Reveling in a post-debate boost to his ticket, Republican vice presidential nominee Dan Quayle blasted Michael S. Dukakis on Friday with the very words he has wincingly heard Democrats level at him for weeks now.
Upbeat and appearing relieved, Quayle told reporters that Dukakis was “a drag on the ticket. And George Bush is very much of a positive for us.”
At a wide-ranging press conference early Friday in Ft. Smith, Ark., and later speaking to students at the University of Southwestern Louisiana here, Quayle accused Dukakis of ambiguous answers to many debate questions, specifically those dealing with Dukakis’ opposition to land-based nuclear missiles.
“He either didn’t understand the questions, didn’t know the answer or was simply trying to hide his positions,” Quayle charged.
“Many of us, many Americans, feel that the notion of a President Michael Dukakis is a very troubling thing,” he said earlier in Arkansas, turning back at Dukakis the very words the Massachusetts governor once used to describe his reaction to Quayle’s nomination.
Quayle also said it was “telling” that after Bush praised the governor in Thursday night’s debate in Los Angeles, Dukakis did not return the favor: “You would have thought he might have had the common courtesy to say something nice about George Bush.”
The Indiana senator’s buoyancy was underscored when he went out of his way to stave off overconfidence, imploring Republicans to turn out and vote. He cited statistics arguing that 50% of eligible voters will not vote.
“If our 50% don’t show up, then . . . President Michael Dukakis could become a reality,” he said.
While the debate clearly commanded center stage for Quayle and the Republican audiences he addressed Friday in Arkansas, Louisiana and Albuquerque, N.M., Quayle also illuminated his positions on a number of subjects in his press conference, his first since Sept. 15.
On the topic of abortion, which Bush addressed Thursday night with a moving anecdote about the lingering death of his young daughter more than 30 years ago, Quayle described his as a more restrictive policy than Bush’s.
Quayle favors a right to abortion only when the life of the mother is endangered, whereas Bush approves abortions in the cases of rape or incest as well.
Asked his rationale, Quayle responded: “There’s no rationale. That’s just where I draw the line.”
Quayle said he thought severely ill children, such as Bush’s leukemic daughter, should depend on the good will of their communities if their parents have no medical insurance or are too poor to acquire medical care.
“There are many people hopefully who would rush to take care of the problem,” he said. “There is this basic human inclination to help out.”
Dukakis has announced comprehensive programs for medical insurance and prenatal care, while the Republicans have suggested an increase in Medicaid insurance for poor children under age 5.
Quayle also said he was not aware of drug use while attending high school and suggested it was low-key even when he was in college. He was graduated from DePauw University in 1969.
“I was just enough removed from that that it was not the problem that it became . . . later on in the early 1970s,” he said. “A couple years behind me--it was much more a problem.”