GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM|
The president received a lei and hug from a Pearl Harbor Elementary School student during his read-aloud session at the school. (See story)
Bush's brief trip includes a visit
to memorials, a school and fund-raisers,
as well as discussing Iraq and the economy
Hawaii served as the exclamation point to end President Bush's 18,000-mile journey through Asia, as he concluded his trip with a busy day here yesterday.
The 12-hour stop was enough time for Bush to raise $600,000 for his re-election effort, gather another $200,000 for the local Republican party and run through a series of morning stops at Pearl Harbor and a local school.
But in his evening speech, he stopped short of endorsing the Akaka bill for native Hawaiian self-determination, despite hearing encouragement from Gov. Linda Lingle to support the bill.
Lingle and Bush rode together in the presidential limousine between engagements, as motorists stranded by the closed freeways lined onramps and streets to catch a glimpse.
"We really achieved what we wanted, which was to make this issue something on the radar screen for the president," Lingle said last night.
In his speech at the Hilton Hawaiian Village before 600 supporters, Bush added a special nod to native Hawaiians.
"I also appreciate the unique contributions native Hawaiians have made to this state and to our nation.
"Impressed by the rich culture of the native Hawaiian people. I respect their traditions, and I respect Gov. Lingle's dedication to all of Hawaii's citizens. You all got a great governor."
The president's 25-minute speech hit the high points of his administration and cast his role as a strong defender of freedom in a war against international terrorism.
But the president's remarks were directed to a strongly pro-Republican crowd.
"We are laying the foundation of freedom for victory in Hawaii and a nationwide victory in 2004," Bush said.
"We need more than financial support, we want you talking up the campaign. We have an optimistic, positive and hopeful agenda for everyone living in America," he said.
Bush singled Lingle out for praise and mentioned several local GOP officials, although he stumbled when he attempted to pronounce the name of Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona.
Earlier in the day, Bush concentrated on politics with an assist for the local GOP. The president was the guest at a special $10,000-a-person reception at the Kahala Mandarin Oriental hotel.
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM|
In a quiet moment in a hectic day, President Bush visited the USS Arizona Memorial yesterday to place a wreath.
Miriam Hellreich, Hawaii GOP national committeewoman, said Bush spent about 20 minutes talking to the 20 local supporters.
"He comes off very warm and personable. He basically gave us an overview of the economy and Iraq," Hellreich said.
During the closed-door fund-raising session, Hellreich said Bush kept his speech on national policy, but the benefit for the local GOP is significant.
"This visit gives a tremendous boost to the local Republicans, and it shows that we can win here for the president," Hellreich said.
"People are now energized about the races and humbled that President Bush came here," she added.
While Bush's brief visit left little time for recreation, the president reportedly got to catch some of the World Series game with the New York Yankees against the Florida Marlins while resting in a two-bedroom suite at the Kahala Mandarin.
Lingle said Bush was asked who he was rooting for, but he "wisely" declined to take sides in a matchup of teams from two politically powerful states.
RICHARD BORRECA / RBORRECA@STARBULLETIN.COM|
President Bush and Gov. Linda Lingle, both Republicans, met at Hickam Air Force Base upon his arrival.
Yesterday morning, Hawaii's clear skies and bright sunlight drew rave reviews from the presidential party, and Bush, first lady Laura Bush and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice toured Pearl Harbor and attended a memorial service on the Arizona Memorial. At the Arizona, the president and his wife stood at attention, and each solemnly threw a single red anthurium into the water in memory of the fallen sailors.
Afterward, they visited with veterans at the USS Missouri.
"I got the feeling they were happy here," Lingle said while the presidential party was touring the Missouri.
Upon concluding his tour, Bush told the assembled 50 veterans of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam that they were all important role models.
"We are thrilled to be here with you. You set a great example for the future sailors and soldiers," the president said.
Bush himself set a good example as he helped catch USS Missouri veteran Walter Lassen, who stumbled upon getting up to greet him. "Nice catch," Bush joked.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Prior to his departure last night, President Bush shook hands with people in the crowd at Hickam.
At Pearl Harbor Elementary School, the first lady told a group of 100 students that she and the president had signed the book she was going to read, "Giggle, Giggle Quack."
Bush asked the kids how many would go to college, and all their hands shot up. He told them that it was important to keep up with their reading and practice every day.
"You have very good teachers at this school," Bush said.
Bush also met with leaders of Pacific island nations, who are in Hawaii for a conference at the East-West Center.
"This meeting did more for U.S.-Pacific island relations than what we've tried to do for the last 10 years," said Sitiveni Halapua, director of the East-West Center's Pacific Islands Development Program.
Bush departed at 8:30 p.m. aboard Air Force One for Washington, D.C., after shaking hands and greeting about 700 military families and dignitaries invited to Hickam Air Force Base.
Theresa Fraser snagged a kiss from the president just before he left.
"I was kind of caught off guard," said Fraser, whose husband is in the Air Force. "It was exciting to see him and exciting to be kissed, too."
Star-Bulletin reporters Rod Antone and Mary Vorsino contributed to this report.
BACK TO TOP
The GOP fund-raiser at the Hilton Hawaiian Village last night seemed more like a high school class reunion than a political event.
For at least $1,000, attendees spent little time eating and more time saying hello to old friends and making new acquaintances before and after President Bush's speech.
"Never in history have we had a president and a governor and three out of the four mayors Republican," said Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou. "It is, for a lot of Republicans, refreshing."
Said Fred Piluso, chief executive of Scruples nightclub in Waikiki, "We're tired of hiding in the trees in Manoa."
Ed makes his case: In his brief encounter with the president and his staff, U.S. Rep. Ed Case passed on a letter urging Bush and the administration to support the Akaka bill, calling it the "single most important action you can take as our president for the future of our Hawaii."
Case said he was not able to talk with the president, but that was able to give the letter to White House Chief of Staff Andy Card.
He waved: Mildred Jacoby, a Pearl Harbor survivor and USS Missouri volunteer, was running behind yesterday morning and missed her chance to get onto the battleship to meet Bush.
Instead, she waited for more than 2 1/2 hours in the hot sun outside the Arizona Memorial for a chance to see the president as his motorcade drove by.
"Oh my god," she said with tears in her eyes after the motorcade passed. "I saw him ... and he was waving."