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Bush Gets the Bum's Rush

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, September 3, 2008; 12:37 PM

Far from getting a hero's welcome, President Bush didn't even get through the doors of the Republican National Convention hall last night. In an abbreviated address beamed in from 1,000 miles away, Bush offered a stilted endorsement of his former rival -- then faded away, his ghostly image on a giant screen quickly replaced by an homage to Ronald Reagan.

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John McCain's campaign is desperately trying to appeal to a nation hungry for change. One way to do that, of course, would be to explain precisely how a McCain presidency would be substantively different from a third Bush term. But either unwilling or unable to do so, the campaign has instead chosen to very publicly cut Bush loose.

Jennifer Loven writes for the Associated Press: "It was supposed to be President Bush's glory moment in his party's spotlight, full of tributes to his eight years of leadership and cheers from grateful partisans, as he passed the mantle to his would-be successor.

"Instead, Bush's brief appearance Tuesday at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota was essentially a footnote. He got eight minutes via satellite hookup from a lonely White House podium 1,100 miles away. A Democrat-turned-independent, Sen. Joe Lieberman, got the showcase final speaking slot. . . .

"Bush was well received, but it was not a rousing send-off for the man who, despite his unpopularity, somehow managed to keep Democrats confounded with his veto power and more often than not got his way. . . .

"When McCain's team scaled back the convention lineup because of Gustav, they had a chance to scale back the president's role, too. And they took it. . . .

"Bush aides acknowledged the president would have preferred to take his turn in the convention limelight, while insisting he was pleased to do whatever he could. The execution of his appearance from afar was a bit awkward at times."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times: "President Bush proclaimed Senator John McCain 'ready to lead this nation' in a farewell speech to the Republican convention here on Tuesday night. But far from being the kind of unifying send-off and baton pass engineered for Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, the evening only highlighted Mr. McCain's eagerness to get the president off the stage.

"'John is an independent man who thinks for himself,' Mr. Bush said via satellite from the White House, in an eight-minute speech intended to reinforce the McCain campaign's theme that the senator is no clone of the president. . . .

"[O]n a night when Republicans gave top billing to other speakers, the president's physical distance from the gathering in St. Paul -- his huge image was beamed out over an empty lectern to a crowd in the arena that cheered mostly at mentions of Mr. McCain -- also underscored the gulf between the Bush camp and the McCain one. . . .

"Mr. McCain's team was clearly more interested in using the convention to advance its aims -- trying to define Mr. Obama in negative terms and building a positive narrative for Mr. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska -- than in looking back at Mr. Bush's presidency or allowing Mr. McCain to become too closely identified with the president. . . .

"Republicans said the McCain camp did not edit or approve the president's talk on Tuesday night. But there was close coordination between the campaign and the White House about the themes Mr. Bush should sound."

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