PLYMOUTH, Mich. - George W. Bush will restore the prestige that the U.S. military has not enjoyed since Republicans were in the White House, GOP vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney told a crowd of about 500 supporters Saturday.
Cheney joined Arizona Sen. John McCain on the campaign trail to campaign on Bush's campaign to strengthen the military.
''The bottom line is we've not been doing what needs to be done to provide for our men and women in uniform,'' Cheney said to cheers of support from the crowd at downtown Plymouth's Kellogg Park.
It was the first time McCain, who defeated Bush in Michigan during that state's presidential primary, has stumped with Cheney. Both men stressed to the packed crowd the importance of the president as commander in chief. They claimed that there has been a demise in military morale under the leadership of President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.
McCain, a Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war who regularly campaigns for improving the status of American soldiers, said the Bush-Cheney ticket ''will return morale, prestige and readiness'' to the armed forces.
Cheney continued his attack on Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, and mocked Gore's recent quip about the national debates. Gore had said he was too hot in the first debate, too cold in the second and just right in the third. Cheney said: ''Well, that's a little like Goldilocks.''
Cheney continued his critique of the Clinton-Gore administration handling of the military in an interview on CNN's ''Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields.'' Asked about Gore's promise to spend more on the military, Cheney said Democratic claims of planned spending are overstated, and added:
''It's really not a question of how many dollars you spend, the fact of the matter is that this administration has had eight years and over the eight-year period of time they've allowed the state of our military to atrophy,'' Cheney said. ''We badly need to improve the overall capabilities of the force, to maintain readiness, to invest in new capabilities.''
Most of the Michigan crowd were Republican supporters, holding signs such as: ''Bush plus Cheney equals tax cuts,'' ''No more Clinton-Gore,'' and ''Bush plus Cheney equals economic growth.'' About a dozen stood on the sidelines advertising support for Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore and his running mate Joseph Lieberman.
Many said they'd come to see McCain.
Sal Cavallaro, a 60-year-old manufacturing representative from Plymouth, said he voted for McCain in the primary and will vote for Bush on Nov. 9. He said he thinks McCain is a good sport for campaigning with the GOP ticket after losing.
''It would have been easy for him to play sour grapes,'' Cavallaro said. ''But he's a team player. And team players go a long way.''
A group called ''Bikers for Bush,'' dressed in black leather and flanked by Harley Davidson motorcycles, said they drove a half hour from Westland to support the Republican ticket.
''Republicans are the people most concerned with individual rights,'' said Jim Rhoades, a bearded man with a baseball cap, who owns a construction business in Garden City.
Helen Patin and her husband Richard were among the few who showed up with signs for the Democrats. But the Patins, nearing retirement age and from Canton, said they came to see McCain.
The senator is on the ''right'' side of things, ''morally speaking,'' said Helen Patin, who sported a sign ''Don't drill 4 oil in Alaska.''
After the speech, McCain headed back to Arizona and Cheney traveled to Ann Arbor, where he and his wife spoke with students, shook hands and took pictures before the big Michigan-Michigan St. football game.