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US elections 2008

Page last updated at 06:56 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2008 07:56 UK

Bush praises McCain from a distance

By Jamie Coomarasamy
BBC News, St Paul, Minnesota

He was a diminished presence and an enlarged one at the same time.

President George W Bush addresses the convention by video-link, 2 Sept
President Bush: A strange and detached appearance

Although Hurricane Gustav had cut his air time in half, President George W Bush's large, smiling face dominated the room, as it was beamed into the St Paul convention hall on a video screen.

He stood on his own in the White House, behind a presidential lectern, to assert that the man he beat to the Republican nomination eight years ago should be his successor.

No-one in the McCain campaign will publicly say it, but many officials here have been breathing a sigh of relief that an unpopular president's final address to a Republican Convention was conducted remotely.

They will have heard the drumbeat coming from the Democrats in Denver last week, suggesting that a vote for John McCain would be a vote for a Bush third term and know that - while the president's stock remains high among the party faithful - one of the keys to a McCain victory will be a successful de-coupling of the two men.

Military service

It was surely no coincidence that the Bush address came to an end, just as the US TV networks were switching to live convention coverage.

He gave a brief, but strong endorsement of John McCain, praising his courage and his independence of thought - a clear attempt to put distance between the two of them, without being too explicit about it.

President George HW Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush at the Republcian Convetnion on 2 Sep
Loud cheers greeted the arrival of the current president's parents

On one subject, though, he proudly said that they had walked in lock-step. President Bush called the Arizona senator's support for the US troop surge in Iraq clear evidence that he knows how to meet the challenges facing the country and that he is ready to lead.

But it was a strange and rather detached final appearance at a Republican convention from a two-term president.

Of course, one of the central themes of the evening - John McCain's long record of military service - sets him apart from George W Bush, whose own military record has been the subject of controversy.

Emphasising this even more, perhaps, was the presence in the room of the current American leader's father, the first President Bush, a Word War II fighter pilot. He was greeted with loud roars of approval by the crowd, when he and his wife Barbara took their seats.

Bogeyman

Yet in what was - in many ways - the strangest event of the evening, stranger even than the remote president, some of the Republicans' loudest cheers were reserved for the Connecticut senator who had been on the Democratic presidential ticket when George W Bush was first elected to the White House.

Senator Joe Lieberman, a close friend of John McCain's - and according to insiders, the person he really wanted to be his running mate - has long since broken ranks with his party, over the issue of Iraq.

Senator Joe Lieberman addresses the Republican convention, 2 Sept
Joe Lieberman, a friend and ally of Mr McCain, praised his bipartisanship

He now sits in Congress as an independent and was the night's main speaker. Picking up on the "country first" theme of the convention, he said that he had put his country before his party on the biggest issue of the day - and he urged other Democrats to do the same.

In just one more strange event amongst others, there was even applause when he mentioned that traditional Republican bogeyman, President Bill Clinton.

They seemed to echo the cheers that Barack Obama got last Thursday, when he mentioned the traditional Republican theme of cutting taxes.

Criticising Barack Obama's lack of experience, he compared it unfavourably to Bill Clinton's, when he ran for office.

Certainly, delegates seemed pleased with the evening's events, believing that the Lieberman speech had given added weight and political poignancy to the central message of service.

Their real excitement, though, is clearly reserved for Sarah Palin, the presumptive vice-presidential nominee, who has become the focal point of this convention, and who gives her keynote speech later on Wednesday.

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Guardian Unlimited Full text of Sarah Palin's address in St Paul - 2 hrs ago
The Indy Channel McCain, Palin Formally Nominated By GOP - 2 hrs ago
Business Journal of Milwaukee Remarks by Alaska Governor Sarah Palin Vice Presidential Nominee to Address the 2008 Republican National Convention - 3 hrs ago
RTE Online Hockey mom 'checks' Obama against the boards - 4 hrs ago
Arab News Hurricane Gustav makes way for Hurricane Sarah - 4 hrs ago



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