Republican George Bush declared today that his debate with Michael S. Dukakis “went great,” especially in seeking to portray his Democratic rival as a far-out liberal.
The vice president’s campaign chief said Bush won the debate over Dukakis by “coming across as warm, as human and as likable.”
Bush departed for a joint campaign appearance with vice presidential running mate Dan Quayle in Tennessee after his aides clarified the GOP nominee’s views on penalties he favors in the event abortions are declared illegal.
“I really think it went well, I really think it went great,” Bush told reporters who sought the vice president’s assessment of the nationally televised debate Sunday night.
Asked where he thought he’d hit Dukakis the hardest, Bush replied, “Make him be what he is . . . you can’t permit him to be something different.” He promised to persist in preventing the Massachusetts governor from moving to the ideological center.
Bush’s campaign chairman James A. Baker III, meanwhile, sought to deflect any repercussions from the vice president’s assertion in the debate that he hadn’t decided whether women who obtain abortions should face legal penalties.
Baker said Bush, an opponent of abortion, believes that only those who perform the operations, not the patients, should be prosecuted.
After stressing strong anti-abortion views during the debate, he said, Bush decided on further reflection that women who obtain abortions should be regarded as “additional victims” rather than criminals.
Thought About It Overnight
“After thinking about it overnight, we went in and discussed it this morning and concluded it was an issue that should be addressed and we addressed it,” Baker told reporters.
Bush told a debate questioner that “I haven’t sorted out the penalties” he would impose under a constitutional amendment he seeks to outlaw abortions.
”. . . I’m for the sanctity of life and, once that illegality is established, then we can come to grips with the penalty side and, of course, there’s got to be some penalties to enforce the law whatever they may be,” Bush said.
Dukakis immediately responded that Bush was “prepared to brand a woman a criminal for making that decision. It’s as simple as that.”
That exchange left the issue an “open question” that needed to be clarified, Baker said.
Campaigning later in the day in Jackson, Tenn., running mate Sen. Dan Quayle--who appeared with Bush for the first time since Labor Day--praised the vice president’s performance.
“From the way you handled the man from Massachusetts last night, he would have been better off to take advice from his friends at the ACLU and exercised his right to remain silent,” Quayle said.
“After last night, for most people the notion of President Dukakis is a very, very troubling notion today, " Quayle said, playing on Dukakis’ remark during the debate that people found the notion of ‘President Quayle’ to be very troubling.