PITTSBURGH -- It was supposed to be the kickoff for Attorney General Richard L. Thornburgh's campaign for the Senate. But it sounded more like the kickoff for George Bush's re-election campaign.
President Bush took a brief political detour from his four-week vacation in Kennebunkport, Maine, yesterday morning to fly to Pittsburgh, along with Mr. Thornburgh, to speak to the National Fraternal Order of Police.
Mr. Bush railed against "chaos and lawlessness," promising to curb prison furlough abuse, punish drug kingpins, fight the twin scourges of crime and drugs, and impose the death penalty for the killing of a police officer.
At the end, the police rewarded his tough talk on crime by waving flags and chanting, "Four more years!"
Just before he left on vacation, the president gathered his top political advisers at Camp David to set up a mechanism for his 1992 campaign.
He has said he will run if his health permits and, gauging by last week's whirlwind sporting activities in Maine, he believes his health will permit. In another signal of things to come, Mr. Bush even worked the crowd of spectators when he landed in Pittsburgh.
The president, who has been faulted by the Democrats for ignoring domestic problems while he flies around the world, said his administration was as opposed to lawlessness at home as in the Middle East.
During yesterday's appearance, Mr. Bush spoke favorably of Mr. Thornburgh, a Pittsburgh native and former two-term governor of Pennsylvania who has announced that he will run for the Senate seat left open by the death of Sen. John Heinz in an airplane crash in April.
Mr. Bush told a receptive audience of more than 3,000 police officers that the attorney general, whose last day on the job is today, had "taken his job as America's chief law enforcement officer very seriously," and added, "Relentlessly, tenaciously, he's pursued those who prey on our society."
Pennsylvania Democrats plan to make the attorney general's volatile tenure in Washington a focus of the Senate campaign. Critics have accused the Justice Department, under Mr. Thornburgh's stewardship, of failing to aggressively pursue the scandal involving the Bank of Credit and Commerce International.
The department has also been accused of blocking compromises on civil rights legislation and of siding with anti-abortion demonstrators in Wichita, Kan.
There is a special election Nov. 5, and Mr. Thornburgh is favored to beat Democrat Harris Wofford, the former Pennsylvania labor secretary appointed by Gov. Robert P. Casey to fill Mr. Heinz's seat. The term expires in 1993.