Republican presidential candidate George Bush stepped from Air Force Two into the embrace of West Texas on Thursday, to what a sign called “The Best Military Fuel Stop in America,” where two rival high school bands in full dress stood on the asphalt proudly playing discordant versions of “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”
Here in the town where Bush lived in his oil wild-catting days, he spotted in the welcoming crowd a few signs boosting his vice presidential nominee, Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle.
“I see all these wonderful signs about my running mate,” he said, making his first comments at a public event about Quayle, whose debate Wednesday night with Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen drew national attention.
“Let me tell you, I think Dan Quayle did an outstanding job.”
That and a slightly more expansive comment in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday evening were Vice President Bush’s only campaign event references to Quayle.
With 33 days left before the election, Bush was wasting no time dwelling on past events and, throughout the day, he turned virtually all his attention to his Democratic opponent, Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis.
In three stops in Texas, his adopted home state, where Dukakis also campaigned Thursday, Bush talked oil and guns, invoking the name of an actor to make his point.
“Clint Eastwood’s answer to violent crime is ‘Go ahead, make my day,’ ” Bush said in Ft. Worth, in a caustic reference to Dukakis’ former prison furlough program. “My opponent’s motto is slightly different. His motto is ‘Go ahead, have a nice weekend.’ ”
Later, standing in front of a dozen varieties of pumping rigs at the outdoor Permian Basin oil museum in Midland, he spoke scornfully of Dukakis’ foreign policy experience.
“This is no time for amateur night in conducting the national security and foreign affairs of the United States of America,” the vice president said.
Thursday’s remarks were Bush’s most acidic of the week, as Bush criticized Dukakis’ record in myriad areas. For the first time this week, too, Bush revived his once-standard attack on Dukakis’ opposition to a 1977 Massachusetts bill that would have required teachers to lead students in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The vice president rebutted Dukakis’ recent suggestion that Bush’s drum-beating of the pledge issue was reminiscent of the late Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy’s red-baiting.
“It’s not a McCarthy!” he shouted at the Midland museum rally. “I stand with a vast majority of the American people on this issue, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to stop talking about it!”
In Ft. Worth, Bush used a gathering of Texas law enforcement officers to press an anti-crime plan, released by his campaign in limited form Wednesday.
Among other things, it would double the budget for federal prison construction, invoke a federal death penalty, spend $50 million to battle gangs, expand prison drug treatment programs, stiffen sentencing and allow freedom to paroled and incarcerated convicts only if they could prove they are drug-free.
But, as was a comprehensive children’s plan introduced by the campaign Wednesday, the crime-fighting program was light on details such as cost and source of funding.
The Bush plan, for example, vowed to double the budget of federal prison construction over four years, a promise that would require $250 million annually.
Bush advisers said the money would come in part from profits of seizures made by federal agents. But that money is now split between the state and federal government and is used for drug-fighting efforts.
Later in the day in Midland, the site of two rallies, Bush pushed his program to resuscitate the nation’s troubled oil industry, whose fall has meant hard times in formerly booming Texas.
Bush favors a series of tax changes to benefit the oil industry, including a 10% tax credit for oil and gas exploration that he claimed for the first time Thursday would actually benefit the Treasury.