ST. PAUL, Minn. — Joseph Lieberman, the Democrats' 2000 vice-presidential nominee, plans to tear Tuesday night into this year's Democratic presidential candidate in a red-meat speech to the Republican National Convention, charging that Barack Obama is among those who want to "retreat in defeat from the field of battle."
The Connecticut senator is to be the featured speaker at the Republican gathering's first prime-time session, and while he'll praise presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain for bringing people together, he also plans to defend his stance backing the war in Iraq, the issue that triggered his deep rift with other Democrats.
"When others wanted to retreat in defeat from the field of battle, when Barack Obama was voting to cut off funding for our troops on the ground," Lieberman will say, according to speech excerpts released in advance, "John McCain had the courage to stand against the tide of public opinion and support the surge (in Iraq), and because of that, today our troops are at last beginning to come home, not in failure but in honor."
Lieberman's rough rhetoric will follow similar blasts from former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, Tuesday's other main speaker.
"We need a president who doesn't think that the protection of the unborn or a newly born baby is above his pay grade," Thompson will say, according to excerpts released in advance, a reference to Obama's recent dodge of a question at a public forum on when life begins.
Thompson also plans to vigorously defend Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the presumptive vice-presidential nominee, who revealed Monday that her unwed 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. Palin, Thompson will say, "is from a small town, with small-town values, but that's not good enough for those folks who are attacking her and her family."
She's popular with the Republican delegates, he'll note, and that "has the other side and their friends in the media in a state of panic."
The two prime-time speakers were expected to overshadow brief remarks by President Bush.
"We live in a dangerous world," the president said in a satellite hookup from the White House, "and we need a president who understands the lessons of Sept. 11, 2001: That to protect America, we must stay on the offense, stop attacks before they happen and not wait to be hit again. The man we need is John McCain."
He praised McCain's war position, saying that "one senator above all had faith in our troops and the importance of their mission — and that was John McCain."
The partisan pitches created a far different tone from Monday's somber opening convention session, when speakers quietly urged support for Hurricane Gustav's victims.
The evening's main business was hearing from Thompson and Lieberman, two of McCain's best Senate friends.
Thompson ran for president this year as a conservative alternative to McCain. He also is an actor in movies and on TV.
Lieberman has been close to McCain on environmental, campaign-finance and national security issues, and has campaigned extensively for him this year. He caucuses with Senate Democrats, and votes with their party about 85 percent of the time.
But he was a hero to Republicans on Tuesday.
"What, after all, is a Democrat like me doing at a Republican convention like this?" he'll ask, according to excerpts released in advance. "The answer is simple. I'm here to support John McCain because country matters more than party."
He recalled how "I have personally seen John over and over again bring people together from both parties to tackle our toughest problems we face."
Delegates hailed Lieberman.
"The Republican Party is a diverse party, and he's one of the more thoughtful people in public life," said Chris Nelson, a national security consultant from Anchorage, Alaska.
"He helps with independents, Jewish voters and moderate Democrats, and he energizes our base. Not all of our base is evangelical," added Allen Miller, a St. Lucie County, Fla., Republican official.
(Richard Mauer of the Anchorage Daily News in Anchorage, Marisa Taylor in Washington and William Douglas in Philadelphia contributed to this article.)
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