Ex-President Bush endorses McCain

Times Staff Writer

John McCain, trying to solidify his support among conservatives as he battles Mike Huckabee for the Republican presidential nomination, on Monday won the endorsement of former President George H.W. Bush.

Speaking from Houston and welcoming “an old friend . . . back to Texas,” Bush called McCain -- a Navy pilot in Vietnam who was captured and tortured by the Viet Cong -- a “remarkable patriot.”

“Few men walking among us have sacrificed so much in the cause of human freedom,” Bush said, adding that McCain had “the right values and experience to guide our nation.”

Asked about conservative unease with McCain, Bush quoted from the diaries of President Reagan, who had said he was being portrayed by some on the right as a “turncoat conservative.” Bush dismissed conservative criticism of McCain as “an “unfair attack,” and said the Arizona senator had “a sound, conservative record, and yet he’s not above reaching out to the other side.”