Nancy Reagan endorses McCain

AP Photo/Denis PoroyRepublican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks during a campaign stop in Chula Vista, Calif. Monday.

AP Photo/Denis PoroyRepublican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks during a campaign stop in Chula Vista, Calif. Monday.

BEL AIR, Calif. " Former first lady Nancy Reagan endorsed John McCain for president Tuesday as the Arizona senator continued to collect backing from leading Republicans who might help him unite the party and win over critical conservative voters.

The GOP nominee-in-waiting, in the midst of a West Coast fundraising swing, stopped by the Southern California home of President Reagan's widow to accept the endorsement from the Republican matriarch he called beloved and wonderful.

"I'm very pleased and honored to have the opportunity again to be with Mrs. Reagan and to receive her endorsement for the nomination of my party and for president of the United States," McCain said in a five-minute appearance with the former first lady in the driveway of her gated home.

"President Reagan and Mrs. Reagan remain an inspiration to all of us, as an example of honorable and courageous service to the nation."

In turn, she said only, "Ronnie and I always waited until everything was decided and then we endorsed. Well, obviously, this is the nominee of the party."

In a written statement issued earlier in the day, she called McCain a good friend for more than 30 years.

"My husband and I first came to know him as a returning Vietnam War POW, and were impressed by the courage he had shown through his terrible ordeal. I believe John's record and experience have prepared him well to be our next president," she said.

She and McCain met privately in the Reagan home before they emerged, arm in arm, through the front door to meet reporters.

Her eventual support was expected, and she became the latest top Republican to fall in line behind McCain. The two have long been close.

The endorsement could help him shore up the backing of conservatives who view him skeptically for his record of breaking with the party on some issues.

McCain said he hopes the endorsement brings the fractured party together and said: "This is an important, most important kind of expression of confidence in my ability to lead the party that I could have."

At the same time, a Reagan nod also could help further align him with the former president who attracted Democratic as well as Republican voters. Said McCain: "The Reagan Democrats are very important and I hope every one of them and new Democrats will be watching."

The former first lady has nurtured her husband's legacy and generally has stayed out of the political spotlight in recent years, with a few exceptions. She remained quiet during the multicandidate fight for the GOP nod but attended debates held at her husband's presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif.

In 2006, she lobbied in favor of legislation to expand federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, a position McCain shares, but President Bush vetoed the bill. President Reagan suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

She also waded into the Virginia Senate race that year when Democratic candidate James Webb, who served as Navy secretary in the Reagan administration, ran an ad featuring 1985 video footage of President Reagan praising Webb's gallantry as a Marine. Nancy Reagan's office sent Webb's campaign a letter objecting to the use of the Reagan footage.

LOS ANGELES (AP) " John McCain, outlining his foreign policy positions on the heels of an overseas trip, is renewing his call for the United States to work more collegially with democratic nations and live up to its duties as a world leader.

"Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed," the Republican said in prepared remarks a few days after returning from the Middle East and Europe. "We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies."

The pitch, scheduled for an appearance Wednesday before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, is a fresh acknowledgment by the GOP's likely presidential nominee that the United States' standing on the world stage has been tarnished and that the country has an image problem after eight years of President Bush at the helm.

Critics at home and abroad have accused Bush of employing a go-it-alone foreign policy in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when the administration spurned international calls for caution and led the invasion into Iraq.

Democrats have derided McCain as offering the same foreign policies as Bush, whose support is at a low point as the public craves change.

But McCain, mindful of a need to lay out his own vision for the future and distance himself from the unpopular Republican president, voices a more collaborative approach.

"The United States cannot lead by virtue of its power alone," McCain said. Instead, the country must lead by attracting others to its cause, demonstrating the virtues of freedom and democracy, defending the rules of an international civilized society, and creating new international institutions to advance peace and freedom, he said.

"If we lead by shouldering our international responsibilities and pointing the way to a better and safer future for humanity ... it will strengthen us to confront the transcendent challenge of our time: the threat of radical Islamic terrorism," said McCain, a former Vietnam prisoner of war who has decades of experience in the Senate on foreign affairs.

McCain's campaign billed the foreign policy speech as a major address, the first of several set for the coming weeks as the GOP nominee-in-waiting seeks to reintroduce himself to the general public and outline his stances on a range of issues.

Judging by excerpts made available by the campaign, however, the speech initially appeared to offer little more than repackaged previous proposals, including his push for better relationships with democratic allies.

He again called for creating a new global compact of more than 100 democratic countries to advance shared values and defend shared interests. He also advocated anew a successor to the Kyoto Treaty.

As he has before, he said the country should work with friendly African governments but demand both transparency and the rule of law, and he set a goal of eradicating malaria on the continent.

He also said the United States should lead a global nuclear disarmament effort as he called for a renewed commitment to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.


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