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

Bush: McCain's got some convincing to do

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/10/art.bushcpac0210.ap.jpg caption="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. Holly, Kansas City, MO

    Wow, Bush is edging support to the Clintons. Big surprise. These two dynasties have been in power for too long already. For those who still think these families don't have ties, I don't know what to say for you. They're like peanut butter and jelly. More of the same. Please get out there and do some research.

    February 10, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  2. John

    As an Obama supporter, thanks Bush! Nothing like having Mr 23% saying he doesn't understand my candidate's views, and supporting the actions of Bill and Hillary, what a gift!

    February 10, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  3. Chase

    Who is Bush trying to convince?

    I already know Bill Clinton is not racist. He is "slick" or crafty. That means, as we already know...that the Clintons will do anything to win.

    February 10, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  4. Fran Martin

    Great!!! Words of wisdom from the most lackluster mind (if he even has one) of all time. Who's listening to that nitwit besides the minority in his camp of kindred spirits? I only hope that Kucinich is more successful in his current bid to send the Bush freak back to Texas early.

    February 10, 2008 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  5. Kristy Sanborn

    I can only say that I hope more Americans read and comprehend these words of President Bush before election day, and vote the man in who will stand behind his convictions, John McCain.

    February 10, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  6. Pat Canada

    Ahuh And the President's opinion or support of John McCain or Huckabee is important because? Good Heavens, why would he even offer his opinion under the auspicions that anyone would want it?

    Hasn't he done enough damage to America and it's people?

    Of course he supports McCain and made clear why with his statements.Isn't that enough to prove to American citizens why THEY SHOULD NOT VOTE FOR McCAIN?

    McCain is his TWIN. They both share the same misguided beliefs, fuzzy mindsets, war glory dreams, demented military strategies, arrogant demeanors, narcisstic characters, bully tactics, bulldog approachs, and economic plans likened only to those set forth by Ethiopian Leaders !

    Anyone who could possibly support John McCain after enduring two terms of the Bush Reign deserves what they will get and more !!

    God Help Our World and Brave Military !

    February 10, 2008 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  7. Larry Buchas, New Britain, CT


    "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."


    Obama believes in serving the people. That's something you can't understand.

    I'm glad to see the worst President ever is endorsing Hillary Clinton because she would be easier to beat in November.

    February 10, 2008 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  8. Independent for OBAMA

    That's great! One more brownie point for the Clintons, from the most prominent, respected, successful leader in this world, the PRESIDENT of the United States of America Mr George W. Bush!!!!!!! I for one will now change my vote for the Clintons........NOT!

    February 10, 2008 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |

    I've been reading all these wonderfully diverse comments above, smiling now with approval, now with amusement, now with sadness. Approval for the analytical, perceptive, open-minded and hopeful; amusement at the considerable wit and humor of many; and sadness at the poorly informed and reactionary ones (fortunately not too many of those). Poor Dubya. You've been seen through, and through, and through! It's enormously refreshing to me, convinced Obama supporter (white, 55+, female – how's that for the supposed demographics!!!), that this is the case. As someone wrote above – Goodbye DUBYA!

    February 11, 2008 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  10. freetobeme, Rochester, PA

    Yes, McCain has a lot of convincing to do. I'd like him to convince me that he actually cares about the Constitution.

    February 11, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  11. John Marietta, GA

    THe less Bush sayd now, the eiasier it will be for the republicans to re write history later. THat is what he means when claiming that History will judge him. RIght now is to close to the events to fool anyone. The republicans will go back to Sadmam had WMD's. AL quieda in Iraq, Greated as liberators, SUrge is working and all those other lies they simply refused to accept realty about. WHen there is a little time they can start their revisionism like they did with "Reagan the Great".

    The truth there is he raised taxes and had the only immigration plan that really was amnisity, inspite of thier efforts today to lable anything that does not include shooting on site as an "amnisty" plan. By todays standards, Reaggan simply was not very Reaganesque!

    February 11, 2008 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
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