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The Republican National Convention kicked off Monday at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Ray Suarez spoke to some of the delegates on the floor at the convention about their opinions on the Iraq war.
Well, Jim, unlike the deeply divided American rank and file, the delegates I spoke to on the floor earlier today were unanimous in their insistence that the United States is doing better in Iraq than most people realize, and that that's a message they intend to get out between now and November.
Those delegates include Renee Amour, the delegation co-chair from a hotly contested state carried by Al Gore in 2000, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
I'm with Renee Amour from the Pennsylvania delegation.
Over the last couple of months, there's been some gradual change in overall public opinion about the war. Thinking about your home state, thinking about the make-up of your delegation, if you had to advise the president, if you had to advise the administration, what would you want to see happen now from where we are right now going forward?
Well, our delegation… first we are excited about being here and full support of our president because we believe in what he is doing and where we are and where we want to go. We believe that he is really working on the war on terrorism and he is trying to make our nation safe.
So we appreciate what he is doing with our troops, how he is manipulating and working with the troops, moving them in different areas, and also understanding that it's for our safety, and the safety of our men and women that are over there.
You're representing a very tightly contested state. As you're trying to wrestle for that 1 or 2 percent that might make all the difference, what do you tell people in local campaigns about the way the war is going that will bring them over to your column?
We know that it is a very tight race, it is neck and neck right now. We are happy about that, that the numbers are going up. We are sure they're going to continue to go up. We are going to the grassroots and explaining to them what is really going on so they'll hear from their people that represented them here from the convention this week.
We'll let them know what is going on, why the president is doing what he is doing and the reason he is doing it. That way people will get the message. So my job is to make sure people are educated about the war so they can educate their neighbors and the community to make sure they vote for George W. Bush.
Are there people back home in Kansas who are normally your voters who are now saying, "gee, they didn't find the WMD's yet, the death toll is rising. I'm not as sure as I felt a year ago?"
MAN ON FLOOR:
Well, I'm sure that the still people back home understand that we are better off being on offense than defense. I think that's the issue. We either take the war on terrorism to their home court or we continue to fight it in New York, and eventually Kansas and everywhere else in the United States.
So I think there is support in Kansas for the president's efforts. It's very strong support of George Bush in Kansas, and I think that will continue.
Back home, if there are people who are saying, "I'm just not sure, I don't like what I'm saying on TV," what does the campaign say?
Well, the campaign says that when we started the process, that the president clearly stated that it was going to be a long, drawn-out war. He promised the public that it would not be a two- or three- month endeavor.
That is exactly what has come to pass. Anybody who thought this was going to be a short, easy endeavor just didn't understand reality. So the president said it was going to be a long-term effort. It has turned out to be a long term effort, and I think we just have to stay the course.
As part of the activists of the Republican Party, what do you tell people back home about what is at stake and about your view that the country is actually doing pretty well in Iraq?
I guess I just try to say it like I've said it to you. I say that we have a president who I think will go down in history with Lincoln and Washington and the great ones. And I trust him completely.
I don't know everything that he knows, and I trust him to make the kind of decisions that we need to make, and therefore, I trust his decision on Iraq.
Overall, public opinion has swung a little bit on the prosecution of the war in Iraq. And you're somebody who has actually been there. What would you tell people back home who are not so sure about how it's got to go from now on to help the president?
CAREY BAKER, Florida:
Well, I think it's going to go much better now. The interim government that's fully supported by the U.N., fully supported by all the religious leaders in Iraq has really taken charge. They're working in cooperation with the coalition, and we are seeing a lot of successes now in Iraq.
You know, many times all that's reported is just the worst that occurs. But really schools are being rebuilt, hospitals are rebuilt, water, electricity. There are a lot of things that are occurring that is very positive. Every major city has now had elections.
And of course in northern Iraq, the Kurds have had multiparty, multi-ethnic elections for the past five or six years. So I think the American people are seeing that things are moving forward and, of course, it's very positive and I think very positive for the president.
Well, as you know, quite often there are steps backwards and steps forward in the same day. In today's news, Muqtada al-Sadr said he is going to disarm and disarm his fighters, and at the same time, there were big attacks against the oil infrastructure, shutting down exports. It's a tough thing.
Well, you know, Al-Sadr, he is sort of like the president's opponent. He says one thing one day and does another the next. So it is hard to trust him. But the fact is progress is being made, and ultimately, it will be up to the Iraqis to take control of their government. I think what's really interesting, if you notice the attacks have gone away from coalition forces and now the insurgents are attacking the Iraqis' interim government; they're attacking the Iraqi interim police. That should tell the American people that it's really not about America.
The real war in Iraq is about control of Iraqis' future. And the insurgents want to institute a Taliban extremist- type government, and that's why they're attacking the interim government.
If we empower the moderate folks, we will see a representative democracy. We know it can work in the Middle East. It is working great in Turkey, and it is going to work in Iraq.
Carey Baker, who you just heard, is a sergeant in the Florida National Guard. Earlier this year, he returned from 12 months in Iraq. Jim?
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