February 10th, 2008
01:59 PM ET
10 years ago

Bush: McCain's got some convincing to do

President Bush appeared at a gathering of conservative activists Friday.

President Bush appeared at a gathering of conservative activists Friday.

(CNN) - In an interview broadcast Sunday, President Bush offered to help Sen. John McCain make his case to conservatives if he becomes the Republican presidential nominee, saying there is "no doubt" McCain is a "true conservative."

Speaking to "Fox News Sunday," the president said McCain is "very strong" on national defense, "tough fiscally," wants to make Bush's tax cuts permanent, and opposes abortion rights. "His principles are sound and solid as far as I'm concerned," the president said.

Bush is not endorsing a candidate. He also had praise for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, calling him "a good, solid conservative person."

The president weighed in on the Democratic race, saying it "seems far from over to me." And he rejected criticism of former President Clinton's work on the campaign trail for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

"I can understand why President Clinton wants to campaign hard for his wife. And those accusations that Bill Clinton's a racist, I think is just wrong. I just don't agree with it."

As for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Bush said, "I certainly don't know what he believes in.

"The only foreign policy thing I remember he said was he's going to attack Pakistan and embrace Ahmadinejad."

Obama said last summer that as president he would consider unilateral military action against sites in Pakistan. "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will," he said.

The remark at the time sparked criticism from fellow Democrats and from the Pakistani government. Obama said he stood by it.

In a CNN debate last July, the candidates were asked whether they would meet "without precondition, during the first year of your administration" with leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.

Obama said he would because "the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them - which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration - is ridiculous."

But Clinton answered, "I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort."

A president should not "promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are," she said. "I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don't want to make a situation even worse. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration."

The difference in their answers has become a hot-button issue on the campaign trail.

After Bush's remark Sunday, Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton issued a statement trying to shift focus to Obama's position on the Iraq war, saying Obama opposed the "disastrous war in Iraq from the start" and "doesn't need any foreign policy advice from the architect of the worst foreign policy decision in a generation."

The president's remarks about McCain could help the senator from Arizona in the long road ahead of shoring up support from conservatives.

Asked whether McCain is a "true conservative," Bush responded, "Absolutely. I know him well, I know his convictions, I know the principles that drive him, and no doubt in my mind that he is a true conservative."

McCain has broken with Bush on key issues, including campaign finance reform and the treatment of detainees. But Bush said, "You can find in the course of any senator's career a place where they may have differed with the president." Voters should look at the "principles by which this person would be making decisions," he added.

Asked about some leading conservative pundits who oppose McCain's nomination, Bush said, "I think that if John's the nominee, he's got some convincing to do to convince people that he is a solid conservative. And I'd be glad to help him if he's the nominee."

While Huckabee remains in the race, McCain is far ahead in the delegate count, and is widely expected to clinch the nomination.

–CNN's Josh Levs

(updated 2 p.m. ET)

Filed under: John McCain • President Bush
soundoff (86 Responses)
  1. Walt, Belton,TX

    Screw Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. If he's not right enough for them, he's just right for most Republicans and moderates.

    February 10, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  2. Dan Patterson

    Ann Coulter doesn't think John McCain is a true conservative, but I' sure she would also attack the liberal policies of Genghis Khan after all the great Khan didn't kill everyone.

    February 10, 2008 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  3. Ed K.

    I hope McCain gets help from Bush. The Dems can use the boost. Man, what one could do with the pictures of the two of them hugging.

    February 10, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  4. GB

    Maybe McCain can retire... he will not be the next president... good night.

    February 10, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  5. Mario, Streamwood IL

    I think any alliance with Pres. Bush, whose approval rating is around 30%, would only hurt.

    February 10, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  6. Beverly

    Just as I thought all along, to look at McCain you see another Bush. I still believe in miracles too. Don't count Huckabee out. If McCain would be the nominee for the republicans you can bet there will be a democrat in the white house in 2009.

    February 10, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  7. John N

    Basically, Bush is saying we'll get another 4 year of Bush if we vote for McCain...

    February 10, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  8. Keandre'Curry

    Actually this is the first time I have ever agreed with President Bush. I truely do think Senator McCain has great potential to run the united states but he got Obama and Clinton that is battling this election out. By looking at the votes If Obama was the Nomine, McCain wouldn't have an chnace neither with Clinton. So It's an tough election this year, there all great but I'll have to choose Senator Obama. I think America needs an change and he's going to do it. Obama is serious about it, for example on Super Tuesday, when we talked to his voters and supporters, he didn't celebrate he filled them up with proud and some tips on what he was going to do as President. We'll find out pretty soon.

    February 10, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  9. Emman

    Now there goes the endorsement of the year....GWB endorses John McCaine!!!!
    We Dems are going to the white house!!!!!!!!!

    Obama 08

    February 10, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  10. Phil

    Bush is not the man I would want to be telling me what I need to do. He can't even take care of the job he has. Much less meddle in this election. I think if has has anything to say it would be the kiss of death for whom ever he is talking about.

    February 10, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  11. Shey

    The idea that McCain may have to grovel at the feet of Limbaugh and Coulter almost makes me feel sorry for him........but mostly it makes me wanna puke.

    "psychobabble" Did that word actually come out of W's mouth.??

    February 10, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  12. Christine

    Keep voting for Mitt Romney if he is still on the ballot. The more delegates he has the more influence he has at the convention. We still need someone to lobby for against amnesty .

    February 10, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  13. ben

    A cnn political expert(?) said"If the president wishes to go around to help Mcclain,
    the democrats would be glad to pay his expenses

    February 10, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  14. Splendid Baker

    As for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Bush said, "I certainly don't know what he believes in."

    Well Bush certainly doesn't know a whole lot about anything.

    February 10, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  15. Jen, Gaiesville, FL

    It is clear that Bush wants to see Hillary to win the democratic nomination. The republicans know the Clintons so well to beat them in November.

    February 10, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  16. TheLeftNut

    Conservatives have been brainwashed by Talk Radio, Fox News and Rupert Murdoch's agenda.

    Oh! But it's not a big conspiracy like millions of years of human history was planted by scientists to make it look like the human is older than 5000 years old. Now THAT's a conspiracy.

    go intelligent design!

    February 10, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  17. EB Rideout, Georgia

    "W" is a great one to be offering advice. McCain certainly doen't need the kind of help Bush could provide.

    February 10, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  18. Shannon, Charlottesville, Virginia

    bush is such a failure that his only friends now are conservatives–a match made in heaven given neither is reality-based.

    February 10, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  19. bush???

    bush does not know what obama believes in, make sense...clinton did not anything wrong.. that also makes sense...somene dumb who after 8 years of screwing up the country would be making such remarks, that's very obvious...

    February 10, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  20. Don, Rochester, NY

    "I certainly don't know what he believes in." WOW! One of the first intelligent remarks GWB has ever made! HILLARY '08!

    February 10, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  21. Left of Extreme Right

    Baby Bush doesn't under what Obama believes because it FREEDOM, PATRIOTISM, TRUTH and FAIRNESS!

    Baby Bush had demonstrated he doesn't understand any of those things.

    GO DEMS ( Hillary or Obama)

    February 10, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  22. Roberto

    So W doesn't like Obama much? Probably because he knows his party doesn't stand a chance against him.


    February 10, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  23. Claire, Austin, TX

    As for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Bush said, "I certainly don't know what he believes in."

    Oblivious as always! Thanks, Mr. President, for opening your mouth and showing the world how stupid you are, again.

    February 10, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  24. ¡Sí Se Puede!

    You know when I'm looking for a verdict on racial issues, I turn to George W. Bush. Wouldn't you?

    February 10, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  25. rlkidd

    Bush needs to keep his mouth shut and just fade away.
    Any endorsement from him will be a negative.

    February 10, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
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