From Think Progress:
Standing at an event this morning with former President George H.W. Bush to receive his and Barbara’s endorsement, McCain was asked whether he “would be in effect carrying out a third Bush term.”
“I’d be honored to have President George Bush’s support, his endorsement,” McCain responded. “And I’d be honored to be anywhere with him under any circumstances.” He added, “I am proud of this president’s strategy in Iraq.”
(Video available at link)
McCain tried to qualify the strength of his ties to Bush. McCain said, “I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to work with him on many issues,” but added, “obviously, as any president who follows one has different views on particularly specific issues.”
From The Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON – President Bush yesterday stood beside John McCain in the White House Rose Garden and offered an effusive endorsement of his onetime rival’s candidacy to succeed him, declaring that the Arizona senator “will bring determination to defeat an enemy and a heart big enough to love those who hurt.”
In a jocular reference to his own low standing in the polls, Bush pledged to do whatever he could to help McCain win the election – be it campaigning alongside McCain or instead saying “I’m against him.”
But McCain – who clinched the Republican nomination for president on Tuesday with wins in Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island – dismissed any notion that he would seek to distance himself from Bush.
Indeed, while Bush and McCain famously clashed during the 2000 Republican primary and since then on such issues as campaign finance reform, harsh interrogation techniques, and tax cuts, the two Republican leaders yesterday underscored an issue in which their policy message is identical: The US military should not withdraw from Iraq or shrink from fighting terrorism.
Stephen Hess, a political analyst at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution, said that Bush’s effusive endorsement of McCain was in part a recognition by the president that his party had nominated the Republican candidate who may represent the best chance that Bush’s policy in Iraq will continue past 2009.
McCain “supports the Iraq policy to the fullest and has the most authority in doing it, so strangely – given their history – [Tuesday] night symbolically was very good news for George W. Bush,” Hess said.
“Bush is getting the very best GOP candidate he had any right to expect. . . . He can thank his lucky stars he’s got McCain around, and that is what today represented.”
[Democratic] Party chairman Howard Dean declared that a McCain presidency would represent a “third Bush term” by continuing Bush’s policies on Iraq, the economy, and healthcare.
“John McCain just doesn’t get it,” Dean said. “As President Bush himself said today, John McCain is no change at all. All he offers is four more years of the failed Bush economy, an endless war in Iraq, and shameless hypocrisy on ethics reform. The fact is, the American people want change, not another out-of-touch Bush Republican, and Democrats welcome the opportunity to draw this contrast for voters.”