WASHINGTON -- Republican congressional candidate Wayne T. Gilchrest has changed his mind about not highlighting his Vietnam War record in the campaign against Representative Roy P. Dyson, whose status as a conscientious objector during the war has become a source of political controversy.
And after a short meeting yesterday with President Bush at the White House, Mr. Gilchrest also embraced the failed budget accord for which the president was unable to garner sufficient public or congressional support.
Mr. Dyson voted against that budget plan and the later compromise, denouncing Medicare and gasoline tax increases that he said would be harmful to constituents in his district.
Mr. Gilchrest's meeting with Mr. Bush was part of the effort that the national Republican Party is putting into his race against Mr. Dyson, whom he came within 1,500 votes of defeating in 1988.
The campaign also has drawn Adrian Cronauer, a wartime disc jockey portrayed by actor Robin Williams in the movie "Good Morning, Vietnam." Mr. Cronauer, who has helped other GOP candidates, was approached by the National Republican Congressional Committee to help make the Gilchrest advertisements.
Mr. Cronauer has made radio ads that will highlight Mr. Gilchrest's Vietnam record.
"Good Morning, 1st District! This is Adrian Cronauer, the real deejay from 'Good Morning Vietnam,' " reads a transcript of the radio ad. "I want to tell you about Wayne Gilchrest, a Marine who won the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star in Vietnam. . . . Wayne Gilchrest is a man of character who answered the call then . . . and now he's ready to serve his country once more . . . in Congress."
Mr. Cronauer, now a Washington lawyer, said yesterday that he supports candidates who back veterans issues and is interested in seeing more Vietnam veterans involved in politics. A "lifelong, card-carrying Republican," Mr. Cronauer said he also is supporting GOP congressional candidates in Idaho and Rhode Island.
The NRCC also will dispatch a former Marine who spent seven years as a prisoner of war to campaign for Mr. Gilchrest. Jim Warner, now a Silver Spring lawyer, is to appear at a veterans rally in Easton on Oct. 19.
Two days before that, Veterans Affairs Secretary Edward J. Derwinski is scheduled to appear at a $150-per-plate fund-raiser for the GOP candidate in Waldorf.
Mr. Gilchrest said he received words of encouragement from President Bush at the White House yesterday. "He told me to keep working and I'd win the race," the candidate said.
"I am in favor of . . . the budget plan that George Bush came out with," Mr. Gilchrest said after his five-minute Oval Office meeting.
Last week, the House voted 254-179 to reject that budget plan -- forged by the president and congressional leaders -- which raised Medicare premiums as well as taxes on gasoline, liquor and cigarettes. The president went on national television in a vain effort to attract support for the five-year, deficit-cutting
plan. Members of the Maryland congressional delegation received hundreds of calls and letters about the plan, most voicing opposition.
The House and Senate then agreed to another budget plan that promised to be less costly for Medicare recipients and taxpayers. Mr. Dyson voted against both budget plans, saying he was particularly opposed to the Medicare and gas increases.
But Mr. Gilchrest, meeting with reporters yesterday outside the White House, continued to back the original plan, saying the estimated $6 increase in the monthly Medicare premium proposed in the agreement could be "absorbed" by senior citizens.
He acknowledged that the plan's additional gas tax of 12 cents per gallon "is going to hurt people," but said more 1st District residents should use car pools. The Kent County Republican also backed more spending for mass transit and research into energy alternatives.
Mr. Gilchrest, while uncertain about whether he could support higher taxes for the wealthy in exchange for lowering the capital gains tax, said that bringing down the deficit was vital.
"It makes sense to do what's right," Mr. Gilchrest said. Pointing to his two sons, who traveled with him from the Eastern Shore in hopes of getting a White House tour, he asked: "When they have children, are they going to be burdened with the budget [deficit]?"