For weeks the political skies have glowed from shellfire over crime and national defense. Now, George Bush has joined the battle on another highly charged front with Michael S. Dukakis--the matter of foreign investment in America.
In a wrought-up, name-calling address Tuesday, Bush defended the U.S. position in the world economy and said Dukakis is out to stir up “fear of foreigners.”
It was one of those rare times in this campaign that Bush chose to respond head-on to an issue first shaped by Dukakis.
Work for Foreign Owners
At issue was the expressed concern of Dukakis and other Democrats about foreigners’ buying up vast amounts of American factories and real estate, thanks in large part to profits from U.S. trade imbalances. “Maybe the Republican ticket wants our children to work for foreign owners, pay rent to foreign owners and owe their future to foreign owners,” Dukakis said in a campaign speech last week, “but that’s not the kind of future Lloyd Bentsen and I . . . want for America.”
Bush argued to the contrary Tuesday, contending that foreign investment creates jobs in the United States and that wide-open international trade is helping fuel American prosperity.
Dukakis is a “feel-nothing . . . believe-nothing candidate,” preying on the fears of voters with “protectionist demagoguery,” Bush declared.
“My opponent needs an issue and he’s willing to scare people to find it.
“So, like the Know-Nothing Party a century before him, he’s turned to fear of foreigners.”
Further, Bush said Dukakis is now speaking not from the heart but from the public opinion polls. “He ran against this so-called ‘economic nationalism’ in the primaries.”
Dukakis, leaving a debate preparation session in Boston later in the day, offered this reply to Bush’s charges of protectionism:
“It does seem to me that any nation that has full access to our markets ought to, at the very least, make sure that we have full access to theirs,” he said. “The central issue in this campaign (is) our economic future, our ability to compete and our ability to compete on fair terms.”
In fact, polling by both political parties has shown that Americans hold deep concerns about their economic relations with foreigners.
“We know that by letting this genie out of the bottle there is some political risk,” said one Bush campaign adviser. “But we hope we’ll get some credit from thoughtful people like editorial boards.”
Remarks to Students
The vice president delivered his remarks to students at the Seattle University Business School during a 2 1/2-hour campaign stop in Washington.
“The fact is this,” he told them in defense of the Republican Party status quo: “The economy you enter upon graduation is in far better shape than it was when my opponent’s party last held the White House.”
Bush then flew on to Los Angeles for his upcoming debate with Dukakis and an assortment of other campaign events. Washington and California are the two far Western states targeted by Bush for major campaign efforts this final month.
Bush’s Seattle speech went beyond foreign investment and trade to an issue of perhaps even keener interest to his audience--the image of the greedy yuppie.
He told the students he thought they were better than the stereotype and challenged them to prove it through volunteer service.
Defense of Wall Street
Likewise, he defended the vast majority of “honest, hard-working people” on Wall Street--insisting that their wealth ultimately is recycled for the benefit of the needy and to help worthy causes.
Exactly what he meant by such a statement was not explained. But here is what Bush said, as he read from a prepared text: “The fact is that most of the people in Wall Street are honest, hard-working people. And beyond that, much of the money made there is recycled to foundations to help the poor, universities and other worthy causes.”
At the same time he was defending business, Bush called for longer, but unspecified, jail sentences for those driven outside the law by greed.
“I’m telling you that we will throw the book at insider traders and other white-collar criminals,” Bush said.
Among those he singled out for criticism were “business journalists who buy stock in a company just before writing a favorable story on that same company.”
Urges Volunteer Service
To dispel the image of greed that dogs them, Bush said business students needed to follow the example of others who spent summers in volunteer service.
“Here’s your chance to prove the cynics wrong. The time is ripe for a new idealism in this country--and it is your generation that can lead it. . . .
“Consider the contribution you want to make over the longer run: Reading for a blind person. Visiting a lonely senior citizen. Rebuilding a city or restoring a park.”
Bush’s speech was interrupted briefly by shouted criticism of Reagan-Bush Administration domestic and foreign policies from a man later identified as William Bichsel, a Jesuit priest from Tacoma. Seattle police hustled him out of the room and into the back of a police car.
After the speech, several Seattle University students told reporters that classmates wearing Dukakis T-shirts were not allowed in the room to hear the speech. Staff writer Thomas B. Rosenstiel contributed to this story.