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Bush Defends Quayle, Hits ‘Insidious Rumormongers’

Times Staff Writers

In a vigorous defense of his beleaguered running mate, Vice President George Bush told 4,000 Californians gathered on the state Capitol lawn Tuesday that he will not let “insidious rumormongers” force him to drop Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle from the Republican ticket.

“I have confidence in him and I have confidence in his generation,” Bush said. " . . . He will bring excitement to California and leadership to the ticket.

“I’m not going to let some insidious rumormongers drive me to change my mind,” the GOP presidential nominee declared. “I’m sticking with him.”

The assertion drew the loudest round of applause of Bush’s address to the crowd, heavily filled with Republican political officials and state employees. But some boos were heard at the mention of Quayle, and signs in the crowd derided the 41-year-old vice presidential nominee.

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“Quayle is a bird-brained millionaire,” read one.

Before flying here for an early evening rally, Bush spent a politically rocky day visiting West Coast cities. He was loudly jeered by hecklers in Portland and brushed off by steelworkers in Seattle as he sought to spread the gospel of Republican peace and prosperity.

In California and in Oregon, Bush made special appeals to environmentally conscious voters.

“There’s a new pride in the air,” Bush declared in Sacramento. “But there’s more to do. And we can do better.”

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Earlier in the day, in a sun-swept plaza in Portland lined with 10,000 spectators, Bush asserted that he shared the West’s “special appreciation for the purity of this planet.”

“We owe it to the future generations to protect our air, our water and our soil for them,” he said.

In addition, the Republican nominee, who travels to Los Angeles today to meet with President Reagan, issued a clear rebuke of the Reagan Administration’s attitude toward the environment. He did not, however, mention Reagan by name.

“As a President, I will place much greater emphasis on cleaning up the toxic waste, stopping the acid rain, protecting our oceans from that insidious dumping and expanding our national parks,” Bush said in Portland.

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But his appearance there was marred by dozens of protesters, who chanted, “No More Lies!” and “Where was Noriega?"--a reference to Panamanian strongman Manuel A. Noriega, who has been indicted in the United States on charges of drug smuggling.

At one point, Bush appeared unnerved by the chanting and halted his speech, looking to the side of the stage where the protesters were gathered. As they continued to chant, “Where was George?"--the tag line of the Democratic convention in July--several thousand supporters took up another call: “We want Bush.”

“Don’t worry about those guys,” Bush muttered.

The jeering continued as Bush described his contest with Democratic presidential nominee Michael S. Dukakis as “a choice between the future and the past.”

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“On the one hand, you have a record of tax increases, of opposition to every major defense system, and you have weekend furloughs for first-degree murderers,” Bush said, referring to a Massachusetts program, once supported by Dukakis, that allowed furloughs for prisoners.

“On the other hand, you see my vision for America--low taxes, high opportunity, a strong national defense and safe streets. We see hope around every corner.”

The trip is the first foray into the Pacific states since the Republican convention ended with Bush’s being overshadowed by the controversy over his running mate, Quayle.

But, in Oregon as well as California, Quayle was conspicuous even in his absence. When Bush in Portland declared his faith in Quayle as a symbol of a “new generation,” the reference drew only muted applause.

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And, around the plaza in downtown Portland, which has a reputation as a liberal city, signs referring to the conservative Quayle abounded. “Quayle--Cute but Can He Type or Lead?” read one.

Bush associates, meanwhile, continued to put the best face on the Quayle furor, which has eclipsed coverage of Bush himself and cut into the momentum the campaign expected to gain from the convention.

Craig Fuller, Bush’s chief of staff, on Tuesday suggested that the publicity over Quayle could spark more interest in the nominee.

“I think people want to find out about a young senator,” Fuller said. “We think he’ll campaign effectively across this country.”

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He added: “We wanted a vice presidential nominee who people would be interested in . . . .”

Bush himself expressed hope that the controversy would diminish.

“Things are going good on that,” he said in Seattle.

In recent days, Bush’s entourage has appeared before large, boisterously approving crowds, but Tuesday the campaign stumbled as he reached out to blue-collar voters and the more liberal Northwest.

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At the Seattle Steel Co., which has battled back from financial downturns in the early 1980s, Bush told 100 workers that the resurgent economy is bad news for Dukakis.

“He can’t get elected unless things get worse, and things won’t get worse unless he is elected,” Bush said.

But most steelworkers stood with arms folded during his remarks, only occasionally clapping. At least one carried a sign, smuggled past company guards, reading, “Dukakis ’88.”

A mention by Bush of his favorite tax plan, a 50% reduction in the capital gains tax to spur new business, drew almost no reaction.

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