NEW YORK – In a rousing warmup for President Bush, retired Gen. Tommy Franks (search) on Thursday called his commander in chief "the real thing," a man who has the "courage and consistency" needed to lead America in the fight against terrorism.
"Citizens and friends, I've been with this president in tough, uncertain times," Franks, former commander of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, said at the Republican National Convention (search). "George W. Bush is the real thing. He is the real thing."
Franks said he's seen "courage and consistency" in Bush's eyes: "The courage to stand up to terrorists and the consistency necessary to beat them."
"Terrorism against our country started long before 9/11," Franks said. "Terrorists have been killing Americans for more than two decades. I am proud that this president has chosen to make a stand."
Along with Franks, more than a dozen other retired generals and admirals also appeared to endorse Bush as the crowd waved "We Support Our Troops" and "A Nation of Courage" signs.
"Each of us on this platform, along with countless others, including more than 250 retired admirals and generals, whose names you see on the screen behind me, stand united," said retired Gen. P.X. Kelley, former commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. "United under the firm conviction that the best way to defend America today is to stand united behind our resolute commander in chief, and re-elect President George W. Bush."
Although he never directly names Democratic challenger John Kerry or the Democrats who have attacked Bush's handling of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Franks said: "Some argue that we should treat this war as a law enforcement issue. Some say we should fight a less aggressive war, that we should retreat into a defensive posture and hope the terrorists don't attack us again."
Bush is the man to lead America, Franks said.
"I choose George W. Bush because he is a leader we can depend on to make the tough decision: the right decision," Franks said. "I choose George W. Bush because his vision to take the fight to the terrorists is the best way to protect our country. "
Less than a month ago, Franks hadn't decided to endorse Bush, calling himself "a fiercely independent kind of guy and rather proud of it."
But he said he now has made up his mind. "Here I stand tonight, endorsing George W. Bush to be the next president of the United States," he told the convention.
Franks has raised his public profile as he promotes his just-published memoirs, "American Soldier."
In the book, he talked about his first meeting with Bush at the White House. "I was pleased on that night to have a man of faith in the White House," Franks said. "And throughout the critical years of American history that followed, my opinion never changed."