'Poverty of values' led to riots, Quayle asserts Decries sympathy for lawbreakers

May 20, 1992|By Andrew Rosenthal | Andrew Rosenthal,New York Times News Service

SAN FRANCISCO -- In a direct appeal to the Republican conservative base two weeks before the California presidential primary, Vice President Dan Quayle said yesterday that the Los Angeles riots were the result of a "poverty of values" in some cities and that the nation should show no sympathy to those who joined in the civil unrest.

Seeking to shore up President Bush's support in the most populous state, and to lay groundwork for his own political future, Mr. Quayle appeared before the Commonwealth Club of California to deliver the sort of tub-thumping message that conservatives, including some of the vice president's supporters, contend is lacking from Mr. Bush's oratory.

"I believe the lawless social anarchy which we saw is directly related to the breakdown of family structure, personal responsibility and social order in too many areas of our society," Mr. Quayle said in his first trip to California since the rioting, which left 58 dead and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage.

He suggested that poverty is an inevitable part of society but that it should be a transition to the middle class. He also suggested that many of the urban poor remained so because they lost their moral fiber in the social and political upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s.

"Yes, I can understand how people were shocked and outraged by the verdict in the Rodney King trial," he told the group of business executives and professionals during at a lunch at the Hilton Hotel after touring a housing project in one of the city's worst neighborhoods.

"But, my friends, there is simply no excuse for the mayhem that followed. To apologize or in any way excuse what happened is wrong. It is a betrayal of all those people equally outraged and equally disadvantaged who did not loot, who did not riot," he said.

Although Mr. Quayle did not break with Bush administration policy on urban affairs, his speech yesterday included much stronger and more intensely ideological language than Mr. Bush himself has used.

In his May 7 visit to Los Angeles, Mr. Bush condemned "wanton lawlessness" but he also said: "We are embarrassed by interracial violence and prejudice. We are ashamed. We should take nothing but sorrow out of all of that and do our level best to see that it's eliminated from the American dream."

After weeks of confused responses from the White House to the rioting in Los Angeles, Mr. Quayle was clearly reaching for traditional Republican roots and socially conservative themes.

He took a noticeably harder line than that of Jack F. Kemp, the secretary of housing and urban development, who has been more conciliatory than others in the administration and critical of policies of the last 12 years.

Mr. Quayle said the Republican policies of the 1980s had helped produce a strong black middle class, suggested that a stronger sense of family is the cure to urban blight, crime and drugs, and derided those who have called for greater federal spending in the aftermath of the violence in California following the acquittal of four white police officers in the severe beating of Mr. King, a black motorist.

He called for "social sanctions" against women who bear children out of marriage "irresponsibly" and at one point even lashed out against a popular television program, "Murphy Brown," in which the title character, a single woman played by Candice Bergen, bears a child.

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