Bush visits Golden State to enthusiastic support
SACRAMENTO (AP) – Californians greeted President Bush enthusiastically Wednesday as he made a half-day stop in the state to rally military troops and business leaders.
Bush saluted military personnel at Travis Air Force Base and assured business leaders in Sacramento that ”our people are united, our government is united, our cause is right and justice will be done.”
He arrived at the Northern California air base Wednesday morning to several thousand military personnel and their families, many waving small American flags. It was his second trip to the state since he took office and first since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
”It’s truly a morale booster. It lets people know someone appreciates what they’re doing,” said Travis spokesman Capt. Tadd Sholtis.
Travis personnel have helped humanitarian efforts and the U.S. retaliation in Afghanistan since the attacks.
After a brief stop at Travis, Bush flew by helicopter to the California Highway Patrol training academy in West Sacramento. Residents lined the streets on his route from there to Sacramento’s Memorial Auditorium.
There, a crowd of 3,700 erupted into earsplitting cheers and applause when Bush took the stage.
”From the Silicon Valley to the Central Valley, from San Francisco to Los Angeles to San Diego, we are here to tell you that Californians stand united with you,” said Gerry Parsky, a longtime friend of Bush’s and chairman of his presidential campaign in California.
Several times, Bush received standing ovations as he spoke, including when he honored ”the men and women wearing the uniform of the United States of America.”
He also mentioned a Sacramento urban search-and-rescue team that went to New York to help with the post-attacks rescue efforts.
”They may not remember, but I do, I met them in New York City,” Bush said in a light moment.
Small business lobbyist Yolanda Benson, 46, said she felt a ”renewed spirit of patriotism” after the speech on what she called ”a monumental day.”
State Republican leaders packed the auditorium with elected officials, party leaders and two candidates who plan to seek the party’s nomination to challenge Davis.
Wednesday’s warm welcome differed from Bush’s last visit in May, when Democratic Gov. Gray Davis greeted Bush and his energy policy with criticism and when Bush’s popularity sagged among California voters.
Since the attacks, Bush’s approval rating in the state has surged.
And Davis emerged from a 20-minute meeting with Bush with thanks and compliments. ”In times of national crisis, all Americans rally around their president,” he said.
Davis said he thanked Bush for visiting and suggested some California security measures that could be used nationwide.
Those include a CHP safety video for government workers who handle mail and a plan to train law enforcement officers to act as air marshals on flights they are taking for official business.
”On both those counts, the president seemed interested and was going to follow up,” Davis said.
While May’s meeting between Bush and Davis focused on energy, the topic came up only ”in passing” Wednesday, Davis said.
Davis said he thanked Bush for appointing a chairman to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who backed limited electricity price caps and ”helped us in the short-term get through the summer.”
Bush used part of his speech to urge the Senate to approve his energy plan, which he said would reduce American reliance on foreign oil. The plan has passed the House but has stalled since the attacks.
Davis, who attacked Bush’s energy plan when it was introduced in May, said he agreed the United States should reduce its dependence on foreign oil. ”I support most of the president’s efforts to increase supply.”
Associated Press Writer Don Thompson contributed to this report.
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