Bush 41 Lauds McCain as 'True Conservative'
Ex-prez endorses, defends candidate
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2008 12:28 PM CST
Former President George H.W. Bush, right, looks on as Republican presidential hopeful, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks at a news conference in Houston, Monday, Feb. 18, 2008, where with McCain received...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – George H.W. Bush formally endorsed John McCain today, praising the Arizona senator as a "true conservative" in the latest attempt to rally Republicans behind their presumptive nominee, the Houston Chronicle reports. "I think that our effort to continue to unite the party will be enhanced dramatically by President Bush's words," said McCain.

Bush dubbed criticism of McCain's conservative bona fides “grossly unfair” and noted that Ronald Reagan was similarly skewered by “ultra-right” elements in 1980, CNN reports. Speaking in a Houston airplane hangar, the ex-president said of his fellow naval aviator, “His character was forged in the crucible of war.”