Bush vows 'activist' 2nd term Fitzwater labels Perot 'paranoid'

October 27, 1992|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Staff Writer

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — ALBUQUERQUE, N.M -- President Bush sought yesterday to give wavering supporters of Ross Perot a reason to re-elect him, even as his spokesman denounced the Texas billionaire as a "paranoid person who has delusions" for making dirty-tricks charges against the Bush campaign.

With just a week to go before the election, Mr. Bush outlined a "conservative activist" plan for dealing with the economy that he says a second-term executive would be best able to achieve.

Struggling to break through the apparent ceiling on his support, Mr. Bush tried to give voters still hesitant about their choice of either Mr. Perot or Democratic nominee Bill Clinton a positive reason for his re-election.

"As the support for Ross Perot has made clear, there is a strong desire for a new coalition in America to get the job done," Mr. Bush told a convention of Ace Hardware store owners and vendors in Denver. "The best time to move is when you are re-elected. No more elections ahead. No worry about the future politics. Just get the people's business done fast."

Mr. Bush promised to "move quickly to respond to the demands of the people" by meeting with members of the new Congress immediately after their election Tuesday to "shape a legislative package in a way that will guarantee swift passage."

Despite years of gridlock with the Democratic-lead Congress, Mr. Bush said he would meet with those leaders to "form a steering group that can ride herd over Congress. . . . If we can mobilize for war, if we can mobilize for hurricanes, we can mobilize for our economy."

As a first step, he promised to assemble immediately after the election a "defense conversion council" to ease the industrial transition from the Cold War to peace with a minimum of disruption to the work force.

He announced he would include in his next budget a "fund for future generations" that would provide money to help defense and civilian firms form partnerships to translate knowledge gained from developing weapons to peacetime applications.

But while Mr. Bush was paying tribute to the movement for change that inspired Mr. Perot's candidacy, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater was denouncing the Texas billionaire as "a crazy man" and a "paranoid person who has delusions" because of the unsubstantiated dirty tricks charges he has leveled against the Bush campaign.

Even though the coverage of Mr. Perot's charges has been skeptical because he can't back them up, the Bush campaign fears that if even a small percentage of voters believe them the president will be unfairly hurt.

"The press saw it that way, but I'm not sure America did," Mr. Fitzwater said. He noted that Mr. Perot has not "offered one shred of evidence" and yet "this man who might be president of the United States continues to make these ludicrous charges. . . . He seems to have latched onto this theory much like other people latch onto UFO theories."

Campaign spokeswoman Torie Clarke, who complained that Mr. Bush's message was being lost in the Perot "dirty tricks" furor, appealed to reporters to either find some proof of Mr. Perot's accusations or "quit giving it a platform."

Although there was much speculation in the Bush camp that Mr. Perot had harmed himself more than the president, Mr. Bush can't afford any setbacks.

His speech yesterday represents the second phase of a belated effort begun with a Detroit speech Sept. 10 to convince the American people that he has a plan for dealing with the stalled economy.

During the first presidential debate Oct. 11, Mr. Bush tried to reinforce that notion by announcing that his chief of staff, James A. Baker III, would serve as "economic czar" in a second term. Mr. Baker was to describe his new duties a few days later in a speech that never materialized.

Mr. Bush, whose approach to economic cures relies primarily on tax incentives to stimulate private investment, said the choice between himself and the front-runner, Mr. Clinton, is not between "activity and passivity," as many voters believe.

"The real choice is between a liberal activist government that seeks to impose solutions on individuals, families and the private sector, and a conservative activist government that gives individuals, businesses and families the means to make their own choices through competition and economic opportunity," he said.

But his plight seemed to be well illustrated in the results of a CNN/USA Today tracking poll yesterday that asked which of the three candidates would be best able to handle the economy.

Forty-two percent favored Mr. Perot, a private businessman, 31 percent chose Mr. Clinton, who has been Arkansas governor for 12 years, and only 19 percent picked the incumbent president, who has presided over two years of economic downturn.

"Ignore the pundits, annoy the media and let the people decide who's going to win this election," Mr. Bush appealed to a crowd in Albuquerque.

While telling reporters he endorsed Mr. Fitzwater's comments about Mr. Perot, the president reserved all his public attacks for Mr. Clinton.

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