In a salute to Ronald Reagan, President George W. Bush is helping dedicate a new Air Force One exhibit at the former president's library, but his appearance at a Republican fundraiser while he's here has upset some California Republicans.
Bush was to join former first lady Nancy Reagan in Simi Valley on Friday to officially open a new pavilion at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library that features a Boeing 707, which carried Reagan and six other presidents.
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 Reagan's two-term presidency. Visitors who tour the retired Air Force One will see Reagan's beloved jelly beans on the plane's presidential conference table.
Some California Republicans said Bush's appearance Thursday at a US$1 million (Ђ840,000) Republican National Committee fundraiser was poorly timed because of the upcoming Nov. 8 special gubernatorial election.
Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to court independents and Democrats, two voter blocs that typically haven't supported Bush. The governor's campaign expressed disappointment that Bush would travel to the state to raise money just 2 1/2 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.
Schwarzenegger chose not to attend the Thursday night fundraiser or the event at the library where Bush was to lay a wreath in memory of the late ex-president.
During a campaign stop Wednesday in Anaheim, Schwarzenegger addressed why he was passing on the opportunity to sit with Bush.
"We're in high gear right now for our campaign," he said. "So of course, right now, it's all about paying attention to that. So this is why I couldn't really accept the invitation to be part of the ceremony at the Reagan Library out there."
But he also said he was not happy the president chose to visit California so close to the November election to raise money for the Republican National Committee. To date, Schwarzenegger has yet to reach his US$50 million (Ђ40 million) fundraising goal to promote his ballot initiatives.
"I've met with the president several times in the past. We've worked together, and we have a good working relationship," Schwarzenegger said, adding, "... We would have appreciated it if he had done his fundraising after Nov. 8,” reports the AP. I.L.