Jackson Accuses Bush of Using Racist Appeals
Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, gearing up for a heavy campaign schedule in support of Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, Sunday accused Vice President George Bush and his campaign of using thinly disguised racist appeals to attract votes.
Bush’s description of Jackson as a “hustler from Chicago"--a comment the vice president made during the primary campaign last May--and statements made repeatedly by Bush campaign officials and supporters that the Democratic ticket of Dukakis and Sen. Lloyd Bentsen is a troika or “three-headed monster” that unofficially includes Jackson have been aimed at voters who oppose equal rights for blacks, Jackson declared.
Cites Behavior Pattern
“One day I’m called a Chicago hustler, then my proximity to the Democratic ticket is called a three-headed monster, then the Bush campaign presses rumors about Dukakis seeing a psychiatrist (never substantiated) and then Bush challenges Dukakis’ patriotism,” declared Jackson, who was interviewed at a Times Washington Bureau breakfast session. “The pattern of behavior is not just conservative, it’s reactionary and mean-spirited.”
Jackson, who has been seeking a defined role in the Dukakis campaign, said he will be “functioning as a very dedicated volunteer” and disclosed that he will have a heavy campaign schedule focused on the South and three key electoral states--California, Illinois and New York.
But he said his travels will not be restricted, despite reports that some Dukakis aides would rather he avoid campaigning in certain states, such as Alabama and Mississippi, where they fear he would be more of a campaign liability than an asset.
Bush campaign spokesman Mark Goodin heatedly denied Jackson’s accusations that the vice president and his campaign have made racist appeals to voters. And he indicated the campaign would continue to refer to the Democratic ticket as a “three-headed monster” as an indication of conservative objections to the liberal Jackson’s role in the campaign.
He called Jackson’s accusation “a disgusting suggestion . . . as offensive to this campaign as it is totally incorrect” and said he sees no reason why the campaign should not continue to use the term “three-headed monster.”
Asked about Bush’s description of Jackson as a “hustler,” Goodin said: “I don’t think that had anything to do with race. Jackson’s making an allusion to something that isn’t there. Perhaps he’s overly sensitive. National politics is a tough game.”
What Bush said in a May 6 speech in Nebraska was, “I’m not going to be outhustled by the hustler from Chicago or by that traditional liberal Democrat from Massachusetts,” the latter description referring to Dukakis.
Jackson called the “hustler” remark and the term “three-headed monster” demeaning and racist and criticized the press for not reporting “the racial implications” of the attacks.
“If a racial attack short of a blatant racial word is tolerated, the Bush campaign will go as far as you let them go in that sense,” he said. “The Democratic ticket cannot stop that. Here is where in a sense the press safeguards our liberties.”
Jackson also predicted that Bush’s running mate, Sen. Dan Quayle of Indiana, will become an increasingly heavy burden on the GOP ticket as voters focus on whether they would want him to be “a heartbeat away” from the presidency.
The issue of Quayle’s qualifications, he said, has been heightened by a Cleveland Plain Dealer report that in order to gain entrance to Indiana University’s law school 18 years ago, the senator utilized a program aimed at assisting the enrollment of minorities and other disadvantaged students. Quayle’s undergraduate grades were not considered high enough to gain him admission, the Plain Dealer reported.
“You know Al Jolson as comedy was offensive,” Jackson said, referring to the entertainer of the 1920s and 1930s who performed black-face routines. “But now Al Jolson in politics becomes a tragedy of huge proportions. Quayle had to know he didn’t qualify to be in that class.”
Quayle has said the program under which he enrolled in the law school was designed not just to help disadvantaged students, but to assist others who had not been considered academically qualified for enrollment.
Jackson said that while he still does not have a defined role in the Dukakis campaign, “there are no restrictions on where I’ll be going” and neither Dukakis nor any campaign aides have suggested to him that he avoid campaigning in some areas.
At the same time, acknowledging that political realities dictate campaign schedules, he said: “There are some areas, for example, maybe some college campuses, that would not be very receptive to Sen. Bentsen because he is a bona fide conservative. There may be some other areas that may be less receptive to Gov. Dukakis or less to me. So you make judgments about the highest and best use, how you neutralize adversaries, how you affirm your allies and expand from that base.”
Jackson, who has been critical of Dukakis in the past for not involving him more in his campaign, said his best contribution to the campaign “may be in strategy and ideas, not just in delivering a segment of voters.”
Stressing his own second-place finish with relatively limited resources in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, he said: “I’ve done the most with the least for the longest period of time. So if the issue is message, I have a sense of message and a sense of mission. If the issue is strategy, I’ve had to engage in most of it, and we got 7 million votes against incredible odds.”
Urges Sharper Message
Jackson said he thinks Dukakis’ severe slump in the polls since the Democratic convention is going to “bottom out” but that the governor still needs to energize Democratic office holders and sharpen his message and his responses to attacks from Bush.
Dukakis has a good message, Jackson said, but it needs to be “more focused and personal.” For example, he said, when Bush links Dukakis to the pollution of Boston Harbor, Dukakis should “focus on the whole lack of environmental protection by the Reagan Administration and say if you want to deal with environment, Mr. Bush, go to Delano, Calif. Let’s discuss toxic waste and pesticides and people dying with cancer in clusters. Let’s focus on the environment there. Or in McAllen, Tex. Texas is a key state, California is a key state.”
Jackson said he would take Bush “right to McAllen, Tex., where I’ve (discussed) many times with a man and his wife, his mother-in-law, two children working in the field, broken out in sores, cutting your broccoli and mine, no outdoor bathroom, having to relieve their bodies in public without privacy.”