GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Using a bullhorn, Darrell Large of the Hawaii Republican Party got everyone's attention at party headquarters yesterday during a rally for Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president.
GOP focuses on qualities of McCain at isle rally
About 40 Hawaii veterans rallied at Republican headquarters in Honolulu yesterday for Sen. John McCain, the presumptive party nominee for president.
Retired Air Force Col. Bill Nations said he supports McCain for president because of his experience, character and "common sense."
McCain, a U.S. senator from Arizona, was a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War and spent more than five years as a prisoner of war.
McCain's former Hanoi cellmate, retired Navy Capt. Jerry Coffee, said he believes McCain can lead "because his entire life has prepared him for this office."
McCain believes in "dedicating yourself to a cause higher than yourself," he said.
Coffee recalled how POW McCain, son of the then-commander in chief of Pacific forces, was offered an early release by the North Vietnamese but refused to go. That showed McCain's courage, commitment and patriotism, which will influence his presidency, he said.
Coffee said Hawaii's economy, which relies on tourism and the military, will benefit from McCain as president because he supports drilling immediately for offshore oil, which will lower jet fuel costs, resulting in a resurgence in tourism and continued military spending.
Some supporters expressed disdain for the kind of media coverage Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the Democrats' presumptive nominee for president, is getting during his vacation to his hometown.
Susan Page, who handles public relations for the McCain campaign in Hawaii, said "the reporting has been so fluffy" -- eating "shave ice, wearing slippers and going to the gym.
"The coverage has not been balanced," said Page, who is married to Coffee.
Although Gov. Linda Lingle was not there, Coffee quoted her as saying, "It doesn't matter where you are from or where you went to school. It's about whether you can lead."
Lt. Gov. James Aiona said, "We've been inundated with some other candidate."
Despite Obama's Hawaii roots, he said, "This is not 'American Idol,'" which got a laugh.
"You can laugh about it," he said, but "this is for the top office. This is for the president of the United States."
Others were less critical.
"If McCain were here, he'd be getting a lot of coverage," said Brian Bott, who worked as a civilian contract employee for the Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq.
Bott, who heads Independents for McCain, believes "McCain's the right man for the job," who has crossed party lines to pass legislation and is "more well versed on national security issues."
He said his candidate has executive experience as an officer in the military and a longer legislative career than Obama.
As for Obama, Bott said, "I don't think he'd make a bad president. I think McCain would make a better president."