that acknowledgment. "The president is now describing his Iraq policy as a catastrophic success," Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards said in Washington. "I, like most Americans, have no idea what that means."

Bush was campaigning Sunday in West Virginia and is not scheduled to arrive in New York until Wednesday. But Cheney, in his address here, outlined the convention’s opening theme.

Recalling Bush’s visit to New York three days after 9/11, Cheney said: "People in every part of the country, regardless of party, took great comfort and pride in the conduct and the character of our president."

Staff writers Dan Balz and Vanessa Williams contributed to this report.

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