The Bush Convention

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Monday, August 25, 2008; 12:12 PM

You can expect to hear a lot more about President Bush at the Democratic convention this week than at the Republican one next week.

Democrats are intent on bolstering the already widespread perception that a victory by John McCain would be tantamount to a third term for Bush. The reasons are obvious: Bush's approval ratings are abysmal and polls show that four out of five voters are yearning for a new direction. If the 2008 election turns into Bush's long-awaited accountability moment, the Democrats will win in a rout.

Republicans, by contrast, are trying to keep Bush in the distant background -- not exactly disowning him, but trumpeting McCain as his own man.

In his first speech as Barack Obama's newly-selected running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Saturday made it clear that linking McCain and Bush will be one of his top priorities.

"I'll say straight up that John McCain is genuinely a friend of mine," Biden said. "I've known John for 35 years. He served our country with extraordinary courage and I know he wants to do right by America, but the harsh, harsh truth is you can't change America when you quote, and these are John's words, 'The most important issues of our day I've been totally in agreement and support with President Bush.'

"That's what he said."

Biden continued: "You can't change America when you supported George Bush's policy 95 percent of the time. You can't change America when you believe, and these are his own words 'that in the Bush Administration we made great progress economically.' You can't change America and make things better for our senior citizens when you signed on to Bush's scheme to privatizing Social Security. . . .

"You can't change America and end the war in Iraq and say, these are his words, 'No one has supported President Bush more than I have.'

"You can't change America, you can't change America when you know your first four years as president will look exactly like the last eight years of Bush's presidency."

Patrick Healy writes in the New York Times: "A task for Mr. Biden, the advisers said, will be to doggedly portray the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, as a handmaiden for President Bush who would continue his policies. In the words of one adviser, Mr. Biden can be an artful critic because he knows 'chapter and verse' about Mr. McCain's Senate votes and controversial positions after serving with him for two decades."

E. J. Dionne Jr. writes in his Washington Post opinion column: "Democrats worry that Obama has been insufficiently aggressive in going after John McCain and insufficiently attentive to the imperative of linking McCain to George W. Bush.

"In private as well as in public, Biden is genuinely angry about the effect of Bush's policies, and he demonstrated in his debut performance how eager he is to go on the attack against both the president and McCain."

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