Bush Hails Ike, Lincoln
GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) _ George W. Bush made a pilgrimage to Gettysburg Tuesday to pay homage to two of the party’s most enduring heroes _ Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower _ and responded sharply on the way to increasingly personal criticism from the current occupant of the White House.
A day away from his arrival at the Republican convention in Philadelphia, Bush said Democratic President Clinton is ``so desperate to have his legacy intact by getting Al Gore elected, he’ll say anything, just like Gore will.″
Clinton had said the Republicans were trying to mislead Americans with their convention talk of compassion and inclusion, and he had belittled Bush’s experience, suggesting one reason he was in the running was because his ``daddy was president.″
Former President Bush jumped into the fray at that, telling a television interviewer if such criticism of his son persists, he’ll tell Americans what he really thinks about Clinton ``as a human being and as a person.″
Candidate Bush has generally refrained from mentioning either Clinton or Gore by name, but he did so twice _ both aboard his campaign plane and at a rally in Charleston, W.Va.
``This nation is sick and tired of the politics of personal destruction; they want a united not a divider. This nation does not want four more years of Clinton-Gore,″ Bush told a rally in front of West Virginia’s Veterans Memorial.
Later said on his plane that he had ignored his self-imposed ban on mentioning names because he was ``riled up.″
Otherwise, Bush spent most of his final pre-convention day on message _ military strength
He planned to cap the day with a live satellite address to the convention from the Eisenhower farm in Gettysburg.
Eisenhower, who commanded allied forces in Europe in World War II and served as president from 1953-61, spent his last years on the farm.
And Lincoln, who delivered one of the most famous addresses in American letters here, is frequently mentioned by Bush in his efforts to reach out to minorities.
Bush has said Republicans are ``the party of Lincoln but we sometimes don’t carry the mantle of Lincoln.″ That line was repeated by retired Gen. Colin Powell at Monday night’s opening convention session.
At a late afternoon rally at the Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg, Bush shared a stage with Gov. Tom Ridge and pledged an administration ``that will have big goals for the nation.″
In preparation for his Wednesday arrival in Philadelphia, Bush’s campaign plane _ formerly white, purple and green _ underwent a facelift. On Tuesday, the chartered Boeing 727 aircraft was gleaming white with red and blue stripes _ and bearing ``BUSH-CHENEY″ in large letters on the fuselage
At the Charleston rally, Bush was flanked by supporters wearing uniforms of various veterans organizations.
``Our military must have a commander in chief who respects the men and women in uniform and who in turn earns the respect of the men and women in uniform,″ he said.
``Under this administration, morale in the United States military is dangerously low,″ he added.
And in an indirect dig at the Clinton administration’s overseas deployments, including the open-ended maintenance of U.S. troops in peacekeeping roles in Bosnia and Kosovo, Bush said: ``We can’t be all things to all people.″
``I will tell our friends and allies, we care for you, we will strengthen our alliances. But if there needs to be troops on the ground to keep warring parties apart in your neighborhood, you get to be the peacekeepers. America will be the peacemakers.″
In talking with reporters earlier, Bush had praise for the convention speeches by his wife, Laura, and by Powell, who is viewed as a possible secretary of state in a Bush administration.
``I agree with Colin Powell that Republicans need to do more to reach out to minorities. And I agree with him that I’m the man to do it for the Republican Party,″ he said.
What ``riled up″ Bush the most were Clinton’s remarks at a fund-raiser last Friday.
Clinton suggested Bush’s campaign message was: ``How bad can I be? I’ve been governor of Texas. My daddy was president. I own a baseball team. They like me down there. ... Everything is rocking along hunky dory. Their fraternity had it for eight years, give it to ours for eight years.″
``It’s amazing to me that the president of the United States would spend time trying to be a political pundit,″ Bush said.
Still, he said, ``I welcome him into the arena.″
Bush’s father, asked his reaction to Clinton’s comments, told NBC, ``I’m going to wait a month. ... If he continues that, then I’m going tell the nation what I think about him as a human being and a person.″
That prompted Gore spokesman Chris Lehane to retort that candidate Bush ``has to send his father out to defend him. People are starting to wonder _ does he have what it takes?″