DETROIT (AP) – President Bush visited Michigan for the sixth time yesterday on a trip to promote security, not politics, although he seemed to score on both fronts.
With the Ambassador Bridge in the background, Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien reported progress in tightening security at U.S.-Canadian crossings while keeping goods flowing between the world’s largest trading partners.
Bush also held a closed-door session with Chretien in which he pressed his case for action against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Chretien, like many other world leaders, has said he has yet to see evidence that would justify Canadian support.
Neither leader mentioned Iraq in his public remarks, but it clearly was on the minds of the few hundred or so customs officials and business people gathered at the bridge.
Jeffrey Hunt, a regional lobbyist with the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, said homeland and economic security are the foremost issues he sees the president facing.
Hunt said he hopes Bush acts prudently as he decides whether to take on Saddam Hussein.
“I’d listen very carefully to my advisers and line up my allies first,” Hunt said.
As they have recently started doing with regularity, small groups of anti-war protesters greeted Bush’s motorcade on its short trip through town.
“Drop Bush, not bombs,” said one handwritten sign.
But many of those attending the event – mostly Bush supporters – said they appreciated the president’s commitment to U.S. security and, in particular, to protecting their interests in Detroit and nearby Windsor, Ontario.
“This great and peaceful border must be open to business, must be open to people, and it’s got to be closed to terrorists and criminals,” Bush said as trucks moved across the Ambassador Bridge, which connects the two countries.
Several Michigan residents said they think Bush’s appearances have improved his chances to carry Michigan in the next presidential election, something he was unable to do in 2000, when Democratic Vice President Al Gore won the state.
The last Republican to win Michigan was Bush’s father in 1988. The state went for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996.