With 18 days until the election, Democrat Michael S. Dukakis said on network talk shows today that he is counting on more TV exposure to give voters “a better sense of who I am.” Rival George Bush declared that he wants to be remembered as the President who helped ban chemical weapons.
Dukakis, who has been campaigning for more than a year and a half, said today that voters are only now “beginning to focus in” and make their decisions. He said he was “cautiously optimistic” about his chances, although “we’re behind a little bit.” Polls have shown him trailing Bush.
He has been striking back harder at Bush’s allegations in recent days, and he complained anew today on “CBS This Morning” that “I’ve been subject to attacks and distortion.”
“The American people are not happy with this campaign,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
He said on CBS, “I hope through interviews like this, people will have a better sense of who I am.”
Comment on Drugs
Later, he delivered a tough anti-drug message in a church in Harlem, saying: “Our determination to win this war should know no bounds. But that isn’t going to happen with an Administration that has fought and lost the war.”
He has repeatedly attacked Bush as ineffective at the head of the Reagan Administration’s effort to reduce the flow of drugs into the United States.
Dukakis said that “the streets of America don’t belong to the drug gangs and the crack gangs. They belong to us. And in the Dukakis administration we’re going to take them back.”
Several hundred people turned out to hear the Democratic presidential candidate, but there were many empty seats in the church.
In Toledo today, Bush spoke out strongly against “this terrible scourge” of chemical weapons, referring to their use in the Iran-Iraq War, and he spelled out steps that he said could lead to an effective ban.
The Dukakis campaign has accused Bush of being hypocritical on the chemical warfare issue, since in 1983 and 1986 he cast tie-breaking votes in the Senate in support of chemical weapons.
Recalling a recent picture of a mother trying to protect her child “against the invisible wind of death, I thought we had relegated the horrors of chemical warfare to the history books,” Bush said. He was referring to photos of a Kurd mother after Iraqis used chemical weapons in an attack on a Kurdish village this summer.
He proposed making nations guilty of chemical warfare pay “a heavy penalty . . . the censure of all nations.” He called for on-site inspection of suspicious facilities or plants and for tightening controls on the transfer of chemical technology and weapons.
“If I’m elected President, if I’m remembered for anything, it would be this: a complete and total ban on chemical weapons,” Bush said.
‘Star Wars’ Plug
In his speech at the University of Toledo, Bush also put in a plug for “Star Wars” and took a swipe at Dukakis, saying, “The last thing we or our allies need at a time when ballistic missiles are proliferating is someone who regards strategic defense as a fraud or a fantasy.”
Elsewhere today, President Reagan returned to the campaign trail on behalf of his vice president, saying in Bowling Green, Ky., that Bush has shown how to “keep a cool head in hot crises.”