- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2001

NEW YORK — President Bush yesterday made an early campaign swing through a state he lost badly in November, with a popular former first lady in tow as he stumped for future votes in two events geared toward shoring up his base of immigrant and Catholic support.
The president presided over a swearing-in ceremony of 29 immigrants at the nation's once-busiest depot for new citizens, welcoming them to America by declaring, "With a single oath, all at once you become as fully American as the most direct descendant of a Founding Father."
Later in the day, Mr. Bush traveled to St. Patrick's Cathedral in midtown Manhattan to present the Congressional Gold Medal — the nation's highest civilian honor — posthumously to Cardinal John O'Connor.
"The world will remember the gallant defender of children and their vulnerability, innocence, and their right to be born," Mr. Bush said, drawing a sustained standing ovation from the crowd in the packed cathedral.
At Ellis Island, a tiny patch of land near the Statue of Liberty where 12 million immigrants landed between 1892 and 1954, Mr. Bush vowed to reduce the citizenship application process to six months, extend a temporary window allowing people to file for U.S. residency without returning to their home countries, and deliver $500 million to the Immigration and Naturalization Service over five years to improve service.
He also preached acceptance of new citizens, saying, "America at its best is a welcoming society.
"Immigration is not a problem to be solved; it is a sign of a confident and successful nation. New arrivals should be greeted not with suspicion and resentment, but with openness and courtesy," Mr. Bush said after leading the new citizens from 18 countries in their first pledge of allegiance to the flag.
"It's my honor to speak to you as the leader of your country, and the great thing about America is you don't have to listen unless you want to."
He noted that 40 percent of all Americans — more than 100 million people — "can draw a straight line from the life they know today to a moment in this hall, when a name was called and a person took the first step toward citizenship in the United States of America."
"The founders themselves decided that when they declared independence and wrote our Constitution. You see, citizenship is not limited by birth or background. We welcome not only immigrants themselves, but the many gifts they bring and the values they live by," he said from the expansive hall, ringed by dozens of stained-glass windows with portraits of some of the people who passed through Ellis Island, now a museum.
Mr. Bush brought along on Air Force One the two senators from New York — Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer, both Democrats. Mrs. Clinton, taking her first ride on the presidential plane since her husband left office on Jan. 20, patted Mr. Bush on the back when he sat down next to her to chat.
"It's such a wonderful symbol of the United States and the presidency, and it's always an honor to be on Air Force One," she said after landing at JFK Airport.
At Ellis Island, Mrs. Clinton — who trounced her Republican foe by 12 percentage points — appeared happy to go along for the ride, smiling often and posing for pictures next to Mr. Bush with the Manhattan skyline in the background.
New York City, one of the most liberal cities in the country, is clearly still in the Clinton column. Former President Bill Clinton drew hundreds of supporters to the streets on Monday when he appeared at a midtown restaurant's grand opening. Ironically, Mr. Bush's motorcade sped by Clinton Avenue on its way to Battery Park — where Ellis Island visitors first pass through Castle Clinton.
Also attending the swearing-in ceremony were Attorney General John Ashcroft, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez — both immigrants — as well as Gov. George E. Pataki and New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, both Republicans and the offspring of immigrants.
When Mr. Bush was asked how he liked New York — which he had not visited since he lost the state to Al Gore by a whopping 24 percent — the president said: "I love New York."
He turned to Mr. Giuliani and, with a wry smile, said, "You can use that."
But one Democratic lawmaker derided Mr. Bush for delaying his first trip to the nation's third-largest state in population.
"President Bush has neglected New York completely," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler.
In a light moment, Mr. Bush led what appeared to be a mass "Simon Says" game when he told the small audience and the new immigrants to put their "right hand up" for the pledge of allegiance. When they did, he issued new directions, saying sheepishly, "Actually, right hand on your heart."
At St. Patrick's Cathedral, Mr. Bush lauded Cardinal O'Connor, the former archbishop of New York who died in May 2000.
"He was a man who left a mark on his time. A moral leader not only in title, but in truth. A defender of the faith, the very kind who have kept the faith alive for two millennia. A great man in a high place," he said.
Mr. Bush has courted the nation's 48 million Catholics since taking office, meeting with top church leaders in Philadelphia, Miami, St. Louis and Washington. He is scheduled to meet with Pope John Paul II in Rome later this month.
The Catholic leadership opposes research using embryonic stem cells, which in order to be harvested require the destruction of embryos. Mr. Bush is preparing to set federal policy on whether researchers using government grants can harvest the cells.

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