McCain to have big speaking role at Republican convention

Thursday, June 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Powell, Bush's wife also on the roster for August nominating event

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine - Arizona Sen. John McCain will have a prime-time speaking role on the second night of the Republican National Convention, a key Republican familiar with planning for the convention said Wednesday.

Mr. McCain accepted the offer Wednesday as Gov. George W. Bush finished a series of strategy sessions to fashion an upbeat, issues-oriented nominating convention designed to highlight his "compassionate-conservative" politics.

Mr. McCain was invited to speak Aug. 1, the second night of the four-day Republican convention, the key Republican said. Mr. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, is also expected to speak Tuesday.
On Monday night, the Bush camp has tentatively scheduled the governor's wife, Laura, and Colin Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The three living former Republican presidents - George Bush, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford - will be honored early in the convention. The governor will be nominated on the third night and will deliver his acceptance speech on the fourth night, Aug. 3.

Mr. Bush's communications director, Karen Hughes, described this week's meetings along the Maine coast as brainstorming sessions to shape the themes of each convention day.

"We talked about speakers," she said Wednesday, adding that the discussions were ongoing.

"We got more resolution on some areas than others," she said. Ultimately, she said, Mr. Bush will make the final decisions, and he often has a lot of last-minute questions.

"A lot of times, it's 'Why is this? I think this,'" she said. "Last night at dinner, he was already arguing with me about one of my recommendations."

Ms. Hughes said the governor wanted to emphasize during the convention some of his key campaign themes - preserving Social Security and Medicare, school reform, national defense and "the need to cut taxes to keep our prosperity going."

"What we're talking about is a logical order and a perspective and an umbrella theme," she said of the convention planning.

Mr. McCain, Mr. Bush's most persistent rival in the early primaries, was asked to speak on the general topic of "strength and security," which the key Republican indicated could range from the nation's defense to its character. But the senator's press secretary, Nancy Ives, said she was not familiar with the details.

Mr. Bush has met in recent days with his chief political strategist, Karl Rove, convention chairman Andrew Card and other key aides, including Ms. Rice, a former provost of Stanford University.

The governor, who has mixed business and pleasure at the family oceanside estate since the weekend, begins a new campaign swing Thursday in Portland, Maine.

He then heads to Massachusetts, Ohio, Kentucky and Florida for other fund-raising and issues-oriented events on education, veterans' affairs and national defense.