Washington — In a Rose Garden news conference that was all smiles, President Bush gave his blessing Wednesday to one-time bitter foe John McCain, a day after the Arizona senator clinched the Republican presidential nomination.
With McCain standing by his side, Bush praised him as "somebody that can handle the tough decisions," and promised to help his campaign any way he could, even if that means distancing himself from McCain.
"If my showing up and endorsing him helps him, or if I'm against him and it helps him - either way, I want him to win," Bush said.
In turn, McCain thanked Bush - saying he had "great admiration, respect and affection" for him - and while McCain welcomed Bush to campaign with him he repeatedly stressed that Bush has a busy schedule.
Bush's endorsement came the day after McCain wrapped up the GOP race by winning the necessary delegates in four primaries Tuesday, prompting his last active rival, Mike Huckabee, to drop out.
Bush's support for McCain came a lot faster than McCain's did for Bush after their often bitter rivalry in the 2000 Republican primaries.
Eight years ago this week, McCain angrily quit his upstart presidential bid, blasting Bush and even hinting at a third-party bid through aides.
It was not until two months later, in May, that McCain finally came out for Bush.
Even then McCain had to be prodded by reporters to actually use the word "endorse." In his irreverent way, McCain then said, "I endorse Gov. Bush" six times in a row.