Resuming his post-primary drubbing of his Democratic foe, Vice President George Bush castigated Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis on Saturday for his support of a prison furlough program and demanded that Dukakis explain to Americans why he let “murderers out on vacations.”
Speaking to the Illinois GOP state convention before he traveled to a nearby farm to demonstrate concern for drought-threatened farmers, Bush issued his toughest assault yet on Dukakis, highlighting differences in their positions on drugs and crime.
His sternest words came on the topic of Massachusetts’ prison program, which allowed prisoners to win furloughs based on their behavior. The program was suspended last year after one convict escaped while on furlough and assaulted a Maryland couple.
“What did the Democratic governor of Massachusetts think he was doing when he let convicted first-degree murderers out on weekend passes?” Bush asked the crowd of several hundred delegates.
“Why, even after one of the criminals that he let out brutally raped a woman and stabbed her fiance, why wouldn’t he admit his mistake?”
Bush told the crowd that Dukakis persisted in his support for the program for eight months before he decided to “finally give in” when the state Legislature canceled the program.
‘Owes People Explanation’
“I think Gov. Dukakis owes the people of the United States of America an explanation as to why he supported this outrageous program,” Bush said. “We have a right to know.”
Dukakis campaign spokesman Dayton Duncan, in reply, issued a statement saying, “George Bush should know better” and should “check the record . . . before he makes more wild accusations.”
Some 40 states and the federal prison system have furlough programs, the statement noted, and while Ronald Reagan was governor, California did as well. Reagan, in fact, defended his program in 1972 in response to criticism after several prisoners released on furlough escaped and were accused of murder, Duncan noted.
On crime, Duncan said, the issue is: “Who has done something about it, not just talked about it.”
In his remarks about drugs, the vice president was less personal. Instead, he aimed his barbs at Democrats in general and said he favored increasing covert activities to root out drug “kingpins,” even those in other countries.
Points to Challenge
“I’ve challenged our Democratic opponents to match their tough talk with some tough action; so far I’m still waiting,” the vice president said. “I won’t be surprised if talk is all we get out of them.”
Hinting that he would favor covert actions within another country to battle the flow of drugs, he said the United States should “be sensitive” to other nations’ sovereignty. “But we can’t be paralyzed . . . because ultimately we are talking about the national security of the United States,” he added.
Staff writer David Lauter, with the Dukakis campaign, contributed to this story.