The Citizens Voice - News - 11/11/2005 - President notes 80th Veterans Day celebration at Tobyhanna: "President notes 80th Veterans Day celebration at Tobyhanna
By:Borys Krawczeniuk 11/11/2005
For today's 80th celebration of the nation's veterans, President Bush is scheduled to honor vets and speak about the war on terrorism at the Tobyhanna Army Depot amid controversy over who won't be there with him.
U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn Hill, will be in Philadelphia addressing a Veterans Day luncheon of American Legion members.
Santorum, who is up for re-election next year, isn't skipping the Tobyhanna event to distance himself politically from a president with sagging approval ratings, said Robert Traynham, Santorum's press secretary.
Rather, the senator is honoring a commitment he made more than a month ago, Traynham said.
Long before the president decided to visit Tobyhanna, the American Legion invited Santorum - the date was Oct. 5 - to address "a couple of hundred" legionnaires on Veterans Day, Traynham said. The senator accepted the next day and it would be inappropriate to pull out now, he said.
The senator's staff inquired about whether the president could adjust the timing of his visit to the military electronics maintenance depot, but was told a schedule change was not possible, Traynham said.
"The senator is looking forward to campaigning with the president in the very near future and he's looking forward to campaigning with the president as we head toward Election Day on more than one occasion," Traynham said.
Bush raised money in June in the Philadelphia area for Santorum, who has repeatedly championed the president's agenda on issues such as the war in Iraq and changes in Social Security.
"Make no mistake, the number one defender of President Bush on the Senator floor has been Sen. Rick Santorum and it's been on a range of issues, from the war in Iraq to changes in Social Security," political analyst Jon Delano said.
Since then, Bush's approval ratings have sunk to new lows for his presidency as insurgents in Iraq drove up the number of American troop casualties, questions were raised about his administration's response to Hurricane Katrina and gasoline prices skyrocketed because of Katrina-caused damage.
Tuesday's loss by the Republican candidate for Virginia after Bush campaigned for him at the last minute is only fueling speculation that Santorum is ducking a sagging president.
"There's no doubt about it," said Jay Reiff, a spokesman for Democratic Senate candidate Robert P. Casey Jr. "Rick Santorum hopes that Pennsylvanians will forget that he voted for Bush's agenda 98 percent of the time."
Delano said he can't remember a time when Santorum wasn't at an appearance by the president in Pennsylvania.
"To me, it's just saying there are no coattails for Sen. Santorum to latch onto," Delano said. "By not being with the president, the senator is making more of an issue about this than being with the president would have been ... There's something unseemly about it and it also sends the wrong political message."
The president, who will be making his fifth visit to the region in just under three years, is scheduled to fly in on Air Force One and arrive at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport late this morning.
From there, he'll hop on a helicopter - Marine One - and fly to the depot where he'll speak about noon."