Bush invokes '88 tactics in Texas sweep

November 06, 1990|By Los Angeles Times

WACO, Texas -- President Bush returned to his transplanted roots in the heart of Texas' flag-waving politics yesterday, issuing a sharply worded appeal for the state Republican ticket and telling voters: "Don't tell me what's wrong about this country. Show us what's right about it."

"Tomorrow's vote is critical," Mr. Bush said, in a last-minute effort to use his presidential persuasion to draw Republican voters to the polls today. "You have a chance to make a difference."

For President Bush, who was born in Massachusetts but whose political life began after he moved to Texas in 1948, the final day of the 1990 congressional campaign provided an opportunity to return to the tough talk of his successful 1988 presidential campaign -- laced with a strong dose of anti-Washington appeal.

"The cynics, these Washington pundits we see on these tiring [television] shows all the time -- I don't know if you're like I am, maybe you enjoy those things, but I can only take so much self-flagellation. And I see all these great 'inside-the-Beltway' experts telling us everything that is wrong with the United States," the president said to a fired-up crowd that filled the bleachers and basketball court of the Tyler Junior College gymnasium in Tyler, the rose-growing center of East Texas. "Tomorrow you can go to the polls and say what's right about it."

At his side were Phil Gramm, the conservative Republican senator expected to coast to an easy re-election victory, and Clayton W. Williams Jr., the millionaire oilman completing a tough, gaffe-ridden campaign for governor against the Democratic state treasurer, Ann W. Richards.

"Don't listen to that tired, liberal, divide, class-warfare rhetoric about soaking the rich," Mr. Bush said, hoping to turn the fight over the federal budget to Republican advantage with an attack on the Democrats. "Hold on to your wallets. They're after you -- every single one of you."

With Mr. Gramm and Mr. Williams traveling with him aboard two mid-sized Air Force jets -- Mr. Bush's new Boeing 747 Air Force One is too big for smaller runways -- the president hopscotched from Houston to Tyler in northeast Texas, and then to Waco, in central Texas. He then headed back to Houston for a rally in a hotel ballroom near the well-heeled Galleria shopping mall close to the hotel suite that is his official Houston residence.

In Tyler, the scene and the message were right out of Mr. Bush's 1988 campaign against Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts: Plenty of flags, a rendition of country and western singer Lee Greenwood's hymn, "I'm Proud to Be an American," and a dance routine by Tyler Junior College's precision dance and drill team, the Apache Belles.

Mr. Williams, whom the president called "a Texas original," needed no encouragement to feed Mr. Bush's message. He called on his audience to stand up to the "pie-in-the-sky liberal rhetoric stirred up by Richards, Mike Dukakis and Walter Mondale, three peas in a liberal pod," and to "liberal Hollywood values."

Seeking to capitalize on what is believed to be a strong anti-politician mood, Mr. Williams -- whose most recent setback occurred just days ago when it was disclosed that he paid no taxes in 1986 because, he said, he had no income that year -- told his Tyler audience, "Any of you who have followed this race know I am not a professional politician. Well, I wear that as a badge of honor."

Meanwhile, Ms. Richards campaigned from Orange in eastern Texas to the Rio Grande Valley on the Mexican border, a region considered a Democratic stronghold. She also hit the airwaves with a last-minute radio commercial that charged: "Millions of average Texans paid taxes, while [Williams] took advantage of loopholes for the rich."

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