Jackson Balks at Endorsement; to Press Issues

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Times Staff Writer

The Rev. Jesse Jackson Tuesday pointedly refused to endorse Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen as the Democratic vice presidential nominee, saying he has “had no opportunity” to discuss the matter with either Bentsen or Michael S. Dukakis, the party’s almost certain presidential nominee.

Instead, Jackson vowed to see that his own name is placed in nomination at the Democratic convention next week and to press platform issues which likely will prove contentious.

Would Support Ticket

Jackson said he would support the Democratic ticket that emerges next week. “But that will be the appropriate time,” he said. “We can’t have a convention before the convention starts. Nor is it over until it is over.”


Asked if black voters might stay home in November, Jackson said: “This is no time for us to proceed based upon threats. It is a time to proceed based upon a shared commitment to expand participation in the process.”

Jackson’s reaction to Dukakis’ decision reflected widespread dissatisfaction among many Jackson supporters and mirrored his own anger at having to learn about the decision from reporters on arriving at National Airport in Washington Tuesday morning.

“Let’s just say he was not pleased,” said one aide, understating Jackson’s feeling about how the selection process was handled.

Dukakis announced his decision on the day after Jackson had announced for the first time that he would accept the nomination if it were offered. After learning of Dukakis’ decision, Jackson received a telephone call from the Massachusetts governor.

“He asked me if I had heard the news,” Jackson told reporters. “I said yes.”

Ronald Brown, Jackson’s convention manager, said: “Obviously there was the expectation of consultation” with Dukakis on his running mate. When that did not happen, he said, Jackson’s disappointment was evident.

However, Brown said, the Chicago minister is “tenacious,” adding that soon after Jackson was told about the choice, he immediately shifted his focus to how he was going to handle his news conference Tuesday and what his convention strategy would be.


Indeed, at the news conference, Jackson showed no overt hostility toward Dukakis or Bentsen.

Jackson said he thought Dukakis would make a good President, calling him “congenial, intelligent and tough.”

But he refused to make such an endorsement of Bentsen.

“Since I have had no opportunity for in-depth discussion with Sen. Bentsen and have had no prior discussion with Gov. Dukakis about his recommendation, it would be inappropriate for me to comment” on Bentsen’s selection, Jackson said, reading from a statement.

Asked if he were angry about not being chosen, he said: “No, I’m too controlled, I’m too clear, I’m too mature to be angry. I’m focused on what we must do to keep hope alive. Anger reflects a crisis in emotions and therefore irrational behavior. I’ve simply been in this struggle long enough to keep my eyes on the prize.”

Jackson, now freed, perhaps, from the need to show restraint in his plans to rally thousands of followers at the convention, spoke vigorously about using the gathering to help “build a progressive coalition” within the party, focusing on jobs, drug abuse, equal rights for women and minorities, the military budget, family farms and foreign policy.

Jackson and his delegates--about 1,200--could tie knots in the convention proceedings if they choose to battle over minority planks involving these issues.


Presaging such an effort, Jackson said his supporters constitute a “new progressive coalition,” which “will continue to challenge the party and its leadership to be bigger and better.”

And Jackson said: “The interests of our constituency will be represented in Atlanta. When my name goes in nomination, it will represent a renewed commitment to new budget priorities.”

Even before the convention, Jackson will challenge Dukakis for attention. Jackson plans to ride a bus from Chicago to Atlanta, stopping along the way to hold rallies and likely to add other buses.

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), a Jackson delegate, said that the candidate was sending a message: “We’re going to have a contest in Atlanta. Y’all come.”

In announcing his choice, Dukakis asserted that Bentsen had a “deep commitment to civil rights,” but many of Jackson’s black supporters disagreed.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) accused Dukakis of “trying to make the Democratic Party (only) slightly less conservative than the Republican Party.”


Jackson headquarters in Chicago reported hundreds of angry calls from supporters, some of whom said they would not support the Democratic ticket.

With the announcement Tuesday that Jackson had failed to get on the ticket, some supporters saw a failure of the American dream.

Willis Edwards, president of the Beverly Hills-Hollywood chapter of the NAACP, said: “They said that if you worked hard, got a good education, you should get promoted. America lied.”

But Jackson, characteristically upbeat even as he sent signals of impending clashes at the convention, said: ‘We have accomplished much. From this time on, becoming President or vice president must forever be a reasonable aspiration for every American child.”

Later, addressing the NAACP convention here, Jackson said: “Twenty years ago, we fought simply to eat at a restaurant. This year, we will sit in Atlanta to help determine the course of our nation and our world. Hold on, the morning is coming.”

Reiterating his claim that he has registered more voters than any senator or congressman, Jackson said: “And for that work, there must be partnership, equity and shared responsibility.”


Jackson ended his speech with a rousing declaration that was framed by thundering organ music. “I may not be on the ticket,” he said, “but I’m qualified! Hold on till the morning comes. Qualified! Qualified!”