Bush laments students' civics knowledge

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- President Bush on Tuesday lamented "large and disturbing" gaps in what children know about U.S. history and government before he boarded Air Force One to deliver a civics lesson of his own: Money drives American politics.

He raised $1.1 million for Republican Senate candidate Lamar Alexander, a former presidential rival who mocked Bush and lamented the influence of money as he bowed out of the GOP primaries in 1999.

It was the president's 54th fund raiser of the year, pushing his record-breaking total to nearly $113 million. Alexander is the second Republican seeking a Senate seat after decrying Bush's financial advantage in the 2000 race; the other is Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina.

Bush is aggressively helping Alexander, Dole and several other Republican candidates this year in hopes the GOP can recapture the Senate.

"One thing people like Lamar and I understand is that we can't win without the folks who are willing to dial the telephones and put the signs in the yards, make sure the mailers go out on time, make sure the voters show up to vote," Bush told some of the state's largest Republican contributors at an Alexander fund raiser.

When Alexander conceded to Bush in August 1999, he lamented the influence of money on the electoral process. There were no such complaints Tuesday as Bush helped raise $800,000 for Alexander's campaign and another $300,000 for the state GOP, much of which will be used to help the former Tennessee governor.

"The president has shown a lot of courage" in the war on terrorism, Alexander told the crowd.

Before leaving Washington, Bush announced plans to improve the teaching of U.S. history and civics.

"In recent events our children have witnessed the great character of America, yet they also need to know the great cause of America. They are seeing Americans fight for our country. They also must know why our country is worth fighting for," Bush said at a Rose Garden ceremony that also marked the 215th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.

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