September 2, 2008 – President Bush promised Tuesday that the nation would be safer with John McCain as president, saying his impressive life story and sound judgment make the Arizona senator the man Americans need to follow him in the White House.
“I’ve sat at the Resolute desk and received the daily intelligence briefings, the threat assessments and the reports from our commanders on the front lines,” Bush told delegates to the Republican National Convention in Minnesota via video hookup from the White House. “I know the hard choices that fall solely to a president. John McCain’s life has prepared him to make those choices.”
Bush added: “He is ready to lead this nation.”
Inside the hall, the Bush family legacy was on display. Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, drew a standing ovation when he entered the arena with his wife, Barbara, and other relatives.
And first lady Laura Bush took the podium to introduce the president’s address.
She was the voice of defense on her husband’s eight-year record in the Oval Office, tossing out statistics on everything from education gains to fighting AIDS across the globe. She said that when Bush became president, fewer than 50,000 Africans suffering from AIDS were getting the medicine they needed to survive, and that the number now is nearly 2 million.
“You might call that change you can really believe in,” the first lady said, a clear poke at the slogan of McCain’s opponent, Sen. Barack Obama.
She also praised McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for his running mate, saying: “I’m proud that America’s first female vice president will be a Republican woman.”
The image of Bush standing alone before a television camera in the White House’s majestic Cross Hall was beamed onto giant video screens 1,100 miles away in the Xcel Energy Center.
His eight-minute address was a far cry from earlier plans, sidelined by Hurricane Gustav’s landfall, for the president to make a dramatic, celebratory appearance Monday in person as the final speaker on the convention’s opening night.
Execution of the alternate plan was a bit awkward.
The crowd rose to its feet to applaud Laura Bush’s introductory remarks just as the president – apparently unaware of the clamor in the hall – had started speaking. As a result, his opening words were drowned out. On several other occasions, his words were lost when he continued talking over cheers in the hall.
Bush didn’t mention his own record. Nor did he explicitly speak of Obama.
But his message was clear: From someone who knows what he’s talking about, McCain is the one with the goods to be president.
The president put McCain’s full-throated support of the Iraq war front and center in his pitch for the GOP senator to succeed him. Though that is a message well-received by partisan delegates, it only served to remind a more skeptical broader public TV audience about the war, and of McCain’s link to it.
The president referred to McCain as the “one senator above all” who backed the U.S. campaign in Iraq – and Bush’s decision to send more U.S. troops into the fight – even as violence spiraled out of control.
Bush offered McCain’s consistency in the face of doubts and criticism as a reason to support him.
“That is the kind of courage and vision we need in our next commander in chief,” he said.
The president said that only McCain understands the lessons of the Sept. 11 attacks in a way that makes him qualified to be commander in chief.
“We live in a dangerous world,” Bush said. “The man we need is John McCain.”
The president also emphasized McCain’s life story – as a former Vietnam prisoner of war and a politician with a maverick streak – as preparing him well. Recounting McCain’s tortuous time as a prisoner of war, Bush said the war hero’s arms were broken during the torture he suffered, but not his honor.
This led to the most partisan barb of the president’s short speech.
“Fellow citizens,” Bush said, “if the Hanoi Hilton could not break John McCain’s resolve to do what is best for our country, you can be sure the angry left never will.”
Said Colorado delegate Alan Duff: “He knows what it takes to be president and he told us why John McCain’s up to the job. You can’t get a better recommendation than that.”