WASHINGTON – President Bush stressed the need for the United Nations not to go soft now that Iraq has made claims of future cooperation as he delivered a vivid demonstration of modern-day politics, raising $1.1 million for a man he drove out of the 2000 presidential race.
"The United Nations must act. It's time for them to determine if they'll be the United Nations or the League of Nations. Time for them to determine whether or not they'll be a force for peace or an ineffective debating society," Bush said at a fundraiser for Lamar Alexander, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Fred Thompson.
"The United States will remain strong in our conviction that we must not, will not allow the world's worst leaders to hold the United States and our friends and allies (subject to) blackmail or threaten us with the world's worst weapons," he added.
The Bush administration is trying to fight the perception that Iraq is giving in to U.N. demands to resume weapons inspections, saying that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein can't be counted on to keep his word and privately suggesting that there are strings attached to the Iraqi offer. Those include the exception of some inspections sites, such as hospitals, which are likely locations for the development or testing of biological weapons.
The White House has said the Iraqi offer is a tactical step aimed at avoiding a strong U.N. action. The Russians have already said the offer makes a new U.N. resolution unnecessary, a statement with which the president disagreed.
A Senate candidate fundraiser was also a convenient place for the president to rail on the Senate's inability to focus either on Iraq or other issues the president is strongly seeking to get done, including homeland security, judicial nominations and the budget.
"We need to have senators in Washington, D.C., who are there to protect the taxpayer's money, to be fiscally sound," Bush said. "Now, I've got a veto, and I intend to use it if they overspend. But it'd certainly be helpful to have senators up there that don't cause me ... to use it."
The president's allies, including his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, and Vice President Dick Cheney, are expected to help Alexander in his bid against eight-term Democratic Rep. Bob Clement.
Bush called Alexander a man who "loves his family, loves his country, and he's got fabulous values." He then ticked off a litany of Bush administration priorities that he said Alexander would support.
Alexander said of Clement: "I don't want to let that other fellow slip in, because he's going to pick that (Senate) desk up, and he's going to move it clear over here across the aisle and sit it down between Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy."
Alexander is joined by Elizabeth Dole as a former presidential contender who is now getting help from the White House to get elected and return the Senate to a GOP majority, which it lost last year with the defection of Vermont Sen. James Jeffords to independent status.
Unlike Jeffords, however, Alexander has not burned any bridges, though he has complained about the political money machine that is now helping him in his campaign.
Speaking about education issues -- Alexander served as education secretary under the first President Bush -- the president said the administration is interested in bolstering civics and history education with a new grant program, an initiative to send the Constitution and Emancipation Proclamation to classrooms around the nation and a White House forum in 2003 on civics and history.
He said that was sparked by data revealing that 28 percent of eighth graders do not know why the Civil War was fought and 20 percent of high school seniors think Germany was an ally in World War II.
Later, the president appeared with Education Secretary Rod Paige to lead a nationwide recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance -- something one-third of fourth-graders don't know, he noted at the White House.
Prior to Bush's trip to Tennessee, White House staff assembled a series of patriotic events to coincide with Constitution Day Tuesday, the 215th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.
"In recent events our children have witnessed the great character of America, yet they also need to know the great cause of America," Bush said in a Rose Garden ceremony. "They are seeing Americans fight for our country. They also must know why our country is worth fighting for."
Fox News' Wendell Goler and the Associated Press contributed to this report.