- The Washington Times - Friday, October 21, 2005

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — President Bush yesterday helped dedicate an Air Force One exhibit at Ronald Reagan’s presidential library, calling the massive blue and white plane a “celebrated symbol of democracy and freedom.”

Mr. Bush was at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum with Nancy Reagan to honor the Republican two-termer, but his appearance at a GOP fundraiser Thursday night raised the ire of some California Republicans.

“We’re great fans of Nancy Reagan,” said Mr. Bush, who spoke while facing the retired Air Force One, which is parked inside a windowed pavilion overlooking Simi Valley. “We admire her strength. We admire the love she has for her husband and we’re grateful for her friendship.”

Mr. Bush noted that the Boeing 707, which carried President Reagan and six other presidents, carried “freedom’s message” across oceans and continents. He noted that Mr. Reagan served at a time when the former Soviet Union was crumbling.

“Our freedom is once again being tested by determined enemies,” Mr. Bush said, likening communism to terrorism. Like communism, Islamic radicalism is “doomed to fail,” he said.

The Air Force One Pavilion, which also houses a former Marine One helicopter, a presidential limousine and a replica of an Irish pub, tells the story of Mr. Reagan’s two-term presidency. Visitors who tour the retired Air Force One will see Mr. Reagan’s beloved jelly beans on the plane’s presidential conference table.

Mr. Bush’s appearance on Thursday evening in California, however, didn’t suit some members of the state GOP. They said his stop at a $1 million Republican National Committee fundraiser was poorly timed because of the upcoming special election.

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to court independents and Democrats, two voter blocs that typically haven’t supported Mr. Bush.

Mr. Schwarzenegger is pushing several initiatives on the Nov. 8 ballot, including extending the probationary period for teachers, requiring public employee unions to get written permission from members before dues can be used for political purposes and capping state spending.

The governor’s campaign expressed disappointment that Mr. Bush would travel to the state to raise money just 21/2 weeks before the special election.

“Unless President Bush is coming to California to hand over a check from the federal government to help us with the financial challenges we face, the visit seems ill-timed,” said Karen Hanretty, a spokeswoman for the state Republican Party.

Mr. Schwarzenegger chose not to attend the Thursday night fundraiser or the event at the library where Mr. Bush was to place a wreath in memory of the late president.

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