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We're looking for substance from the GOP

Modern political conventions have become four-day infomercials about the candidates being nominated. Still, people can glean something if they listen closely.

At the Democratic convention a month ago, vice presidential nominee John Edwards continued his “two Americas” rhetoric borrowed from a 1930s radical labor movement. And Sen. John Kerry emphasized his now-controversial four months in Vietnam, while glossing over his long liberal Senate record.

We hope the Republican Convention that begins Monday in New York City will go a little heavier on substance. Republicans owe Americans a blueprint that contrasts with what the Kerry campaign has proposed. We need to know what four more Bush years would mean.

Tax and spending policy: Republicans should point out that Sen. Kerry’s proposal to increase taxes on the “wealthy” while supposedly cutting middle-class taxes is retrograde thinking. Why not just cut everybody’s taxes?

Americans working in the private sector are more likely than in the past to understand that “taxing the wealthy” means the owners of one’s company will have less money to invest in business and jobs creation. The president might also point out that a Kerry administration promises nationalized health care costing $653 billion over 10 years and $200 billion more for education during the same time.

President Bush is likely to promise to make permanent his 2003 tax cuts. But he should go further, outlining comprehensive tax reform. We hope it includes something like a flat tax of from 15 percent to 18 percent, as Steve Forbes proposed in his 2000 presidential bid. Or it could include tripling the dependent children’s tax deduction, to $3,000. This would take the middle-class tax-cut issue away from Sen. Kerry.

The president also needs to deal with his spending problem, which has produced deficits approaching $500 billion, bringing valid criticism from Sen. Kerry. In the president’s first term in office, discretionary spending soared at 8 percent per year. He needs to acknowledge the deficit and tell Americans how he proposes to bring it down. He needs to stop proposing new bills and start vetoing with vehemence.

The Iraq war: From the beginning, we have disagreed with the president’s decision to invade Iraq. At this point, the president’s options are difficult. But he could announce milestones to be met for pulling out American forces and turning the country over to the Iraqi government that took power two months ago. Keeping Americans there another four years just isn’t an option.

In his favor, President Bush might note that Sen. Kerry wants to build a foreign policy on the mirage that he can get France and Germany to bail us out of Iraq.

Intelligent intelligence: The convention’s location in New York close to 9/11’s Ground Zero will remind everyone of the essential task of protecting Americans. For that, good intelligence is essential. As Rep. Chris Cox, R-Newport Beach, Calif., said recently, the president needs to outline an approach that avoids a regulatory lock-down of American life by inspecting every aspect of our personal and commercial lives. A better approach involves prevention through competing agencies, providing better intelligence that can be used to pinpoint threats.

Overall, we hope Bush and his party can persuade us this week that they would live up to their small, prudent-government rhetoric more than they have in his first term.