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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Republican National Convention; Rescuers Save Dozens Trapped by Floods; Interview with Michele Bachmann
Aired August 29, 2012 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's coverage of the Republican National Convention continues right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With a deep awareness of the responsibility conferred by your trust, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is America. A brilliant diversity spread like stars, like 1,000 points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.
SEN. BOB DOLE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I call on every American to rise above all that may divide us.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They've had their chance. They have not led. We will.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Fight with me. Fight with me. Fight for what's right for our country.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN.
He put new fire in Mitt Romney's campaign.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's an honor to announce my running mate and the next vice president of the United States, Paul Ryan.
ANNOUNCER: He gave new hope to the Republican right.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm a Catholic deer hunter. I am happy to be clinging to my guns and my religion.
ANNOUNCER: And he reenergized the president's liberal base.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's the ideological leader of the Republicans in Congress. But that vision is wrong.
ANNOUNCER: In Tampa tonight, Congressman Paul Ryan accepts the vice presidential nomination and helps lead the attack on the president's economic policies.
RYAN: The recovery starts November the 6th when President Obama is not working in the White House any longer.
ANNOUNCER: Will Ryan defend his own record and his budget plan under fierce attack by Democrats?
RYAN: You've heard the president has been talking about Medicare a bit lately. We want this debate. We need this debate. And we are going to win this debate.
ANNOUNCER: Now CNN turns the spotlight on one of the biggest platforms in American politics. This is the Republican National Convention. This is Paul Ryan's night.
RYAN: It's not the way to fix this country's problems.
ANNOUNCER: This is AMERICA'S CHOICE.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. We're here at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. We're expecting a lively hour. Senator Rand Paul addresses the delegates shortly after a video honoring his father, the Texas congressman, Ron Paul.
Also coming up this hour, tributes to a pair of former presidents, George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush.
Here inside the convention hall, anticipation is building for tonight's acceptance speech by the vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're here on the convention floor along with CNN's Erin Burnett.
It's going to be an exciting night for these Republicans who have gathered here.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: It is. And they've just begun their night as well. You just heard the "Pledge of Allegiance." They're going to sing the national anthem which we'll pause for. But as they're getting ready to -- let's go up to John King here. OK. Well, let's listen first.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please welcome --
BLITZER: That was a beautiful, beautiful rendition of the national anthem by Ella Brown. She's the daughter of Senator Scott Brown, the Republican senator from Massachusetts. She did a magnificent job.
BURNETT: That's right.
BLITZER: Singing the national anthem.
BURNETT: We knew she could sing. And she just -- she just proved it.
BLITZER: She did indeed.
BURNETT: Well, everyone of course is getting for -- ready for Paul Ryan. And that's going to be the big event of the night. Everyone is waiting for it. We're told that his speech is going to be tough and designed to, quote-unquote, "deconstruct," President Obama's campaign agenda.
Now a lot of Americans are just getting to know him the Wisconsin congressman. When you look at the numbers, a lot of people in this country aren't familiar with him at all. He is the chair of the House Budget Committee.
Our Gloria Borger has spoken within him in depth -- Gloria.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Erin, Ryan is really a deficit hawk. And everyone knows that he's proposed these budgets that are going to drastically cut spending. And they're going to reform programs like Medicare. Very, very controversial. But Ryan also has a very compelling personal story. And he told me a little bit about it when I spoke with him last summer. So take a listen.
BORGER (voice-over): Ryan is a man in a hurry. In Washington, he bunks in his congressional office. It's cheaper, near work and closer to the House gym, which is good, since he's a fitness buff who got some of his colleagues hooked on a grueling exercise routine called P90x.
RYAN: It is a great workout.
BORGER: In a way, he owes his devotion to fitness to his father. In particular, one day when the younger Ryan was still a teen.
(On camera): Your dad was 55 when he died and you were --
RYAN: Sixteen, yes.
BORGER: Sixteen years old. How did that affect you? You say you're more sensitive --
RYAN: You know, yes, it -- I mean, I was as a young kid working at McDonald's that summer. And my mom was out visiting my sister who got a job in Denver. And, you know, one time, I wake him up in the morning, he wasn't -- he wasn't alive.
BORGER: You found him?
RYAN: So I basically had to learn to sink or swim. My grandmother who had Alzheimer's moved in with us at the time. Then my mom and I took care of her. My mom went back to school to learn a skill. And I did a lot of growing up very fast. It made me very, I'd say, initiative-prone. Live life to its fullest because you never know how long it's going to last. BORGER: But you had the opportunity to run for president at the age of 41, if you're in a hurry.
BORGER: And you --
RYAN: Yes. It's true. It's true.
BORGER: And you said --
RYAN: Nice boomerang on that.
BORGER: And you said, no.
RYAN: Sure, because I think there are other good people who can do this job but there are other good people who can't raise my kids.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm John King. We're up in the CNN skybox. Now let's continue the conversation. Gloria Borger is with me. David Gergen as well.
The thing that fascinates me about the Paul Ryan choice, it's a generational play by Mitt Romney.
KING: It's a younger, next-generation of Republican, and yet, liberals say they love this choice because it frames the issues in a way they want. Conservatives say they love this choice because it frames the issues they way they want. Can they both be right?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So far, the conservatives have been right. Because the liberals have felt and they may still accomplish this, that they could take his Medicare proposal in particular and use it against the Republicans. It is -- it has become the new third rail politics after Social Security. And so far it doesn't seem to be cutting in most states.
Here in Florida, for example, there's a poll out that shows that 65 and over, seniors, still prefer Obama over --
GERGEN: I mean still prefer Romney over Obama. The Medicare hasn't scared them yet.
KING: He's a member of the House of Representatives, almost unprecedented to be put --
KING: To be put -- a Washington insider. He was a staff member. He's been in Washington for almost all of his adult life. But for a member of the House, he does have a lot of national political experience in defending the budget. He's debated President Obama in a couple of public settings. Is he ready to go into the -- I was going to say the 50 states but we all know this is the campaign of 10 states and make the case?
BORGER: I think he is. You know, I've been surprised watching him on the campaign trail. How relaxed he is. He's used to being in the arena, John. You know that. And he's become the poster child for the Democrats. They've run an ad with somebody who looks like him pushing an elderly person off a wheelchair. So he told me he's ready. He's ready.
KING: A lot more Paul Ryan conversation as the tonight goes on. But let's go back down to the floor and Wolf for a big moment here at the convention.
BLITZER: Yes, they've got video that's coming up right now. In fact, a video on Ron Paul, the Texas congressman, the former Republican presidential candidate. In fact, the video, I think, has just started. Let's watch it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ron Paul. Twenty-two years in Congress. He's never voted for a tax increase. Never voted for a debt ceiling increase. Never wavered, never backed down.
REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: The role of government ought to be for the protection of liberty, not for the intrusion in our private lives, not for the intrusion in economic affairs. You can't keep borrowing from China. You can keep printing money. We have to cut some spending. I believe in limited government. I believe in individual liberty. We've spent too much and taxed too much. We borrowed too much. It's bankrupting this country.
I knew I did not want to be a politician all my life. As a matter of fact, I was surprised I ever won because this message I thought would not go well with the people because I'm not making wild promises. Of course, my wife warned me this was a dangerous project because she was -- she said, you could end up getting elected.
CAROL PAUL, WIFE OF REP. RON PAUL: And he said, no, no. I'm not going to be elected. I said, you have to be like Santa Claus, you have to give them something. He says, I don't want to give them something or bring home the bacon. He said, I want to give them their freedom.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: It's been a consistent theme since his very first election that government's grown too large and as government grows larger, your freedoms grow smaller. And he's fought this through the years. SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: When I first got to the House, I thought Ron Paul was nuts. He was out there talking about the Federal Reserve, the monetary system. But more and more, I found myself voting with him.
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: We spent talking about these things since the early 1970s. And he hasn't wavered. He hasn't buckled. Even when he's had to stand alone.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: I always put politicians into two categories. They're either here to make a point or they're here to make a difference. Ron Paul is the only one I know who made a different by making a point.
R. PAUL: We need lower taxes, less regulations and we need to free up the market.
REP. JIMMY DUNCAN (R), TENNESSEE: He's been the absolutely fiscal hawk. One of the most fiscally conservative members in the history of the Congress.
REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R), MICHIGAN: I can guarantee you we wouldn't have a $16 trillion debt if we had 435 Ron Pauls in Congress.
DEMINT: The more I think about him over the years, the more inspiring it is of what he's done. Not being afraid of anything, but willing to stand for what he thought was right. Ron Paul was Tea Party before there was a Tea Party.
REP. WALTER JONES (R), NORTH CAROLINA: If you want honesty, integrity, look to Ron Paul. And that's based on his faith and based on his beliefs in the Constitution.
AMASH: He's wanted to do things that other people aren't willing to do because his convictions are so deep.
R. PAUL: As long as we live beyond our means, we are destined to live beneath our means.
RAND PAUL: Well, one of the extraordinary things about my father is that, you know, the lobbyists don't even come by his office. They don't even bother to come by because they know he can't be bought.
LEE: And that fashion is born of a deep and a biting conviction. That these are correct principles.
DUNCAN: He stands for freedom. He stands for liberty. He stands for a traditional American values that made this country great.
DEMINT: The longer we go and the deeper in debt we get, the more apparent it is that Ron Paul was right all those years.
MCCONNELL: Whether people want to admit it or not, Ron Paul changed the conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP) (APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please give a warm welcome to Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
BLITZER: All right. What a tribute to Ron Paul. It's a little surprising to see that kind of tribute here at the Republican convention for Ron Paul. He's not speaking. The retiring United States congressman, he's not speaking at this convention because he didn't want them to have to vet his speech. He hasn't even fully endorsed Mitt Romney. His son is going to be speaking later tonight. But it's a little strange, that tribute, especially yesterday, as you remember, that he didn't even announce how many votes he was getting during the roll call.
BURNETT: Yes. It was -- it was very awkward. As we've been saying it matters every single vote. You may not like that his delegates are still here voting for him. But bringing him into the fold, saying, look, welcome, vote for Mitt Romney, might have been a nice thing to do just in terms of the gesture. It didn't happen. So all they got is the video, Wolf.
BLITZER: A video, and a nice little tribute.
BURNETT: Nice video. They only got the video.
BLITZER: The Republican senator from Kentucky is going to be speaking later tonight.
BLITZER: Let's go back up to the skybox. John King is standing by -- John.
KING: And Wolf, let's continue that conversation because what you just saw there was an attempt by the Republican National Committee and the Romney campaign to essentially thread a needle. Ron Paul, as you noted, will not speak tonight. But in that video, they're trying to pay tribute to him. A lot of his supporters on the floor here, some of them grumpy about the way he's been treated.
Also some Tea Party lawmakers in there. You won't see a lot -- you will hear from Rand Paul. as Wolf just noted tonight. But you won't see a Tea Party celebration here tonight. And yet the Tea Party was so important to the Republicans in 2010.
Let's continue our conversation, David Gergen and Gloria Borger, also Donna Brazile, and Alex Castellanos.
Alex, so Ron Paul doesn't speak because he wouldn't say, I 100 percent endorse Mitt Romney. Is that enough, the video, to say, we appreciate your service, we want your voters, your supporters in the fold?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it certainly helps. But the way to Ron Paul supporters is through their stomachs. And their stomachs is policy. You know, they really want good economic policy. This election is in Ron Paul's wheelhouse. It's about economics. And getting the government out of your pocketbook. If it were about social issues where Ron Paul disagrees with the Republicans, if it were about foreign policy where Ron Paul disagrees with the Republicans, there wouldn't be a way to bring things together.
But there is. And frankly there may have been a bump in the road here, too. But this convention, the Ron Paul folks are pretty united with all Republicans in getting rid of Barack Obama.
KING: Donna, you went through this as Al Gore's campaign manager. It happens. You're trying to manage a convention that's about your candidate. But there are people who ran against them or there are voices in the party that might be a little bit different. You heard Senator DeMint there said he thought Ron Paul was nuts and then suddenly came around to his way of thinking.
I'm reminded of the anti-abortion Democrat, Bob Casey, the late Pennsylvania governor, who often had a hard time at Democratic conventions. How do you -- when you know there are people on the floor who support the other guy, how do you get them into the fold without giving up too much of your convention?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I would, I guess, believe that dissent is very important in a democracy, especially at a time like this when so many passionate supporters, they've worked hard, they tried to elect Ron Paul. They've been with Ron Paul for a number of years. They are strong believers in his philosophy of limited government.
And all they want is a seat at the table. They want to be able to go back home and say, you know what, I was at this convention, I heard Ron Paul. I'm fired up, ready to go, ready to go and support Mitt Romney. What happened yesterday? I thought it left a bad taste in the mouths of some of the Ron Paul supporters.
CASTELLANOS: But nothing -- there's nothing unites some people on earth like a threat from mars.
CASTELLANOS: That threat from mars is Barack Obama for Ron Paul supporters --
BORGER: I'll tell you what, you notice in that movie, there was nothing substantive. It was all about how he's independent and for small government and they can all agree on that.
GERGEN: He's not a normal candidate. He's a cause. That makes a difference.
BORGER: And he gets people voting.
KING: The question I have in a state that -- I know Donna doesn't like this. I mean a state Al Gore lost by 530 something votes. Due to those Ron Paul supporters. There is a libertarian candidate for president, Gary Johnson, for some of that leave the Republican fold. I think that's a question, Wolf, as we go beyond Tampa after Charlotte for the final weeks in the campaign.
BLITZER: That's an excellent question especially if it is as close in Florida, let's say, or other states as it's likely to be. Thanks very much for that.
Michele Bachmann says the GOP doesn't, repeat, doesn't have a problem with women. The president does. The former presidential candidate is about to sit down with our own Piers Morgan. Stand by for that.
BURNETT: All right. We are here at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, as you can see, late afternoon here coming into evening at the Republican National Convention. All the delegates are convened. And one of the big themes here has been sort of the establishment versus other groups, grassroots groups, whether it's the Ron Paul-ites, whether it's the Tea Party. And that's a crucial group right now that Piers Morgan is going to be talking about as he's joined with a special guest Michele Bachmann on the floor -- Piers.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST, PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT: I'm very excited by this. I'm with Congressman Michelle Bachmann. And you're here where all the action is. Now be honest, would you rather be up there on the stage? You feel a little bit left out?
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I don't feel left out. But of course I'd love to be up there. I was my own first choice for president of the United States but I'm enthusiastic about getting behind this ticket.
MORGAN: Are you a bit too dangerous, do you think, for Mitt Romney's administration? His team?
BACHMANN: Well, I'm exactly in line with where the Romney-Ryan team is because they have embraced the Tea Party principles, of the fact that we're taxed enough already. Government shouldn't spend more money than what it takes in. And we believe that the government should act within the limits of the Constitution. That's where mainstream America is and that's now where our Republican Party platform is. And Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan embrace that so we're feeling wildly successful right now from a Tea Party point of view.
MORGAN: What about all the furor last week over Todd Akin? Because you and he and Paul Ryan all come together with the taxpayer funding for abortion act and he obviously came apropos last week. What did you think of what he said?
BACHMANN: Well, obviously you're reading directly off the Obama talking points because I am pro-life. Paul Ryan is pro-life and we are a pro-life party and we're not ashamed of it. But we also believe that people have freedom of opinion. And that's the kind of country that we are. And we believe that we respect other people's opinions.
MORGAN: Now you've been saying this week that Barack Obama is more anti-women than Mitt Romney. You actually mean that?
BACHMANN: Well, I think Mitt Romney is going to be the one who allows more financial security for more women. And I mean clearly he's a guy who knows what he's talking about. He's been very successful. Ann Romney gave a (INAUDIBLE) speech last night. Ad I think he would do very well for American women, all women.
MORGAN: But if he's so much more popular with women than Barack Obama, why do all the polls say that Barack Obama is a lot more popular in women than Mitt Romney?
BACHMANN: We've got to -- you've got to dis-aggregate the data because if you look at it, married women tend to support Mitt Romney more. Single women tend to support Barack Obama more. But, again, single women are going to do a lot better under an Obama administration because they'll pay half the price for gasoline if Mitt Romney is president because gasoline is more than doubled under Barack Obama.
And we have a very aggressive energy plan from Mitt Romney. And when women go to fill up their car and they're paying double for gasoline, that's not helping any women. The same with the skyrocketing price of groceries and health care. Mitt Romney is going to make life a lot more affordable, he's going to bring prices down. And that's really good for women because women do a lot of shopping in families.
MORGAN: Paul Ryan has got a big speech tonight. It's a very important speech for him. What do you want him to say?
BACHMANN: Well, I love Paul Ryan. He and I have worked shoulder to shoulder with each other for six years. I know him very well. And I think what he's going to do is talk about the way forward and how we're going to make America a growth economy. That's what we need. We've been stagnant. And Paul -- and Paul has a great plan for seeing us grow.
And I think his insider expertise of knowing the budget better than anyone else on Capitol Hill coupled with Mitt Romney who really knows how to be successful in private enterprise, that's -- you put that combination together, it's an undeniable winning ticket. And that's why I think they're going to be very successful in November.
MORGAN: Many people thought last night with Chris Christie that he was making a pitch to be the next Republican leader, possibly the next presidential candidate, rather than supporting his man, Mitt Romney. What did you think?
BACHMANN: I think he was talking about big ideas. I think he was talking about principles of who we are in this country and who we are as conservatives. And I think obviously he was lifting up Mitt Romney and he fully endorses Mitt Romney. But with all due respect to the governor and I love him, I do think the night belonged to Ann Romney because she warmed everyone. She won us with her smile.
The second she came out, she almost did a little curtsy and I think she just is who she is. She's very comfortable in her skin. I know her. We were able to do at least 15 presidential debates together. I would speak to her before and after the debates.
What you see on stage is what you get. That is Ann Romney. She's a delightful person.
MORGAN: Well, I -- I find myself in a very unusual position, Michele Bachmann. I agree with you entirely about Ann Romney.
BACHMANN: Well see?
MORGAN: Why don't we end on a happy note?
BACHMANN: See, we're compatible?
MORGAN: We have agreed on something.
Wolf, Erin, back to you. Off this miraculous encounter.
BLITZER: What a nice picture, Piers. Piers Morgan and Michele Bachmann on the same page. That's not going to happen every day.
BURNETT: I love that. Sort of arm's length. It looked very -- it looked very nice.
Well, as we're listening to music here and the party is beginning, it's -- you've got to imagine what's going on not far away in New Orleans. Some of the worst flooding since Hurricane Katrina. And the pictures there are completely different than what you're seeing here.
Anderson cooper is there. And he's going to be with us right after this break.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good evening. Anderson Cooper, we are in St. Bernard Parish right now. Here's the latest on Tropical Storm Isaac. A lot to tell you -- (INAUDIBLE) over Louisiana, moving at only six miles an hour. Could stay over -- Friday. Some areas already have close to two feet of rain. Between that and the storm surge, parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, are paralyzed by high water right now.
Rescue crews needed boats to reach people who ignored mandatory evacuation orders, who were trapped by rising waters. Hundreds of homes are damaged right now. Close to a million people in the Gulf region -- CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Anderson, we're going to lose your signal here. We've had trouble now with Anderson's signal since we moved his truck away from that building that he was on last night. He had a great shot last night, the truck was protected. Now the truck's kind of out in the open.
Let me get to this real quick. I'll tell you what the weather is going to be. And then we'll get back to Anderson if his signal is back.
Weather is all the way from the Carolinas, all the way back into Louisiana. The eye of the center still very prominent on radar, still a very bright storm with colors here on the radar, 70-mile-per-hour winds. It's going to stay with us for most of the night. We'll zoom into right where Anderson is, right there in Plaquemines Parish. Right here just to the south of New Orleans. There's Belle Chasse going to cross the river. That's the East Bank. Big winds, still coming on shore here. Those winds are still coming, every squall that comes on by, winds will be 50 to 60 miles per hour.
Anderson, we have your signal back. So go ahead if you can hear me.
COOPER: So, we're in St. Bernard Parish, right on the opposite side of this levee gate is Plaquemines Parish. It is under water. You've been out here all day. You've been seeing a lot of rescues all day.
O'BRIEN: Yes, absolutely. It's quite amazing when you think about the power of that wall because we're standing on dry cement here. But that wall -- behind that wall is something like 16 to 20 feet of water in Plaquemines Parish.
That's the big problem. Further back are the levees. The levees have been overtopped from the gulf. That water went pouring into Plaquemines Parish. That is part of the federal --
MYERS: Yes. Same problem again. I can see -- it breaks up and it comes and it goes, wolf. We're going to have to put that truck behind some building so that Anderson's live shots can stay because this storm is simply not moving. The winds continue to blow, one squall after another.
Five minutes later, it's great. Five minutes from now, may be blowing again at 60. This is going to be with this team, with all of our teams, with all the people of Louisiana for the next 30 hours, believe it or not -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm always amazed at the extreme weather we get as much on the air logistically as possible as we possibly can.
You know what? Behind me, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, the son of Ron Paul, is speaking. I want to listen in.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: -- of the United States believes that road creates business success and not the other way around. (APPLAUSE)
Anyone who so fundamentally misunderstands American greatness is uniquely unqualified to lead this great nation.
The great and abiding lesson of American history, particularly the Cold War, is that the engine of capitalism, the individual, is mightier than any collective. American --
American inventiveness and desire to build developed because we were guaranteed the right to own our success. For most of our history, no one dared tell Americans, you didn't build that. In Bowling Green, Kentucky, the Tang (ph) family owns the great American donut shop. Their family fled war-torn Cambodia to come to this country.
My kids and I love to eat donuts, so we go there frequently. The Tangs work long hours. Mrs. Tang told us the family works through the night to make donuts. The Tang family have become valedictorians and national merit scholars. The Tangs from Cambodia are an American success story.
So, Mr. President, don't you go telling the Tang family that they didn't build that.
When you say they didn't build it, you insult each and every American who ever got up at the crack of dawn. You insult any American who ever put on overalls or a suit. You insult any American who ever studied late into the night to become a doctor or a lawyer. You insult the dishwasher, the cook, the waitress.
You insult anyone who's ever dragged themselves out of bed to strive for something better for themselves and their children.
My great grandfather, like many, came to this country in search of the American dream. No sooner had he stepped off the boat than his father died. He arrived in Pittsburgh as a teenager with nothing, not a penny. He found the American dream, not great wealth, but a bit of property in a new land that gave him hope for his children.
In America, as opposed to the old country, success was based on merit. Probably America's greatest asset was that for the first time, success was not based on who you were but what you did.
My grandfather who lived to se his children become doctors and ministers, accountants and professors, he would even live to see one of his sons, a certain congressman from Texas --
-- a sitting congressman from Texas run for the presidency of the United States.
Immigrants have flocked to our shores seeking freedom. Our forbearers came full of hopes and dreams, so consistent and prevalent were these aspirations that they crystallized into a national yearning we call the American dream. No other country has a dream so inextricably associated with the spirit of its people.
In 1982, an American sailor John Mooney wrote a letter to his parent that is captures the essence of the American dream. He wrote, "Dear mom and dad, today we spotted a boat in the water and we rendered assistance. We picked up 65 Vietnamese refugees. As they approached the ship, they were all waving and trying as best they could to say, 'Hello, American sailor, hello freedom man.'"
It's hard to se a boat full of people like that and not get a lump somewhere between chin and belly button and it really makes one proud and glad to be an American. It reminds us of all what America's been -- a place a man or woman can come to for freedom.
Hwang and Twan Tring (ph), our brothers and friends of mine, they came to American on one of those leaky boats. They were attacked at sea by pirates. Their family's wealth was stolen. Twan spent a year on a south Pacific island existing on rice and a cup of water until he was allowed to come to America.
Now, both of these men and their families are proud Americans. Hwang has his own business and Twan manages a large company. They are the American dream.
So, Mr. President, don't go telling the Tring family you didn't build that.
When the president says, you didn't build that, he's flat-out wrong. Businessmen and women did build that. Businessmen and women did earn their success. Without the success of American business, we wouldn't have any roads, bridges or schools.
Mr. President, you say the rich must pay their fair share. But when you seek to punish the rich, the jobs that are lost are those of the poor and the middle class.
When you seek to punish Mr. ExxonMobil, you punish the secretary who owns ExxonMobil stock.
When you block the Keystone Pipeline, you punish the welder who works on the pipeline.
Our nation faces a crisis. America wavers. Unfortunately, we are one of a select group of countries whose debt now equals their gross domestic product. The republic of Washington and Jefferson is now in danger of becoming the democracy of debt and despair.
Our great nation is coming apart at the seams. And the president just seems to point fingers and blame others. President Obama's administration will add nearly $6 trillion to our national debt in just one term.
And I'm hoping it's just one term.
This explosion of debt is unconscionable and unsustainable. Mr. President, we will not let you bankrupt this great nation.
Republicans and Democrats alike, though, must slay their sacred cows. Republicans must acknowledge that not every dollar spent on the military is necessary or well spent.
Democrats must admit that domestic welfare and entitlements must be reformed.
Republicans and Democrats must replace fear with confidence -- confidence that no terrorist and no country will ever conquer us if we remain steadfast to the principles of our founding documents.
We have nothing to fear except our own unwillingness to defend what is naturally ours, our God-given rights.
We have nothing to fear that should cause us to forget or relinquish our rights as free men and women.
To thrive, we must believe in ourselves again and we must never, never trade our liberty for any fleeting promise of security.
Author Paul Kengor writes of a brisk evening in a small town in Illinois: Returning home from a basketball game at the YMCA, an 11- year-old boy is stunned by the sight of his father, sprawled out in the snow on the front porch. He was drunk, his son would later remember. Dead to the world, crucified. The dad's hair was soaked with melted snow, matted against his reddened face.
The boy stood over his father for a minute or two. He simply wanted to let himself in the door and pretend his dad wasn't there. Instead he grabbed a fist full of overcoat and he heaved his dad into the bedroom away from the weather's harm and the neighbors' attention.
This young boy would become the man, Ronald Reagan.
The man we know as Ronald Reagan whose sunny optimism and charisma shined so brightly that it cured the malaise of the late '70s, a confidence that beamed so broadly that it pulled us through a serious recession, and a faith that tugged so happily at the hearts of all that a generation of Democrats became Republicans.
The American dream is that any among us could become the next Thomas Edison, the next Henry Ford, the next Ronald Reagan. But to lead us forward away from this looming debt crisis, it will take someone who believes in America's greatness, who believes in and can articulate the American dream, someone who has created jobs, someone who understands and appreciates what makes America great -- someone who will lead our party and our nation forward. I believe that someone is our nominee, Governor Mitt Romney.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
As Reagan said, our freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction. If our freedom is taken, the American dream will wither and die. To lead, we must transform the coldness of austerity into the warm, vibrant embrace of prosperity. To overcome the current crisis, we must appreciate and applaud American success.
We must step forward, unabashedly and proclaim -- you did build that.
You earned that. You worked hard. You studied. You labored. You did build that.
And you deserve America's undying gratitude, for you, the individual, are the engine of America's greatness. Thank you.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
BLITZER: There you have it. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, the son of Ron Paul, the presidential candidate.
Erin, we're getting ready now for a tribute to both President Bushes, President Bush 41 and 43. Here it is.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I had a guest and that was President 41.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I was in the bathtub at the White House residence and Ramsey, guy that worked there, came in and said, "Get out of the bath tub, your son is over in the Oval Office."
GEORGE W. BUSH: As I recall the conversation something like this, "Welcome, Mr. President." "It's good to see you, Mr. President." And that's all we said.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: It was fun just walking in and seeing your own son be the president of the United States.
GEORGE W. BUSH: And I remember visiting dad in the Oval Office when he was president and how much reverence he treated the office. And I tried to do the same thing. The Oval Office is a place where you make decisions and welcome dignitaries and welcome some friends. But it's a place that always has to be treated with respect and dignity.
BARBARA BUSH, FORMER U.S. FIRST LADY: Lech Walesa's visit to the White House, we'd sort of been involved with him in Poland and gotten to know him. And he came to the White House, and he really spoke no English. But he mentioned freedom and stooped down as he was getting the award you give a foreigner and kissed the ground. And I must say, that was very emotional.
GEORGE W. BUSH: The first time Vladimir Putin came to visit Washington and the sun was pouring through the windows -- I mean, the Oval Office just sparkled. And the door opened up, and in came President Putin. And his first words were, "My God."
When dad was president, he kindly would invite all of us up to the White House. He actually invited me to the state dinner with the queen. You took a huge risk, a diplomatic gamble. But it worked out OK.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: What did she say? Black --
GEORGE W. BUSH: Something about black sheep. Of course, mother said, "Well, you're looking at him," that would be me. And we moved him as far away as possible for the luncheon.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Not going to do it. Wouldn't be prudent. Dana Carvey, we were coming into the East Room, he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States." And in walked Dana Carvey.
DANA CARVEY, COMEDIAN: First thing I notice is the podium for the other guy over there. Love to be up here but I'm down here. LAURA BUSH, FORMER U.S. FIRST LADY: We didn't really have any issues with family. But our dog did bite a reporter. But right after that, I got a big stack of correspondence to sign and go through and in the correspondence was a letter from Barney. And he wrote and said he was so embarrassed, he was really sorry, he'd made a mistake. He thought that reporter was with "The New York Times."
L. BUSH: I hope people will remember George, and I think they will, for having the determination and the toughness and the persistence to be able to see us through in our country, through such a very difficult time after the terrorist attack. I'm so proud of George.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Integrity, honesty, never a scandal around his presidency. I think we forget the importance of that. They'll remember him for being a good, honest president. He got a lot of things done. But I think the thing I take pride in is integrity.
GEORGE W. BUSH: History will remember him. As a great president, not only was he well-prepared for the job. But when the unexpected took place, he handled it with vision, a clear strategy and calm nerves.
B. BUSH: He is the most decent, honorable, wonderful -- nobody's ever been as lucky as I've been. I want people to remember him as courageous. I want them to remember him as he is.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Dad and I both know what it takes to be president and there's no doubt in our mind that Mitt Romney will be a great president.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: He's a good man.
B. BUSH: And I hope that all the people at the convention work really, really hard, because I think the Romneys are prepared. I think Ann Romney will be great, and I think Mitt Romney will do a fabulous job.
L. BUSH: This gives me a chance also to thank everybody gathered in Tampa and to send our very best wishes to everybody at the convention. We've been to lots of conventions in the past. We want to thank everyone there for their very, very strong support for all of our Republican candidates.
B. BUSH: Absolutely.
L. BUSH: Your local ones to our candidate for president, Mitt Romney.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A touching tribute there to both the 41st and 43rd president of the United States, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. And former first ladies, Barbara Bush and Laura Bush involved.
Let's continue our conversation up here in the CNN sky box with David Gergen and Gloria Borger, Alex Castellanos and Donna Brazile.
A fascinating moment there. Mitt Romney gets along well with both Presidents Bush. But in this hall, mostly party regulars, respect, and a lot of affinity and personal relationships with both former Presidents Bush. But if you look at public opinion polling, George H.W. Bush, conservatives still grumble about him breaking his promise, "Read my lips, no new taxes," and when George W. Bush left office, part of the big Obama victory in 2008 was the country's dissatisfaction, a lot of conservative dissatisfaction with President Bush.
You hear a lot of talk about Ronald Reagan at conventions. Why don't you hear more about the Bushes?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: For the reason you stated. I do think it's one of the most moving moments in the convention so far. One historian wrote that presidents' reputations rise and fall over time. Among Republicans, the reputation of both Bushes I think has gone up over the last couple of years. George H.W. Bush is now older. You can see that in the film. But there's a lot of affection for him here in the hall. And George W. Bush is out on the circuit speaking. And he's very popular out on the circuit these days.
KING: When George H.W. Bush broke that promise, he knew what he was doing. He thought it was a necessary thing to do, to cut a deal with the Republicans to start to bring the deficit down. Bill Clinton never gets a balanced budget probably if not from the increased revenue that comes from George H.W. Bush.
But if a Republican national candidate says that now, if a Republican candidate for Congress says that now, they are reviled and pushed out of the movement.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And don't forget, his son is also -- a lot of Republicans complain about George W. Bush because of the spending that went up under George W. Bush. They say spending got out of control. Prescription drug benefits, for example, when he was president.
Interesting thing about George W. Bush is that he stayed out of politics so much. He has been so silent. You see Dick Cheney out there all the time. And George W. Bush, not at the convention. Keeping a very, very low profile.
GERGEN: He likes retirement.
BORGER: He does.
KING: He likes retirement. He -- also, he learned from his dad. He said there's one president at a time and he does not believe you should interfere with a current president. All he did here is tribute.
We'll bring Alex and Donna to the conversation a bit later. We want to remind you, though, this Saturday night, as you have the nomination of Mitt Romney, we'll be moving on to the Democratic convention and the renomination of Barack Obama -- with a special tribute, a CNN documentary that will air this Saturday at 8:00 p.m. on CNN, a tribute to the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush.
Wolf, back to you now on the floor.
BLITZER: It's an excellent documentary, indeed, and I recommend to our viewers right here on CNN.
We're about to hear from the man who defeated Mitt Romney for the presidential nomination in 2008, Senator John McCain. So, what will he say about Mitt Romney tonight? We're all going to find out. Stand by.
ANNOUNCER: He put new fighter in Mitt Romney's campaign.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's an honor to announce my running mate and the next vice president of the United States, Paul Ryan.
ANNOUNCER: He gave new hope to the Republican right.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm a Catholic deer hunter. I am happy to be clinging to my guns and my religion.
ANNOUNCER: And he reenergized the president's liberal base.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's the ideological leader of the Republicans in Congress. But that vision is wrong.
ANNOUNCER: In Tampa tonight, Congressman Paul Ryan accepts the vice presidential nomination, and helps lead the attack on the president's economic policies.
RYAN: The recovery starts November the 6th, when President Obama is not working in the White House any longer.
ANNOUNCER: Will Ryan defend his own record, and his budget plan under fierce attack by Democrats?
RYAN: You've heard the president. He's been talking about Medicare a bit lately. We want this debate. We need this debate. And we are going to win this debate.
ANNOUNCER: Now, CNN turns the spotlight on the biggest platforms in American politics, this is the Republican National Convention. This is Paul Ryan's night.
RYAN: It's not too late to fix this country's problems.
ANNOUNCER: This is America's choice.
BLITZER: Now, we want to welcome back our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer here at the Republican National Convention. Erin Burnett is here.
Erin, we're about to hear a major address by the man who was the Republican presidential nominee four years ago, John McCain.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: It's going to be interesting, especially because he had the choice at the time to pick Mitt Romney possibly to be his V.P. Didn't choose to do it. It's going to be a crucial speech.
Candy Crowley has a little sense of what John McCain is going to speak about. Candy, tell us about it.