- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2002

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) President Bush dropped any suggestion of official business yesterday as he went campaigning for Tennessee Republicans at their expense.
With little but politics on his public schedule for the day, Mr. Bush scooped up $1 million for the Tennessee Republican Party and its gubernatorial candidate, Van Hilleary, and staged an airport rally for the state's other Republican hopefuls.
He had returned to Washington by dinnertime for a 40-minute thank-you meeting with the Republican National Committee's biggest donors.
The White House had the state Republican Party and the Hilleary campaign pay for Mr. Bush's trip to Tennessee, abandoning a long-standing practice among incumbent presidents of designating campaign-style rallies as "official" so that taxpayers pick up a portion of the costs.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the change was made yesterday to permit Mr. Bush, in what the president called the final four weeks' "sprint phase" before Election Day, to use such rallies for overt candidate endorsements.
That he did yesterday, using both plain words and unusual metaphors.
Mr. Hilleary, a four-term U.S. representative in a close race with Democrat Phil Bredesen, is "somebody who stands tall when sometimes the winds of public opinion may be drifting a different way, somebody you can count on, somebody when they turn up the butane, the political butane, you know where they stand," Mr. Bush said.
Janice Bowling, Republican nominee to represent Tennessee's 4th Congressional District, shared in Mr. Bush's praise. But the most specific thing he had to say was that she would help the Republicans keep control of the House.
"Janice stands for a lot of good things, stands for a lot of good issues, but the thing that I'm most impressed with is she'll vote for Denny Hastert to be the speaker," he said.
As for Knoxville's Republican mayor, Victor Ashe, Mr. Bush said he and his former Yale classmate "both proved that you don't have to graduate with honors from college in order to hold higher office."
Senate candidate Lamar Alexander, Mr. Bush's sometimes bitter rival for the 2000 presidential nomination, got his endorsement straight up. "This man has proven his worth in the public sector," the president said.
The million-dollar luncheon, Mr. Bush's 63rd fund-raiser for the year, put his 2002 tally at more than $136 million. Before yesterday, the White House typically scheduled "official business" welcome rallies in the same cities as Mr. Bush's fund-raisers in order to minimize the travel costs the local party was obligated to pay.
Near Mr. Bush's Knoxville luncheon, more than 200 people turned out for a rally organized by local religious leaders to oppose any U.S. military strike on Iraq the kind of demonstration that has become a staple of Mr. Bush's travels as he has escalated his rhetorical campaign against Saddam Hussein.
"There must be more creative ways to deal with oppression in the world rather than become oppressors ourselves," the Rev. Paige Bucholz, an Episcopal priest, told demonstrators.

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