Bush, Dukakis Trade Jabs on Foreign Policy : Democrat Says Foe Failed to Foster Trade, Advance Drug Fight
Democratic presidential nominee Gov. Michael S. Dukakis fired freely at Vice President George Bush in a speech on foreign policy Monday, criticizing his opponent by name and deed more than two dozen times.
But Dukakis took some licks himself later in the day, when Bush supporters loudly booed him and chanted “Bush! Bush!” at a raucous afternoon rally at a jet engine assembly plant near here.
In his morning speech at a union hall in Philadelphia, Dukakis said America needs a President “with better judgment than George Bush.” He accused the Republican nominee of having “failed” in his attempts to foster international trade and battle against terrorism and drug trafficking.
Blasts Bush on Noriega
Dukakis repeatedly blasted Bush for the CIA’s alleged support of Panama strongman Gen. Manuel A. Noriega, who has been indicted on drug smuggling charges. He posed a dozen questions in language that suggested that Bush, who headed the CIA under President Gerald R. Ford, was somehow responsible for Noriega’s alleged crimes.
“Why, if there’s nothing to hide, is your Administration blocking a congressional investigation into when and why and how much we paid Noriega?” Dukakis demanded of his rival. “Why have you refused to join me in declaring that the CIA and our other intelligence agencies should never again bankroll a drug peddler who’s corrupting our society and killing our children?”
The unusually harsh oratory continued an offensive Dukakis launched Friday in Texas to counter Bush’s relentless portrayal of the Massachusetts governor as unpatriotic, weak on defense and soft on crime.
By painting Bush as unsteady and untrustworthy instead, aides said, Dukakis hopes to reassure so-called Reagan Democrats and lure back moderate and conservative voters.
Boos and Jeers
But when Dukakis addressed more than 600 workers at a General Electric aircraft engines plant in Evendale, 14 miles north of Cincinnati, later in the afternoon, boos and jeers seemed almost as loud as cheers.
Dukakis stood before a gleaming KC-135 tanker jet engine, surrounded by brightly lit scaffolding, and promised completion and deployment of the stealth bomber and a commitment to “a strong national defense.”
“Give us a break!” one man shouted back. “Bull!” shouted another. Dukakis seemed to speak louder than usual but did not otherwise respond.
Asked later about the crowd, Dukakis said: “It was a good audience. It was fun. That’s democracy.”
From Dukakis’ standpoint, the audience at the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners union hall in Philadelphia was better.
‘Real War Against Drugs’
“I want to beat our foreign competitors, (Bush is) willing to settle for second best,” Dukakis told a cheering crowd. “I want to crack down on terrorism. He knuckled under to the ayatollah. I want a real war against drugs. His answer to drug kingpins like Noriega is J. Danforth Quayle.”
Dukakis paused between each syllable of Quayle’s name for emphasis. And in some of his harshest language to date, he said Bush was “disastrously and completely and unforgivably wrong” when the Administration sold weapons to Iran to try to win release of U.S. hostages in Lebanon.
Dukakis, who rarely misspeaks himself, flubbed a line in the text when he said: “I don’t question George Bush’s terrorism.” He grinned, then corrected himself to say he does not question Bush’s patriotism.
“But does this man, a man who would encourage the President to undermine American interests and prestige by selling arms to Iran, have the judgment and the steadiness required in the Oval Office?” he asked.
Dukakis took a page from President Reagan’s 1980 playbook, saying his “overriding foreign policy goal” was to “restore respect” for America.
Using the term “respect” some 16 times in the Philadelphia speech, he said: “I want to restore respect for our strength, our productivity, our industrial might, our ideals and our flag. That’s why I’m running for President.”
Campaign aides spared little in their attempts to reclaim patriotism. Dukakis stood before a large flag, while aides handed out dozens of small flags. He was flanked by six uniformed members of the Pennsylvania National Guard. Instead of the usual campaign anthem, a Neil Diamond tribute to America’s immigrant roots, loudspeakers blared the more traditional “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
And Ohio Sen. John Glenn, who introduced Dukakis, angrily rejected Bush’s criticism of Dukakis for vetoing a state law mandating the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. “That pledge belongs to all of us, not one party,” Glenn said heatedly.
Dukakis will use his three-day campaign swing to stress national security, foreign policy and defense issues. The targets are big, blue-collar battleground states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan, as well as Maryland and Washington, D.C. Dukakis will campaign in Los Angeles and San Diego on Friday.
Campaign aides said focus groups had confirmed that voters remain suspicious of Bush’s role in the Iran-Contra scandal, and question his involvement with Noriega. “When we say the words, ‘President Quayle,’ people just laugh,” one aide said.
But Robert J. Murray, a Harvard professor and former undersecretary of the Navy who advises Dukakis on defense, said Bush had succeeded “more than some of us had anticipated” in his attacks on Dukakis.
“We figured people would not be listening until after Labor Day,” he said. “We probably should have gone on the attack earlier.”