Democratic vice presidential nominee Lloyd Bentsen, confronting GOP charges that his party would gut the military budget, claimed Monday that a Democratic administration would create more defense-related jobs than would a Republican White House.
In campaign stops in San Antonio, Temple and here in Ft. Worth--three cities heavily dependent on military spending--the Texas senator argued that Democratic presidential candidate Michael S. Dukakis would provide more military jobs than his opponent, Vice President George Bush, because Dukakis would put greater emphasis on conventional forces.
Conventional Weapons Cited
“Most of the defense jobs in Texas relate to conventional weapons--the kind that Mike Dukakis and I favor,” Bentsen said in San Antonio, a city that has 85,000 military personnel and 65,000 civilian workers at its five military installations.
” . . . Here in Texas, we make conventional weapons, we train on conventional weapons. We’ll make more. We’ll learn to use them better. That is the truth of defense jobs in Texas,” Bentsen added.
A few hours later, in speaking to disabled veterans in Temple, Bentsen mocked Republican radio and television advertisements in which legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager warns that a Democratic administration would reduce the number of defense jobs in this critical state.
“I’m afraid Chuck set some of those altitude records and forgot to put his oxygen mask on,” Bentsen said.
He insisted that it was the Republican Reagan Administration--not the Democrats--that is trying to cut back F-16 fighter production in Ft. Worth.
Bentsen added that his GOP counterpart, vice presidential nominee Dan Quayle, has “one of the worst voting records in the United States Congress on veterans’ issues.” He cited Sen. Quayle’s vote against establishing a Cabinet-level department to deal with veterans’ issues and said Quayle twice offered legislation to tax combat and disability pay.
“I have absolutely no problem with his military record,” Bentsen said, bringing up a subject that has dogged Quayle. “But I cannot understand why he would want to increase the tax burden on combat soldiers and POWs.”
Most of Bentsen’s work between now and next week’s election will be here in his home state, where he is trying to narrow the gap between Dukakis and front-runner Bush, who also claims the state as his residence. Recent polls have placed Bush as many as 21 points ahead.
Both sides agree that, for Dukakis to do well, he must win back a significant share of what is being described as “the Bubba vote"--mostly white, mostly male conservatives who have strayed from the Democratic Party to the Republicans in recent presidential elections.
However, Dukakis may have made Bentsen’s job harder on Sunday, when he suddenly quit dodging the liberal label that Bush has tried to pin on him.
A Roosevelt Liberal
Dukakis described himself as a “liberal in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John Kennedy.”
Bentsen told reporters that Dukakis’ description of himself “doesn’t bother me.”
When asked whether he had been surprised by Dukakis’ statement, Bentsen said: " Nobody actually told me . . . .”