When voters "look closely at the judgment, the experience, and the policies of the candidates," they will choose John McCain for the White House, President Bush told the Republican National Convention on Tuesday.
Bush, in a short speech via a live video feed from the White House, saluted McCain's "independence and character" and said the soon-to-be Republican presidential nominee had the "kind of courage and vision we need in our next commander-in-chief."
The address was not the going-away salute Republicans had in mind for Bush, whose second term ends in January. He had been scheduled to speak in person at the convention's opening night Monday, but Hurricane Gustav's strike on the Gulf Coast caused the party to curtail most of Monday's session. Bush and Vice President Cheney canceled their scheduled appearances; the president is scheduled to travel to the affected area Wednesday.
Tuesday's session, while lower-key in tone than originally planned, looked and felt more like a party convention than Monday's short, somber session.
"We live in a dangerous world, and we need a president who understands the lessons of Sept. 11, 2001 — that to protect America, we must stay on the offense, stop attacks before they happen, and not wait to be hit again. The man we need is John McCain," Bush said.
He saluted McCain's stance on the Gulf War — particularly the buildup of U.S. troops over parts of the last two years to help stabilize Iraq.
"In the face of calls for retreat, I ordered a surge of forces into Iraq," Bush said. "Many in Congress said it had no chance of working. Yet one senator above all had faith in our troops and the importance of their mission, and that was John McCain."
"Some told him that his early and consistent call for more troops would put his presidential campaign at risk. He told them he would rather lose an election than see his country lose a war," Bush said.
He also offered some strongly partisan praise.
"If the Hanoi Hilton could not break John McCain's resolve to do what is best for his country, you can be assured the angry Left never will," Bush said, in references to McCain's years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
Bush was introduced by his wife, Laura, who said the president was "using his influence to lift up lives around the world" and "had kept the American people safe."
The speeches from Bush and other Republican leaders came as Republicans continue to scramble to readjust their nominating party in the wake of Gustav. McCain campaign manager Rick Davis told reporters Tuesday morning that recovery from Gustav, a Category 2 hurricane, has become a "central theme" in the convention and raising money to assist those hurt by the storm will continue.
Much of Tuesday's session is focused on public service. Typical of the addresses was a speech from Shanna Hanson, a captain in the Minneapolis Fire Department, who talked about the public reaction to the collapse of a major highway bridge in the city more than a year ago.
There were tense moments outside the arena. At least three people were arrested in downtown St. Paul after a long march to protest homelessness, and police used flash grenades and smoke bombs to disperse the crowd.
Davis said vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin will deliver her speech to delegates later week despite the "swirling" reports surrounding her. The vice presidential pick usually speaks on Wednesday, the third day of the convention.