President Bush delivered an effective, yet ultimately unremarkable speech at Tuesday’s Republican National Convention—and that was probably how McCain wanted it.
The Obama campaign is firing on all pistons, insisting that a John McCain presidency will be nothing more than a third Bush term. To the Obama people this seems a safe bet since the president has hovered at near-record low approval ratings.
So the question Tuesday night was how the Republicans would present Bush to the convention and, indeed, to the people watching from home. The answer was a speech that praises McCain and recognizes his reluctance to badger the White House on certain issues.
President Bush, speaking via satellite from the White House (he was there handling the Hurricane Gustav response), gave a roughly eight minute speech where he insisted McCain was ready to lead the country.
However, he only once used the word “experience,” which was a steady drumbeat of the McCain campaign until the relatively inexperienced Sarah Palin joined the ticket.
“When the debates have ended, and all the ads have run, and it is time to vote, Americans will look closely at the judgment, the experience, and the policies of the candidates—and they will cast their ballots for the McCain-Palin ticket,” Bush said late in the speech.
The president also highlighted McCain’s maverick streak, a point with tinges of irony considering Bush hammered McCain for that very trait back in 2000.
“John is an independent man, who thinks for himself. He’s not afraid to tell you when he disagrees—believe me, I know,” the president said with a grin.
Bush also illustrated that McCain, aside from other senators (even some in the convention hall that night) supported “the surge” in Iraq, a move that’s reduced violence in Baghdad. In doing so, Bush highlighted the differences between McCain and Obama on the war in Iraq.
It’s no surprise that Bush was at his best when talking tough, explaining McCain’s tough stance on terrorism and his willingness to continue an offensive foreign policy. In the same vein, the president’s best turn of phrase came when talking up McCain’s POW experiences in Vietnam.
“If the Hanoi Hilton could not break McCain’s resolve to do what is best for his country, you can be sure the angry left never will,” he said.
The speech also had a moment of humor when Bush said, referencing his wife who preceded and followed him, that convention delegates had “traded up” with Laura Bush at the podium and not him.
Seems the McCain campaign traded up as well; the president’s relatively short speech helped shore up party loyalists without giving the Obama campaign fodder for attack ads.