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Political discord

With the Republican National Convention under way in New York City and the Democratic convention over, students have to face a difficult decision — George W. Bush or John Kerry.

Political science professor J. Edwin Benton says that many students are not as involved in politics as they should be.

“There is ample data to support (the fact that students are) less apt to participate in politics,” Benton said.

Benton said one of the reasons why young people do not actively participate in politics is that students in the ’70s became disenchanted with politics during the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.

“That turned (my generation) off to politics,” he said. “What does that do when we socialize our children? The political values and importance is not transmitted. The lukewarmness is passed to the present generation.”

Benton said that students don’t see the clear connection between politics and everyday life.

“It does matter who is in Congress if you want to get a home loan,” he said. Political science professor Susan MacManus disagrees.

“(Students are much) more political now than in the past ten years, especially Floridians,” she said. “Because of the closeness of the 2000 election, students realized they make a difference. The war or terrorist attacks make students worry about future and security. (The Sept. 11 attacks) did affect (the students’) interest in politics.”

MacManus, who is at the GOP convention in New York, said that the general atmosphere of the convention is support of the president.

“(The Republicans) love the president,” she said. “Their biggest concern is not to have another 9/11 and to back (the president’s support of) stronger security at home and abroad.”

Democrats were quick to challenge the GOP theme that Bush was a strong leader, pointing to his comments in a television interview suggesting that the war on terror could not be won.

“This is no time to declare defeat,” Edwards said. And Democratic Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack told reporters in New York, “This is a president who doesn’t believe we can win the war on terror.”

Republicans were paying tribute to victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in their opening convention session. “We’ve shown the world New York can never be defeated,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in welcoming delegates.

Thousands of police kept the city under tight security as the convention opened. Officials for the city quote the number of protestors as somewhere around 120,000, but protest organizers have said the turnout was closer to 400,000.

“(It was a) peaceful protest,” MacManus said. “Lots of people participated and their voices were not by any means stifled. They garnered massive coverage in newspapers across the country.”

In an interview on NBC’s “Today” show, Bush promised no retreat from the war on terror. But to the question “Can we win?” Bush said: “I don’t think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the — those who use terror as a tool — are less acceptable in parts of the world.”

That brought a storm of Democratic criticism just as the convention was getting under way.

“I decided a year ago that he cannot win the war on terror,” said retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, former Air Force chief of staff, at a news conference organized by Democrats.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan sought to clarify the president’s remarks, telling reporters aboard Air Force one, “He was talking about winning it in the conventional sense … about how this is a different kind of war and we face an unconventional enemy.”

While seeking to energize the party’s conservative base with anti-Kerry rhetoric, Republicans were reaching out to undecided moderates. Most of the prominent convention speakers — McCain, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — are popular among moderates and independent-minded voters.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.