George Bush and Michael S. Dukakis courted the support of Italian-Americans in competing Columbus Day appearances today that left plenty of time to polish their lines in private for this week’s second and final presidential campaign debate.
Both camps said they expected the 90-minute debate to be held at 6 p.m. Thursday on the UCLA campus, and the presidential rivals were flying to the West Coast on Tuesday to prepare.
Dukakis spent his morning in New York with Gov. Mario Cuomo and John F. Kennedy Jr. The Democratic candidate marched in the annual Columbus Day parade in New York City after first proposing a program to ease the way into the housing market for first-time home buyers.
“George Bush has no housing program. He has no solutions,” the Democrat said in a speech in Levittown, a Long Island community that was the embodiment of the post-World War II boom in affordable housing. “He has no new ideas.”
“Home Start’ Plan
The Democratic presidential candidate outlined a plan that he dubbed “Home Start” that would allow first-time home buyers to use their Individual Retirement Account or tax-deferred pension savings for a down payment on a home. Current law prohibits the use of those funds without payment of deferred taxes and in some cases, a penalty for withdrawal.
Dukakis said his program would also include provisions to lower down payments and closing costs and to raise borrowing limits on federally guaranteed mortgages. He did not cite a cost for the program, and details were not available.
“We rolled up our sleeves--Democrats and Republicans alike--and made a great national promise, a promise to provide affordable housing for all Americans,” the Massachusetts governor said after visiting the home of a Levittown couple.
“The Administration that Mr. Bush has been a part of broke that promise in the early 1980s,” he said.
Bush today pointed with satisfaction to weekend surveys rating him the leader across the South and in scattered other states.
The Republican candidate street-campaigned in New Jersey, walking through an Italian neighborhood in south Trenton before delivering a speech on crime.
“Frankly, law abiding Americans are fed up with the cruel and unusual punishment inflicted on them by those who are soft on crime,” the vice president said.
While refraining from the type of harsh attack on Dukakis’ crime record that has become a regular part of his campaigning, Bush criticized “liberal thinkers” who he said “thought it was compassionate to lighten up on sentencing to allow early releases and furloughs.”
That remark was a reference to the Massachusetts prison furlough program that Bush has repeatedly criticized during the campaign. In one infamous incident, a murderer out of jail on a furlough escaped and brutally attacked a Maryland couple.
Bush told reporters aboard Air Force Two en route to New Jersey that he favors a review of the federal furlough program but said he doesn’t have any “specific feelings” in mind. In a jab at Dukakis, he added that he wants to make sure the federal program doesn’t “slip into the Massachusetts model.”