Bush stays low-profile at McCain fundraiser
The last time the two met, 83 days ago, President Bush promised he would do whatever Sen. John McCain asked to help elect him the 44th president...
The New York Times
PHOENIX — The last time the two met, 83 days ago, President Bush promised he would do whatever Sen. John McCain asked to help elect him the 44th president.
"You know, if he wants me to show up, I will," Bush said in the Rose Garden. "If he wants me to say, 'You know, I'm not for him,' I will."
On Tuesday, Bush's role became clearer when he held his first event for McCain. He will show up to raise money, thank you very much, and he will say and do as little as possible, at least in public view.
A large, presumably public, fundraiser at the Phoenix Convention Center was hastily rescheduled for the seclusion of a private home in Scottsdale on Tuesday night. McCain's main public appearance of the day was a foreign-policy speech in Denver, not the visit by the president to McCain's home state of Arizona.
McCain used the speech, like others in recent weeks, to draw differences between his policies and Bush's, even as Democrats redoubled their efforts to lash them together into an inextricable McBush '08.
He and Bush avoided any meaningful public appearance together, having the briefest of photo opportunities at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in the evening.
For all the efforts to exploit the president's trip and then minimize it, the question of Bush's role as the Republican standard-bearer hovered.
The liberal group MoveOn.org unveiled a commercial Tuesday that links images of Bush and McCain over the theme from "The Patty Duke Show," a 1960s sitcom about identical teenage cousins who "laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike."
And Sen. Barack Obama, inching closer to the Democratic nomination, seized on the topic while speaking about the mortgage crisis in Nevada.
"John McCain is having a different kind of meeting," he said after meeting a family in Las Vegas on the verge of losing its house to foreclosure.
"He's holding a fundraiser with George Bush behind closed doors in Arizona. No cameras, no reporters. And we all know why. Sen. McCain doesn't want to be seen, hat in hand, with the president whose failed policies he promises to continue for another four years."
The politicking seemed far removed from the sunny day at the White House in March when McCain, flush from his primary triumph over a crowded field, and Bush appeared like two old friends. McCain promised "to have as much possible campaigning events together." More than once, he alluded to Bush's "heavy" or "busy" schedule, which perhaps had more significance than it might have seemed.
Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist who wrote "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy," said, "Even die-hard Bush supporters know he's an albatross around the neck of the nominee."
He also noted the president's fundraising prowess. Despite the president's approval rating of 28 percent, it is worth remembering that that 28 percent can be loyal and often wealthy.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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