Bush says McCain is his own man
September 2, 2008
ST. PAUL, Minnesota President George W. Bush praised John McCain on Tuesday as an “independent man who thinks for himself,” a nod to the Republican presidential candidate’s attempts to separate himself from the deeply unpopular sitting chief executive.In excerpts of a speech that Bush was to deliver by satellite link to the second day of the Republican National Convention a significantly diminished role from earlier plans Bush also said American security depended on McCain’s election.”We live in a dangerous world,” Bush said. “And we need a president who understands the lessons of September 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,” Bush said.The campaign of Democrat Barack Obama was quick with a response.”Tonight, George Bush enthusiastically passed the torch to the man who’s earned it by voting with him 90 percent of the time, and who will continue this president’s legacy for the next four years his disastrous economic policies, his foreign policy that hasn’t made us safer, and his misguided war in Iraq that’s costing us $10 billion a month,” said Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. “The man George Bush needs may be John McCain, but the change America needs is Barack Obama.”After the business-only opening of the convention on Monday out of deference to Americans caught in Hurricane Gustav, Republicans were putting their quadrennial political festival back on its partisan tracks even as McCain sought to quell suggestions his choice of running mate came with more surprises than expected.Days after McCain announced he had picked Alaska’s largely nationally unknown governor, Sarah Palin, as his running mate, a series of disclosures including that her unmarried teenage daughter is pregnant and that her husband was arrested for drunken driving fueled talk that the presumptive Republican nominee’s team failed to adequately research his vice presidential pick.But McCain said Tuesday he was satisfied that Palin’s background was properly checked, telling reporters as he toured a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, fire house that the “vetting process was completely thorough and I’m grateful for the results.”Palin’s background offered but one of a series of potential challenges confronting Republicans as they rallied to kick-start their convention a gathering that has so far paled in comparison to the Democrats’ nominating extravaganza last week.Bush had been scheduled to address the convention on its first day but canceled in order to be closer to hurricane preparations in Texas.The president, whose popularity took a pummeling three years ago for his administration’s botched handling of devastating Hurricane Katrina and has been dragged down more by the Iraq war, was to address the convention for just eight minutes.The condensed appearance represented a carefully orchestrated compromise with McCain’s camp, a reflection of the delicate balancing act the Republican candidate faces as he looks to distance himself from an unpopular president.More prominent speaking roles Tuesday were going to Joe Lieberman, the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate in 2000, and Fred Thompson, the former 2008 presidential hopeful and actor best known to many voters as the district attorney on the hit television show, “Law & Order.”The choice of those two men highlighted how Republicans were rewriting the convention’s script as they go along after Gustav forced a rethink of earlier plans.Aides said McCain probably would deliver his nomination acceptance speech in person as scheduled on Thursday.While Gustav hamstrung Republicans with its ironically timed collision with the U.S. Gulf Coast about three years to the day after Katrina initial reports showed the storm was not as devastating as feared, and the party quickly turned its attention back to reintroducing McCain to Americans.But in keeping with the more subdued tone, it appeared that attacks on Obama would be tempered.Lieberman, who left the Democratic Party after losing a Senate primary, told CNN that he would not “spend any time tonight attacking Sen. Obama.” Instead, the independent who has angered Democrats with his attacks on Obama, said he would explain “why I am an independent Democrat voting for Sen. McCain.”Hurricane Gustav, weaker than expected, hit the heart of Louisiana’s oil and fishing industries but appeared to spare New Orleans the catastrophic flooding of Katrina.Still, its political impact was unclear. For a day at least, the storm denied McCain the nonstop news coverage that Obama enjoyed during the Democrats’ convention in Denver, Colorado.Obama also scaled back his political activities and turned his attention to the Gulf Coast region, urging supporters to donate to the American Red Cross.Republicans, however, faced a duel test.Palin, the 44-year-old mother with a reputation of being a maverick, announced hours before convention began on Monday that her unmarried 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. It also was disclosed Monday that an attorney had been hired to represent Palin in a state ethics probe and that her husband, Todd, had been arrested for drunken driving two decades ago.McCain’s campaign aides said the statement was issued to rebut Internet rumors that the governor’s 4-month-old baby was, in fact, Bristol’s.Obama, himself the subject of numerous rumors, condemned those directed at Palin, saying that he believed “people’s families are off limits, and people’s children are especially off limits.”The man who led McCain’s vice presidential search team said he thought everything that had come up as a possible red flag during the background check had now been made public.”I think so,” Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr. told The Associated Press. “Yes. I think so. Correct.”Palin, the first Republican woman ever picked to share the presidential ticket, is a strong anti-abortionist, and her selection was seen as boosting McCain’s support among the party’s base of Christian conservatives, many of whom have been reluctant to back him.Prominent religious conservatives issued statements of support after she said the teen would marry the father, who was identified in news reports as 18-year-old Levi Johnston.The decision to hire a lawyer for Palin stems from an investigation into whether the governor fired Alaska public safety commissioner Walt Monegan after he refused to fire a state trooper who had divorced Palin’s sister.In July, a legislative oversight committee approved $100,000 to investigate whether Palin abused her power.For a second day Tuesday, however, Palin had no public events scheduled.