Comparing his determination to overcome terrorists to the resolve of Ronald Reagan to confront the Soviet Union, President Bush said Friday that Islamic radicalism is doomed to failure because he will not yield until it is defeated.
Speaking before several hundred guests at the opening of a new pavilion at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Bush attempted to grasp the mantle of Reagan, who he said demonstrated that the key to victory is "the resolve to stay in the fight until the fight was won."
Joined by former first lady Nancy Reagan, Bush made his remarks in a new, glass-walled pavilion housing an Air Force One jetliner that carried Reagan, Bush and five other presidents on more than 1,400 flights covering about 1.3 million miles.
Bush sought to embrace the legacy of Reagan, an icon of modern conservatism, even as his presidency is wobbling under multiple problems, including intensifying criticism from some on the right who say he has betrayed them.
Angry about the staggering cost of several Bush initiatives, including the Medicare prescription drug plan and the recovery from Hurricane Katrina, some conservatives are pushing back. In Congress, some budget hawks have balked at the Katrina spending, insisting on spending cuts to offset it. But many of the proposed cuts would affect programs targeting the poor, who suffered the most from the hurricane.
Some conservatives are outraged that Bush passed over several well-known and well-respected conservative jurists to nominate White House counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Miers, who spent decades as a high-powered corporate lawyer but whose constitutional views are a mystery, has been attacked by some on the right as an intellectual lightweight with questionable conservative credentials.
Robert H. Bork, Reagan's 1987 Supreme Court nominee who was rejected by the Senate, has called the Miers pick "a disaster on every level." Writing in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal he went further, declaring that "Bush has not governed as a conservative" and has proven to "be indifferent, if not actively hostile, to conservative values."
Beyond Bush's problems with his fracturing conservative base, a public spat with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has also marked Bush's two-day swing in California. The action hero-turned-politician is miffed that Bush would not postpone his trip, which included a million-dollar fundraiser for the Republican National Committee at the Bel Air home of Robert A. Day, chairman of TCW Group Inc., an investment firm.
Nearly two years after he rolled into office on the back of an unprecedented recall election, Schwarzenegger has staked his political career on a special election on Nov. 8. Schwarzenegger is backing four initiatives -- designed to strengthen his control over the budget and weaken public employee unions -- that he has said are critical to achieving his promise to remake California.
Schwarzenegger and his team have blanketed the state with TV ads over the past two weeks. His opponents, a coalition of public service unions, are doing the same, spending more than $5 million to fight him.
Officials in the governor's office have said that the White House was asked weeks ago to postpone Bush's trip to one of the most lucrative political fundraising markets in the nation to allow Schwarzenegger to raise cash without competition from the president. California Republican Party officials have also hinted that the governor did not want to be too closely associated with Bush, who is increasingly unpopular in California.
A statewide poll last month by the Public Policy Institute of California gave Bush an approval rating of 38 percent, dead even with Schwarzenegger.
The spat became public Wednesday when Schwarzenegger, speaking in Anaheim, acknowledged that he wished Bush had postponed his trip. "We would have appreciated if he would have done his fundraising after the Nov. 8 election, because you know we need now all the money in the world," Schwarzenegger said. "We want to make sure that we win, that we can have our TV spots out there on television, which is very important."
A Republican official involved in the Bel Air fundraiser dismissed Schwarzenegger's complaints, noting that the 100 couples that attended the event have given a combined $10 million to the governor's various political efforts through the years.
Schwarzenegger declined Bush's invitation to join him today to dedicate the new Air Force One exhibit. The governor also refused to see the president during Bush's previous trip to California, in August. Phil Angelides, the state's treasurer and one of two Democrats running for governor, routinely attacks Schwarzenegger by equating his policies with those of Bush.