Bush Not Up to Gorbachev, Dukakis Says
Democrat Michael S. Dukakis said today he doubted whether Republican rival George Bush is up to dealing with Soviet leaders at a time when Soviet economic difficulties offer great opportunities for the United States.
“George Bush has been around Washington for a long time, but if he couldn’t stand up to the ayatollah or say ‘no’ to (Panamanian Gen. Manuel) Noriega, how will he measure up to Gorbachev?” Dukakis said.
“And if he truly believes that J. Danforth Quayle is qualified to be one heartbeat away from the presidency, how can we trust his judgment when America’s future is on the line?” he asked.
Dukakis spoke to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations in what campaign aides described as a major address outlining his view of U.S.-Soviet relations. It was part of a week devoted largely to national security issues by the Democratic presidential nominee, who is trying to counter the Republicans’ depiction of him as soft on defense.
Dukakis said the next President must “seize the initiative” in dealing with the Soviets. However, he said Bush “has no strategy for testing the limits of what is called ‘new thinking’ in the Soviet Union.”
He said that the Soviet Union under Mikhail S. Gorbachev has an economy facing difficulty in providing for its people and that Gorbachev wants access to Western technology, resources and trade.
“Mr. Gorbachev wants to make his country part of the international economic community,” Dukakis said. “What is he prepared to do in return? Will we allow him to pursue that strategy unchallenged, or will we have a strategy of our own to protect American interests and translate Soviet economic weakness into improved Soviet behavior in world affairs?”
Dukakis said he would deal firmly with the Soviets and said Gorbachev is a Leninist who “has not abandoned Soviet goals.”
He said, “It would be naive to take Gorbachev at his word, but it would be dangerous to allow his words to go unanswered.”
Dukakis said he would challenge the Soviets to reduce European troops, cool regional conflicts, end the spread of nuclear and chemical weapons and missiles, reject terrorism and allow wider emigration of Jews and other minorities.
“Mr. Gorbachev must understand that if there is to be a fundamental change in the relationship of his country with the Western world, there must first be a fundamental change in the balance of forces in central Europe,” Dukakis said.