Alex Wong/Getty Images
In his speech via satellite, President George Bush said, "We live in a dangerous world ... and we need a president who understands the lessons of Sept. 11, 2001."
In his speech via satellite, President George Bush said, "We live in a dangerous world ... and we need a president who understands the lessons of Sept. 11, 2001." Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman said, "McCain is the best choice to bring our country together and lead our country forward."
Independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman said, "McCain is the best choice to bring our country together and lead our country forward." Alex Wong/Getty Images
Calling him "the man we need," President Bush told delegates at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., Tuesday that John McCain is ready to lead the nation.
Regrouping after Hurricane Gustav sharply curtailed activities on the convention's first day, Republicans Tuesday set out to accomplish some of the political tasks they faced at this gathering as well as take on a few previously unforeseen ones. They told the story of their presumptive nominee, John McCain; attacked his rival, Democratic nominee Barack Obama; and strongly defended McCain's embattled running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Among the evening's other speakers were Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a strong ally of McCain's, who made an explicit appeal to Democrats and independents; and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, who led the attacks on Obama.
A Brief Baton Pass From Bush
In his speech to the convention, delivered via video hookup from the White House, Bush harked back to the attacks of Sept. 11, saying, "We live in a dangerous world. 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."
Bush was scheduled to address the convention in person on Monday but instead went to Texas to monitor the government's response to Gustav. His relatively brief appearance on the video screen at the Xcel Energy Center Tuesday was the result of delicate negotiations between the White House and the McCain camp, which was wary of seeming too connected to the president and his low approval ratings.
Bush, like the evening's other speakers, praised McCain's service to the nation, bringing up his captivity as a POW during the Vietnam War. If "the Hanoi Hilton could not break John McCain's resolve to do what is best for his country," Bush said, "you can be sure the angry left never will."
The president also praised McCain's choice of Palin, calling her "strong and principled."
Defending Choice Of Palin
McCain, who will accept his party's presidential nomination on Thursday, campaigned at firehouses in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where he defended the vetting process that led to his selection of Palin as his running mate. He is expected to arrive at the convention Wednesday.
The campaign announced Monday that Palin's 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant. It also announced that Palin had hired an attorney to defend her in a case involving her firing of a state official. McCain, speaking briefly with reporters, said, "The vetting process was completely thorough and I'm grateful for the results."
Later, after visiting a firehouse in Brecksville, Ohio, near Cleveland, McCain added: "I just want to repeat again how excited I am to have Sarah Palin, the great governor of Alaska, as my running mate."
McCain campaign officials say they knew of the Alaska Legislature's investigation into Palin's firing of the state public-safety commissioner, allegedly for refusing to fire a state trooper in the midst of a contentious divorce with Palin's sister. They say they were also aware of Palin's husband's arrest for driving under the influence as a 22-year-old, as well as her daughter's pregnancy.
A Bid For Democratic Votes
Lieberman was the evening's featured speaker. He was the Democratic Party's vice presidential nominee in 2000, but he lost the party's Senate nomination in 2006 and ran and won for his old seat as an independent.
Asking the question, "What, after all, is a Democrat like me doing at a Republican convention like this?" Lieberman said he was "here to support John McCain, because country matters more than party."
Lieberman called Obama "an eloquent, gifted young man." But, Lieberman said, "Eloquence is no substitute for a record — not in these tough times for America."
Lieberman — like McCain, a strong supporter of the war in Iraq — said McCain had the "guts and the judgment" to point out mistakes in the conduct of the war.
"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 battlefield, John McCain had the courage to stand against the tide of public opinion and advocate the surge, support the surge," Lieberman said. "And because of that, today, thousands of troops are coming home — and coming home in honor."
Lieberman explicitly targeted Democrats and independents watching and listening to the convention at home, burnishing McCain's reputation as a reformer.
Speaking directly to TV cameras, Lieberman said this is "no ordinary election, because these are not ordinary times. And trust me, John McCain is no ordinary candidate." He called McCain "a restless reformer" and "the best choice to bring our country together." He urged Democrats to vote for the person "you believe is best to be president, not for the party you belong to."
Preceding Lieberman at the podium was former Sen. Thompson, who briefly challenged McCain for the nomination this year before dropping out of the race.
Thompson strongly defended Palin, saying Washington pundits and media big shots "are in a frenzy over the selection of a woman who has actually governed, rather than just talked a good game on the Sunday talk shows and hit the Washington cocktail circuit. Well, give me a tough Alaskan governor who has taken on the political establishment in the largest state in the Union — and won — over the beltway business-as-usual crowd any day of the week."
"Let's be clear," Thompson continued. "The selection of Gov. Palin has the other side and their friends in the media in a state of panic. She is a courageous, successful reformer, who is not afraid to take on the establishment."
Thompson said Obama was "history making" in that he is "the most liberal, most inexperienced nominee to ever run for president."
Thompson also jabbed at Obama on abortion, saying the nation needs a president "who doesn't think that the protection of the unborn or a newly born baby is above his pay grade." That was a reference to Obama's comment last month that it was "above his pay grade" to decide at what point an unborn child is entitled to human rights.
All Eyes On Palin
Palin will give a much anticipated address to the convention Wednesday night. The stakes couldn't be higher.
While Republican delegates here seem united in their support of Palin, McCain's judgment in selecting her has been questioned by the Obama campaign. Palin, a first-term governor and an unknown on the national political stage, is in danger of being defined by the controversies that have surrounded her.
The McCain campaign announced that Wednesday night's crowd at the Excel center will include 18-year-old Levi Johnston, the father of the baby that Bristol Palin is expecting.