Bush invites Dems to Grand Old Party
(with Michael Mastroianni)
YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO - During one of his final pre-election appearances, President George W. Bush rallied yesterday in Vienna, Ohio, a town just a few miles from Pennsylvania, asking Democrats to support him when they vote on Tuesday.
Bush was introduced to thousands of supporters in a hangar at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport by Senator Zell Miller, D-Ga., who spoke at the Republican Convention in New York last month. Miller said his support of the president across party lines is because of the new threat of terrorism on American soil.
"Before [Sept. 11, 2001], I would never have thought of supporting Bush," Miller said. "After [Sept. 11, 2001], there is no choice but to vote Republican."
In response, Bush's first comments related his hopes for partisan cooperation.
"My vision is a vision for everybody, not one party," Bush said.
"Probably, the most important reason why you should vote for me is so Laura can be first lady for four more years," Bush said, referring to his wife, who accompanied him on stage.
While Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., campaigned at a rally in Rochester, Minn., the president attacked his record of changing his stance on various issues during his tenure in the Senate.
"People in this part of the world like someone who shoots straight," Bush said. "A president has to lead with consistency and strength."
Bush described Saddam Hussein as "a dangerous leader with a lot of explosives and weapons." He continued to say that since the beginning of U.S. operations in Iraq in April 2003, thousands of sites with weapons have been found.
"The senator is making wild charges about missing explosives [in Iraq], but he doesn't know the facts," Bush said, adding "a candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not fit to be our commander in chief."
He then accused Kerry of "saying anything to get elected."
According to Bush, Kerry takes "a narrow view of the war on terror."
"As we are liberating millions of people around the world, the United States remains the greatest source of good in this world," Bush said.
Bush admitted that the economy suffered a heavy blow with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but he believes the economy is "strong now, and getting stronger."
He continued by attacking Kerry's planned tax cuts and record in the Senate. He said Kerry has voted to raise taxes five times a year on average for the last 20 years.
"That's what I call a predictable pattern," Bush said.
The president appealed to Democrats to support him on Election Day.
"My opponent is outside the mainstream of this country and the Democratic Party," Bush said. "If you are not on the far left wing, I would be honored to have your vote."
Bush described "great traditions" of the Democratic Party, referring to Franklin D. Roosevelt's concept of "absolute victory," Harry S. Truman's posturing at the beginning of the Cold War and John F. Kennedy's spread of American ideals over the world in the early 1960s.
"Kerry is running away from those traditions," Bush said. "I hope that people who usually vote for the [Democratic] party will take a close look at my agenda."
"I believe in this leader," said Irene McLennon, who drove from New Castle, Pa., to see Bush speak. "He has strong plans for this country, and he makes more sense than [Kerry]."
"I voted for Bush in 2000," said James Goldsmith, an Ohio native and Vietnam veteran also in attendance. "Neither Bush nor Kerry has given me a reason to change my mind now."
During the speech, a group of Kerry supporters lined the road outside the airport. Their chants and signs were out of range of the throngs of Bush supporters within.
"Bush is strangling this country," said Karen Littman, one of the protestors. "We're worried it may already be too late to get us back on the right track."
After departing the airport on Air Force One, the president and his wife visited other towns in Ohio. Yesterday was Bush's 15th campaign visit to the state, which has 20 electoral votes. In the key 18- to 24-year-old age bracket, to which both Bush and Kerry are attempting to appeal, there are more than 88,000 Ohioans registered to vote, nearly half of whom registered this year.