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Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bush, presidential candidates to address VFW convention

August 11, 2007

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— President Bush and at least four presidential candidates will be in Kansas City next week to address the national Veterans of Foreign Wars convention.

The six-day convention, which begins Aug. 18, is expected to attract more than 12,000 visitors to the city's Bartle Hall and could have an economic impact of about $6.6 million.

Presidential hopefuls set to make an appearance include Democratic front-runners Sen. Hillary Clinton, of New York, and Sen. Barack Obama, of Illinois. On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, and former Sen. Fred Thompson, of Tennessee, are confirmed speakers, said VFW spokesman Jerry Newberry.

The timing of Bush's appearance has not been confirmed, but a City Hall convention industry advisory panel was told that advance security teams already are at work preparing for his visit.

"The president has made it a point to attend every convention since he's been in office," except last year, Newberry said. "We're confident he'll accept the invitation this year if matters of state don't intervene."

There is speculation that Bush could use his appearance to discuss the upcoming report to Congress on the status of the surge of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Clinton and McCain are set to speak on Aug. 20, while Thompson and Obama are scheduled Aug. 21. Political speeches and convention events are closed to the public.

The last time the VFW held its convention in Kansas City was in 1999, when President Bill Clinton spoke to attendees about foreign policy and veterans' issues like health care and homelessness.

The VFW's national headquarters has been based in Kansas City since 1930.

Also set to address the convention is Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, New Jersey Gov. John Corzine and Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser.

"This is the candidates' opportunity to address the national convention of America's oldest and largest organization of combat veterans," said VFW Commander-in-Chief Gary Kurpius, of Anchorage, Alaska.

"We want to know how, if elected to our nation's highest office, they will prosecute the war on terrorism," Kurpius said. "We want to know how they will protect America, what their positions are on national security, military readiness and homeland security, and how they will enhance military and veteran health care programs, increase benefits and expand quality-of-life initiatives."

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