Bush makes first New York stop as president
WASHINGTON (AP) – Six months after his inauguration, President Bush headed to New York state for the first time, welcoming newly sworn-in citizens Tuesday and paying respects to the late Cardinal John O’Connor.
Bush boarded Air Force One with New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, both Democrats. It was the first trip aboard the presidential aircraft for Clinton since her husband left office in January.
Bush was attending a naturalization ceremony Tuesday on Ellis Island, just off the southern tip of Manhattan, where he was announcing that he intends to accelerate the citizenship process. Then he was heading to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City to present the Congressional Gold Medal to O’Connor posthumously
The medal is the highest honor awarded by Congress to individuals, institutions or events. Lawmakers and then-President Clinton approved the recognition for O’Connor last year.
It was O’Connor to whom Bush apologized last year when as a candidate he offended Roman Catholics by campaigning at Bob Jones University, a South Carolina school whose leader once called the Catholic Church a ”Satanic cult.” O’Connor died in May 2000.
Bush has assiduously courted Catholics, a vital bloc in his electoral win last year, ever since taking office, meeting with top church leaders in Philadelphia, Miami, St. Louis and Washington, among others.
Bush has visited 34 states since he took the oath of office in January, but until Tuesday stayed clear of new York, the third-largest.
Democrat Al Gore buried Bush in the presidential race in New York last November, 59 percent to 34.5 percent, and the state has a 5-3 Democratic voter registration advantage.
”This is just another one of the foreign countries he has to visit,” quipped Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.
”President Bush has neglected New York completely,” complained Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
Bush was straying from the three issues he has implored Congress to take up before its August recess: plans for student testing, new rights for managed-care patients and government funding for religious community groups.
White House spokesman Tucker Eskew said Bush’s appearances ”are presidential events about issues larger than any legislative agenda.”
”Immigration, the American success story, the leadership of a man of faith like Cardinal O’Connor – these are quintessentially New York and quintessentially American stories, and therefore ideal for a presidential visit,” Eskew said.
”You couldn’t possibly capture the core of what New York City is all about more than doing an immigration ceremony,” said New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
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