Bush rallies GOP, visits U

Andrew Pritchard

President George W. Bush saw cheering supporters and chanting protesters Thursday during a daylong visit to Minneapolis that included a University Medical School tour and a roundtable discussion with outgoing University President Mark Yudof.

The president also praised Minnesota health care research during a speech about expanding Medicare prescription drug coverage for seniors. He concluded his day at a Target Center rally for Minnesota’s Republican candidates for political office.

Republican candidates and officials greeted the president as he stepped off Air Force One.

“It’s thrilling to have the
president of the United States come,” said John Kline, 2nd District congressional candidate. “I feel a bit like a little kid … just exuberant because he’s here.”

A motorcade took the president to the University Medical School, where the president talked with patients about the health care system. En route, Bush called Gov. Jesse Ventura in the hospital to wish him a speedy recovery from a blood clot in his lung.

Bush joined Yudof and others for a roundtable discussion before he addressed a crowd at the Hyatt Regency hotel.

Yudof in turn joined Bush on stage as U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson outlined a new report he said shows seniors living longer and healthier lives due to medical
innovations.

The president said providing full Medicare prescription coverage is the first step to ensuring all Americans have access to medical innovations.

“It ought to start with our seniors who have paid their dues,” he said.

The president also said this access to innovative treatments must not undermine “the great strength of the American system, which is the capacity to be on the cutting edge of new technologies that save lives.

“While we strengthen Medicare, we must also encourage innovation by preserving our private health care system, the private health care system which is the envy of the world,” he said.

Bush praised Minnesota’s health care research leadership.

“I called up my friend Mark Yudof and invited myself here because Minnesota is one of the leading centers of health care innovation in our country,” Bush said.

The president also used his speech to talk about the war on terrorism.

“They’re still out there,” Bush said of terrorists. “They hate America because we love freedom.

“The doctrine still holds,” he said. “Either you’re with the United States of America and the freedom-loving countries or you’re with the terrorists.”

Bush said he has requested increased defense spending to give soldiers in the field the best training and equipment and to show terrorists the nation is “in this for the long run.”

Looking to November

At the Target Center, Bush was “energizing the troops,” said Leslie Kupchella, press secretary to Senate candidate Norm Coleman.

“It was an amazing energy,” Kupchella said of Bush’s speech. “It was joyous. It was exciting.”

The president said Coleman, the former St. Paul mayor, is an “independent kind of fellow” who loves his country, his family and his faith, supports education and “has a record of prosecuting white-collar crime.”

“I need Norm in the Senate to help me on Medicare,” Bush said. Coleman has said the House prescription drug coverage plan Bush supports does not go far enough, but he agrees with Bush that the issue is a priority.

“If I haven’t delivered a prescription drug package by my first term in office, get rid of me,” Coleman said in a recent interview.

Sen. Paul Wellstone’s campaign communications director, Jim Farrell, said because of questions about Bush’s corporate dealings, the visit may have been ill-timed.

“This race may come down to a question of who will be a real watchdog for pensions and investors and consumers, in which case appearing with Bush at this time may hurt him in the state,” he said.

The president also supported John Kline’s bid to unseat 6th District Democratic Rep. Bill Luther in the redrawn 2nd District.

“If the good folks in his district are wise, they’ll send him to Washington,” Bush said.

Kline’s service in the Marine Corps, the president said, helps him understand the importance of a well-supported military.

The president also said gubernatorial candidate Tim Pawlenty “knows the best way to bring fiscal discipline to any body of government is to resist unnecessary spending.”

Pawlenty campaign manager Tim Commers said Bush’s visit would help energize volunteers.

“This was not a high-dollar, exclusive event,” he said.

Greta Lilleodden, communications director for DFL-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Roger Moe, said, “Any time an incumbent president is in town … it helps that party’s candidates to raise money.”

She said Bush used his visit to divert public attention from corporate scandals.

“Bush is a terrorist”

Several hundred protesters outside the Target Center took a different view of the president’s policies than the applauding supporters.

“I think that his actions in the war are going to cause more terrorism, both on the part of the United States as the terrorist and others,” said protester Shana Landowski.

Other demonstrators protested Bush’s environmental policies, business affairs and foreign policy, displaying slogans such as “Sharon: the Judeo-Nazi” and “Selected, not Elected.” One protester’s sign showed the World Trade Center in flames, with the words “Bush Knew.”

Melissa Williams, a University graduate student and Anti-War Committee member, said demonstrators sought to protest U.S. intervention in foreign countries, build solidarity between social justice causes and show Bush he is “never, ever welcome in Minnesota.”

Williams said Bush’s statement about being with the United States or the terrorists is a false dichotomy.

“It’s not an issue of being an American patriot or being in favor of killing innocent people,” she said. “The real terrorist is the one whose actions are killing people every single day, and that’s George Bush.”

A line of police officers kept protesters away from the Target Center, and officers on horseback twice cleared demonstrators from the crosswalks.

 

– The Associated Press
contributed to this report.