The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
MR. MacNeil: Good evening. Leading the news this Monday, George Bush said his running mate, Dan Quayle, is the victim of a shrill partisan attack, the Polish Government ordered troops to secure plants as Solidarity strikes spread to the Gdansk Shipyard, six Cuban Americans were charged with illegally training commandos to fight in Nicaragua. We'll have details in our News Summary in a moment. Judy Woodruff is in Washington tonight. Judy.
MS. WOODRUFF: After the News Summary, the renewed labor unrest in Poland is our lead focus [Focus - Poles Apart], a former official of the Union Solidarity joins us. Then we devote the remainder of the Newshour [Focus - '88 - The Bush Record] to a documentary look at the record of the new Republican Nominee for President, George Bush. NEWS SUMMARY
MR. MacNeil: George Bush today called the flap over Dan Quayle's military service a shrill partisan attack. Speaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Chicago, Bush offered an emotional defense of his running mate for serving in the National Guard instead of joining an active combat unit during the Vietnam War.
GEORGE BUSH, GOP Presidential Nominee: So let his attackers cast the first stone, let them cast it. He served honorably. True, he didn't go to Vietnam, but his unit wasn't sent. But there's another truth. He did not go to Canada. He did not burn his draft card, and he damned sure didn't burn the American flag! And I'm proud to have him at my side.
MR. MacNeil: Bush told reporters there was no thought of asking Quayle to withdraw. Quayle was in Washington today closeted with senior Bush Campaign advisers to prepare for his first solo campaign trip. When he arrived for the session, Quayle was engulfed by media representatives. There and elsewhere he brushed aside questions about leaving the ticket, saying he remained George Bush's running mate. Tonight he addresses the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention. Democratic Nominee Michael Dukakis has been turning aside questions about Quayle by saying no one has questioned the qualifications of his running mate, Lloyd Bentsen. Today he went further, saying that Quayle's qualifications obviously will be an issue in the campaign. A poll released by Newsweek Magazine conducted last Thursday and Friday showed Bush leading Dukakis by 51 to 42 percent. Only 43 percent of those polled said they believed Quayle was qualified to become President, while 2/3 of those polled said Lloyd Bentsen was. Judy.
MS. WOODRUFF: Six Cuban Americans are being charged with running a private contra supply operation out of a secret camp in Southwest Florida. Prosecutors in Miami today unsealed indictments against the six, charging them with violating the Neutrality Act with activities that took place from mid 1983 until mid 1986. The prosecutors said there was no evidence the men acted on behalf of the Reagan Administration. The operation included supplying of weapons and mercenaries to fight the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
MR. MacNeil: Late today the Polish Government ordered troops into that country's major industrial plants and imposed curfews in three provinces to head off what it called the specter of anarchy. The order came after the strike to legalize the Solidarity Trade Union had spread symbolically to its birthplace, the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk. Riot police surrounded the shipyard after some 400 workers carrying Polish flags and chanting "Solidarity" seized control of the yard. it was the thirteenth enterprise to join the week old strike for higher pay and for government recognition of Solidarity. The strike has idled some 76,000 workers and constitutes the most serious challenge to the Communist authorities since the Solidarity movement was outlawed in 1981.
MS. WOODRUFF: Heavy rains today slowed down rescue work in a remote section of Nepal near its border with India, after a powerful earthquake shook the area Sunday, killing at least 650 people. The quake registered 6.5 on the Richter Scale and left some 3,000 people in this Himalayan Mountain Region injured. Officials in Nepal said poor communications would make a comprehensive casualty report impossible for at least a few more days.
MR. MacNeil: Soldiers from Ft. Lewis, Washington, were flown into Yellowstone National Park today to help fight forest fires that have burned out more than 350,000 acres. The first of some 1200 soldiers will be on the fire lines by Tuesday or Wednesday to relieve firefighters who have been on the scene for more than six weeks. In Southern Montana, the soldiers will try to stop a fire that has burned out of Yellowstone to within two miles of a the towns of Cook City and Silvergate.
MS. WOODRUFF: That wraps up our summary of the's day's news. Just ahead on the Newshour, new labor unrest in Poland and a documentary look at George Bush's record. FOCUS - POLES APART
MR. MacNeil: We begin tonight with the story of renewed labor unrest in Poland. As we just reported, the government tonight ordered troops into major plants after the strike spread to the Port of Gdansk, the birthplace of the Solidarity movement. Workers are demanding the government legalize the outlawed union. Strikes have also hit the Port of Szczecin and coal mines in Southern Poland. They represent the most widespread labor trouble since Solidarity was banned as part of the imposition of martial law in 1981.
MR. MacNeil: For more, we turn to Peter Mroczyk, a former Solidarity official in Poland who was jailed for his activities and who is now President of the Solidarity Endowment in Washington. The Endowment raises money in the United States for Solidarity. Mr. Mroczyk, with the news tonight that the government has ordered troops into the major plants and has actually thrown strikers out of the transportation depot, streetcar depot in Szczecin, does this indicate to you they've just decided to get tough and use force and end it?
PETER MROCZYK, Solidarity Endowment: Well, first of all, I do think that the Polish Government chose the worst of possible ways. This way of dealing with the situation is not going to solve anything. Even if in the current round of wage strikes one way or the other, the Polish Government by using force is going to pacify the strikes. And I don't think that's possible, especially in the mines. You've got to remember that the miners and the Polish miners especially are people that are very hard to move, but once they move they get very stubborn. So as I said, even if they do manage to somehow pacify the current round of the wage strikes, it's going to come back. It's going to come back in two months' time, it's going to come back in three months' time.
MR. MacNeil: What was different about this week's the strikes this last few days from those in the spring which ultimately were ended by the government with a combination of force and threats and bribes and so on?
MR. MROCYZK: Well, first of all, as a matter of principle, I don't think there is much difference. In other words, the reasons for the strikes are the same as they were, economic reform, the right of the Polish people to have an influence on running their own country, so in this respect there is no change. It's still the same thing demanding legalizing Solidarity. It's the same demand which has been put forward by the Polish people for the last eight years. The difference is a technical one in a sense that the strikes are now spread out throughout the country. Previously, you had the Gdansk Shipyard and Nova Huter. Now you can expect other parts of the country to join in.
MR. MacNeil: What reason did Solidarity have, Lech Walesa and the others, have for believing that they now had more bargaining power than they've had in the past?
MR. MROCYZK: I don't think it's a matter of believing whether Solidarity had more bargaining power. As Walesa said, Solidarity realizes that strikes are not hurting the Polish economy, but on the other side, on the other hand, what else is there left? For eight years the Polish Government claimed that it introduced martial law to avoid anarchy, so it had peaks. It had its opportunity. In those 8 years, the living standards in Poland deteriorated by 50 percent. The international debt went up by 30 percent, so all the sacrifice was for nothing. So what is the solution? The Poles are being asked continuously to work harder for less in order to and that in some distant future things will get better, but this government has proved completely incapable of solving any of the real issues facing Poland. So it is, we have no other choice.
MR. MacNeil: Granted that the country faces severe problems paying off its international debt and reforming the economy and making prices realistic and so on, but can Yarezowsky admit Solidarity as a partner in making those reforms without destroying the authority or the credibility of the Communist Party as the sole party of power in the country? Can he do that, I mean, realistically speaking?
MR. MROCYZK: Realistically speaking there are several issues. When you talk about the credibility of Yarezowsky and the Communist Party, credibility versus who? That government has no credibility anywhere in Poland. Yarezowsky's government has no credibility and it will never have any credibility. If you consider that it's a government trying to crush the most popular movement, genuine movement in Poland since World War II, which has locked up tens of thousands of people, kicked out fine people, beat people, killed fine people, the economic situation has been deteriorating, so unless you assume that the Poles are a nation of masochists, and they're not, the Yarezowsky government is one which has been once and for all as far as Solidarity is concerned completely compromised. So the issue today is if you want, for crying out loud, go and let us try to do something about the situation in the country.
MR. MacNeil: Is Solidarity saying that if you would legalize us, recognize us, and admit us as partners or as a bargaining force in the country, our workers would work harder and would cooperate in reforming the economy?
MR. MROCYZK: It is exactly what Solidarity is saying and what Solidarity is also saying that without us, nothing is going to change in Poland, as has been proved over the last few years. How much more proof does anybody need that you cannot do anything in Poland without Solidarity? It's a schizophrenic world I think when Gen. Yarezowsky and his government goes around saying there is no such a thing as Solidarity. Mr. Walesa is a private citizen, when you think about it and take into consideration the situation in Poland, it's really a ludicrous argument, so this is exactly what we're saying, for crying out loud, let's somehow try to figure this thing out. But only Solidarity can provide some sort of a guarantee to the people of Poland, people of Poland will believe Solidarity.
MR. MacNeil: Just before we go, but as it looks tonight, would it be right to say that the government appears to be again silencing that argument for the time being?
MR. MROCYZK: Yes. It's trying to silence it and it's not going to work again as it did not work in the past.
MR. MacNeil: Well, Mr. Mrocyzk, thank you very much for joining us.
MS. WOODRUFF: Still to come on the Newshour a look at the George Bush record. But first this is pledge week on public television. We're taking a short break now so your public television station can ask for your support. That support helps keep programs like this on the air.
MR. MacNeil: For those stations not taking a pledge break, the Newshour continues now with excerpts from today's Presidential campaign events. Speaking before the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Chicago, George Bush defended his running mate's service record in the National Guard.
GEORGE BUSH, GOP Presidential Nominee: First, I salute the Vietnam veterans here today, those who fought in the race paddies. Thank God America finally has come around to doing what it should have done from the very beginning, saluting you too. I'll be honest, I cannot go by that memorial in Washington, D.C., without getting a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. And it's going to be that way till the day I die. But let me say this. Many others served too. Some were in the reserves and were not sent overseas. Some served in the National Guard and were not sent overseas but they served. And my running mate was one of them. Now, 20 years later, he's a seasoned United States Senator, a leader in defense matters, a strong supporter of American veterans. Dan Quayle served in the National Guard, signing up in a unit that had vacancies at the time, and now he is under shrill partisan attack, so let his attackers cast the first stone. Let 'em cast it. He served honorably. True, he didn't go to Vietnam, but his unit wasn't sent. But there's another truth. He did not go to Canada. He did not burn his draft card. And he damned sure didn't burn the American flag! And I'm proud to have him at my side. Remember what Harry Truman said? Harry Truman, they say, give 'em hell, Harry. He says, I don't give 'em hell, I just tell the truth and they think it's hell. And that's the way it is.
MR. MacNeil: On the Democratic side at a news conference in Lowell, Massachusetts, the nominee, Gov. Michael Dukakis, once again singled out Lowell, a former milltown, whose economy is now booming, as an example of the so called Massachusetts miracle. He also said he thinks the Quayle nomination has become an issue in the campaign.
GOV. MICHAEL DUKAKIS, Democratic Presidential Nominee: I'm not going to comment on Mr. Bush's selection of the Vice Presidential Candidate, except to say what I've said already, and that is to say that this is the first Presidential decision that each of us had to make. I'm very proud of my selection, very proud of Sen. Bentsen, of who is, of the kind of leadership that he's provided. I don't know of anyone who has seriously questioned Lloyd Bentsen's qualifications to be the Vice President or for that matter the President. And this is a judgment the American people will have to make. They've had an opportunity now to watch Mike Dukakis make this selection and to watch George Bush make his selection and they will judge us on this and other issues and other decisions in a way which I hope will persuade them the Democratic ticket is the ticket that should be elected in November.
REPORTER: The Vice President won't be the issue.
GOV. DUKAKIS: I beg your pardon.
REPORTER: The Vice President won't be the issue.
GOV. DUKAKIS: The contrary. How we made our decision, how we made that Presidential decision, who we selected, what that person has done, the kind of strength that that person brings not just to the ticket but to the nation, whether or not that person should be a heartbeat away from the Presidency and could step in and take over and be a strong and effective President obviously will be an issue in this campaign.
MR. MacNeil: As we reported earlier, Sen. Dan Quayle will be addressing the VFW Convention tonight in Chicago. FOCUS - '88 - THE BUSH RECORD
MS. WOODRUFF: Next tonight the record of the new Republican nominee for President. Last month we aired a documentary look at Michael Dukakis's record and tonight we do the same for Vice President Bush in the belief that a closer look at each man's past public performance helps us understand the sort of President he would be.
GEORGE BUSH, GOP Presidential Nominee: I want to be the President because I believe in public service. My dad believed in it. We've had honorable lives in public service that hold high the highest ethical standard.
MS. WOODRUFF: Public service has been a constant in the life of George Herbert Walker Bush ever since he was born in 1924, the second son of a well-to-do Connecticut family. He grew up in the affluent suburb of Greenwich. His father, Prescott Bush, Sr., a successful investment banker in New York City who set an unmistakable example for his five young children.
JONATHAN BUSH, Brother: He was a very austere man. He was a busy man. He was involved in all kinds of projects that inured to the public good and he was always coming home from work and wolfing down his dinner and going off to save the beach, that kind of thing.
MR. MacNeil: Jonathan Bush, one of George Bush's younger brothers, says their mother taught them to be competitive.
JONATHAN BUSH: We competed all the time. I mean, we played a lot of tennis as a family. You know, you didn't play for the fun of playing the game. You played to win. George, he rarely lost in any sport, any team game, any individual game. He's a great competitor and he doesn't lose very frequently.
MS. WOODRUFF: At the same time, Jonathan Bush says his mother insisted her children never boast about any of their achievements.
JONATHAN BUSH: If we were immodest, we were drawn up very sharply on it and she just didn't want us coming home and saying how well we'd done in any sport or won a game or anything like that.
MS. WOODRUFF: Somehow young George Bush managed to walk a perfect line between these sometimes competing influences. He was popular, a good athlete, and he made good grades in school. Six months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, George Bush graduated from prep school and joined the Navy to become a pilot. At the age of 19, he was flying bombing missions over the Pacific and in 1944, he narrowly escaped when his plane was hit by Japanese gunfire. Navy cameras recorded his dramatic rescue by a submarine. But two of his crewmen were killed, something he talked about to friends when he entered college after the war. Former Classmate Thomas Lud Ashley.
THOMAS "LUD" ASHLEY, Former Congressman: He had some people in his airplane that were very dear to him, dear friends from back home, and when the plane got hit, why they didn't get out. It anguished him. That's why when he jumped it was at a very very low altitude and it was clear that there was no other alternative.
MS. WOODRUFF: Bush had married while he was still in the Navy and he and his wife, Barbara, had their first son shortly after arriving at Yale in 1946. With a family to support, Bush finished college in 2 1/2 years and then made a deliberate decision not to stay on the East Coastand follow his father to Wall Street.
THOMAS "LUD" ASHLEY: He wanted to do something on his own that, you know, he's somewhat to the manner born. His parents were in the position to give him a good deal of assistance in business and his decision was not to do that.
MS. WOODRUFF: Bush did accept help though from a family friend, the head of a huge corporation which owned an oil drilling equipment business. The friend offered Bush a job in Texas, where in 1948, he found himself joining hundreds of other young men attracted to some big new oil finds. J.C. Williamson was an oilman who noticed Bush because he had taken a job selling drilling equipment parts.
J.C. WILLIAMSON, Oilman: Not very many Ivy leaguers would take a job as a bit salesman. He wanted to learn from the very bottom the people that was in there and get acquainted with them.
MS. WOODRUFF: After two years as a salesman, Bush obtained several hundred thousand dollars from a wealthy uncle back East and started his own small company in Midland, Texas, trading in oil leases and royalties. The business did not set the world on fire.
BILL LIEDTKE: It did okay, nothing spectacular, but they did okay.
MS. WOODRUFF: In 1953, Bill Liedtke and brother, Hugh, together put up $1/2 million and asked Bush to do the same in order to start a bigger independent oil company. Bush again went to his wealthy uncle and other family friends and the result was named Zapata Petroleum. This company did very well indeed, even spinning off an offshore drilling operation, until its owners split up six years later. The Liedtkes would go on to make great fortunes in the oil business, Bush nowhere near that. When he finally sold his interest in the early 1960's, he made only about a million dollars, considerably less than some say he could have made.
J.C. WILLIAMSON: Hell, that's chicken feed in that time. It's chicken feed. I mean, George should have made a hundred million in that time if he was really after it.
MS. WOODRUFF: Bill Liedtke says after the hopes Bush had for an oil boom in the Gulf of Mexico didn't pay off, he decided to get out of the business altogether.
BILL LIEDTKE, Oilman: If you're not raising a good deal of dough to go out and do things, it can have a certain monotony to it, as opposed to when things are booming a little bit. Plus his father's going into politics affected his thinking.
MS. WOODRUFF: Prescott Bush, Sr., had been elected to the U.S. Senate as a Republican from Connecticut in 1952, but the GOP in Texas was another story, long outnumbered by the mostly conservative Democrats. That began to change, however, in the 60's as the national Democrats grew more liberal. Bush's friend from Yale, Lud Ashley, who was by then a Democratic Congressman, says that he and Bush found they had fundamentally different philosophies.
THOMAS "LUD" ASHLEY: He thought the people like myself, the problems we might be of each other that we represented a kind of reliance on government that he really didn't believe in. It was clear that he was more conservative and at least particularly in the economic area.
MS. WOODRUFF: As conservative as Bush was, he wasn't conservative enough to suit some of the hard line Republicans in Houston, where he had moved in the late 50's. Nancy Palm was active in Republican politics at the time and recalls many in the party were at first suspicious of Bush and his Ivy League background
NANCY PALM, Republican Party Activist: He was not one of them and he was a polished person who came from a well-to-do at that time Eastern family and it simplyrubbed the redneck and the ultra conservative Texans the wrong way.
MS. WOODRUFF: Many others though were impressed by Bush's efforts to expand the Texas GOP, including Sheets, who was then a reporter for the Houston Chronicle.
KEN SHEETS, Journalist: The Republican Party, it was an emerging Republican Party, and he was probably one of the most dynamic Republicans in the state at the time. Maybe it says something about Texas politics, but at the time Bush had a lot of charisma.
MS. WOODRUFF: Bush was chosen Republican County Chairman in 1962 and two years later ran for the U.S. Senate and did better than expected, but still lost in the Lyndon Johnson Democratic landslide that buried Barry Goldwater that year. In 1966, Bush won a Houston Congressional seat and got special treatment when he arrived in Washington. At the urging of Bush's father, Congressional leaders gave Bush a rare prize for a freshman, a seat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Still, even his friends say Bush didn't leave much of a mark during his two terms in Congress.
THOMAS "LUD" ASHLEY: Back in those days of the House, why you were meant to be seen and not heard for several terms and frankly it was true of Bush. Everybody knew who he was but nobody's going to remember him for any legislation that he developed in his two terms in the House.
MS. WOODRUFF: But there was one issue Bush found himself on both sides of, civil rights. In 1964, running for the Senate, Bush had opposed federal civil rights legislation.
JIM OBERWETTER, Former Congressional Staffer: That was the tenor of the times and those were acceptable positions for the Republicans.
MS. WOODRUFF: Jim Oberwetter, who has worked for Bush off and on since 1964, says whatever reason Bush had for his views then, he changed them in 1968, when he supported a controversial open housing law. His conservative constituents were outraged.
JIM OBERWETTER: There were threats on his life. I don't know if that was reported before or not, but there were.
MS. WOODRUFF: Ken Sheets says he saw Bush face his conservative critics in Houston at the height of the open housing controversy.
KEN SHEETS: You know, anybody can call Bush a wimp. It would change their mind if they would have seen him there because he faced down the crowd, gave a very moving speech, you know, in defending the right for all Americans to have open housing or live anywhere they wish and at the end everybody stood up and cheered him and so he had really turned the situation around.
MS. WOODRUFF: Bush gave up his House seat after two terms to make another run for the U.S. Senate in 1970. But his opponent turned out to be not incumbent Sen. Ralph Yarboro, the liberal Democrat he had planned to run against, but former Congressman Lloyd Bentsen, who had upset Yarboro in the Democratic Primary. Try as he might, Bush found the tables had turned on him.
DISCUSSION MODERATOR [NOVEMBER 1970]: What are you? You don't like labels but people are going to try to put one on you? What are you?
LLOYD BENTSEN [NOVEMBER 1970], 1970 Democratic Senate Candidate: Well, here you go, if I just have to have a label I think I'm a moderate. And I've said that from the first day I announced.
GEORGE BUSH [NOVEMBER 1970]: But my record is there. I mean, we can discuss ACA, ADA, the labor ratings, the programs I'm for and essentially I'd say that I'm -- and again I hate the darn labels -- but on the moderate conservative side of things.
KEN SHEETS, Journalist: Bentsen carrying over from his defeat of Yarboro, he was running as a conservative, and he took the conservative ground away from Bush, and he was saying that Bush was a carpet bagging liberal.
MS. WOODRUFF: Treasury Secretary Jim Baker was then an attorney heading up Bush's campaign in Houston.
JAMES BAKER, Bush Campaign Chairman: The Vice President received 61 percent of the vote in the biggest city in Texas, his home town, and the home town of Lloyd Bentsen, so he did quite well where both of them were very well known, but he lost in other areas of the state. Again, in 1970, in rural areas of the state, it was very very hard to find people who would vote Republican.
MS. WOODRUFF: So Bush lost his second try for a Senate seat, but almost immediately lobbied then President Nixon whom he had impressed as a junior member of Congress to offer him a plum job in the Administration. Nixon came through with the post of Ambassador to the United Nations.
CHRISTOPHER PHILLIPS: When they heard that this man who was a defeated Texas politician coming to the U.N., could he handle the job, what did he know about the issues? And everybody was a little bit nervous.
MS. WOODRUFF: Christopher Phillips had been at the U.S. mission at the U.N. and Bush asked him to stay to be his deputy. Phillips says Bush's strong suit in the short time he was on the job was his ability to get along with people.
CHRISTOPHER PHILLIPS, Bush's U.N. Deputy: He was not a pro in the sense that most people think of diplomats. He obviously was not an expert on all of these issues, because when you're in that job at the U.N., you're covering a whole range of issues. It's human rights one day, disarmament, arms control another day, but he knew how to use his staff. He was quick and alert enough to seize upon those issues that were paramount in terms of our interest and to develop those.
MS. WOODRUFF: One issue Bush pushed hard was keeping the People's Republic of China out of the U.N. But then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made a secret trip to Peking, almost overnight reversing U.S. policy toward the Chinese Communists. Phillips says Bush and others at the U.N. Office were shocked and disappointed.
CHRISTOPHER PHILLIPS: We had been a little bit let down. We had undertaken this tremendous effort under instructions and to the very end we were fighting this battle. And then lo and behold the powers in Washington had undertaken another policy unknown to us which certainly undercut the ground. I think there was a bit of that. But Bush never showed that, not for one minute.
MS. WOODRUFF: Phillips says Bush not only never questioned the new policy, he moved quickly to make friends with a new Chinese delegation.
CHRISTOPHER PHILLIPS: Once a decision had been made, he did not try to undercut that decision. He would follow through loyally and he would be a very forceful advocate.
MS. WOODRUFF: In early 1973, a newly re-elected President Nixon was beginning to face the Watergate scandal and needed a team player as Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Bush said he preferred a top job at the State Department, but he agreed to take the RNC Post anyway.
CHRISTOPHER PHILLIPS: He said, well, if the President really feels that's where I'm needed, I'll take it. I think it was a disappointment, but he never showed it. He never showed it.
MS. WOODRUFF: Jim Oberwetter said the RNC job was a searing experience.
JIM OBERWETTER: It was the repeated insults by telephone that would come in and harsh and bitter attacks on the President and on Mr. Bush for standing up for him.
MS. WOODRUFF: Bush, a steadfast defender of Nixon, could not bring himself to criticize a fellow Republican.
GEORGE BUSH [April 26, 1974]: And at this point, not professing to know all the details, I remain convinced that the President is telling the truth and I'm going to retain this belief.
MS. WOODRUFF: Oberwetter says there is a reason Bush continued to defend Nixon long after others had stopped.
JIM OBERWETTER: George Bush takes people at their word and I don't think that he would have believed that someone in that position would have led him down the primrose path.
MS. WOODRUFF: But David Broder of The Washington Post who has covered Bush for two decades says Bush was more conflicted about defending Nixon than some realize.
DAVID BRODER, Washington Post: He was genuinely anguished at that time and also I have to say he never was able to resolve it in his mind as to where his responsibilities and loyalties lay, so he was publicly silent and equivocal during a time that I know he had very large and growing doubts about the President he was serving.
MS. WOODRUFF: Does that say anything about George Bush?
DAVID BRODER: Yeah, I think it does. I think it says that he will go a very long way to repress any kind of a confrontation with somebody that's important to him.
MS. WOODRUFF: In late 1974, anxious to get away from Washington, Bush told the new President, Gerald Ford, that he wanted to head up the fledgling U.S. mission in China, even though the two countries did not yet have normal diplomatic relations with each other. Christopher Phillips says once again Bush was most remembered for his personal skills.
CHRISTOPHER PHILLIPS: He and Barbara would get on bicycles. No former Ambassador that I know of in Peking had bicycled around Peking.
CHRISTOPHER PHILLIPS, Bush's U.N. Deputy: They developed again good friendships with some of the key leaders, Dun Chao Ping, and the present Chairman of the Party, Gao Ji Jung and others who were not recognized as the official Ambassador of a country. So he was limited as to what he could do in terms of negotiating on particular problems of high levels, so in a way it was a difficult period. He had to be there because we had established the presence with his liaison offices, but there wasn't a great deal of substantive work to do.
MS. WOODRUFF: Bush was in Peking just over a year when President Ford asked him to return to Washington to head up the Central Intelligence Agency. This was in late 1975, a year after Congress and the press had uncovered illegal abuses of power by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
ADM. BOBBY INMAN [Ret.], Former C.I.A. Official: The whole atmosphere was somewhere between shock and dismay. The morale was really very low all across the intelligence agencies. They had the sense that great damage had been done to their capabilities.
MS. WOODRUFF: Retired Admiral Bobby Inman was in charge of Naval Intelligence while Bush was running the C.I.A.
ADM. BOBBY INMAN [Ret.]: But I think he had an awful lot to do with the very substantial surge in morale while he was there.
MS. WOODRUFF: Inman says in the brief 12 months that Bush was at the CIA, he tried to restore some of the federal spending on intelligence that had been gradually cut back.
ADM. BOBBY INMAN [Ret.]: He spent a lot of effort looking at the current status of the intelligence community and putting together programs to rebuild them. I think it's unreasonable to expect a long scorecard of accomplishments in a year in a large complex organization.
MS. WOODRUFF: Inman's one criticism of Bush then and later as Vice President was that hewas not as assertive as he might have been.
ADM. BOBBY INMAN [Ret.]: There were occasions when those of us who worked around him would have been perfectly willing to hold his coat and have him go do battle. It was not his style. He was not confrontational in his approach in dealing with others or with organizations.
MS. WOODRUFF: Inman says Bush had hoped that incoming President Carter would offer to let him stay at the CIA job, but that didn't happen. And Bush went off to make bigger plans, a run for the Presidency, himself, in 1980.
GEORGE BUSH : Interest rates up, employment up, inflation up, and he's had his chance.
MS. WOODRUFF: His campaign got off to a good start in the race for the GOP nomination, but Ronald Reagan dominated after that. Bush never was able to recover fully after Reagan staged this memorable exchange at a debate among the Republican candidates in New Hampshire.
RONALD REAGAN [February 1980 - Debate in New Hampshire]: This is really --
MODERATOR: Can you turn that microphone off --
RONALD REAGAN [February 1980]: You asked me if -- I am paying for this microphone -- .
MS. WOODRUFF: Until then, Bush had not taken Reagan seriously according to David Keene, who worked in the 1980 Bush Campaign.
DAVID KEENE, Political Consultant: Well, of course, he didn't know Reagan. His view was almost disdainful. He couldn't imagine how someone with Reagan's background coming up in the way he did could be a serious candidate for the Presidency.
GEORGE BUSH [April 1980]: He's promising to cut taxes by 30 percent and balance the budget and increase defense spending and stop inflation all at the same time. It just isn't going to work, what I call a voodoo economic policy.
MS. WOODRUFF: Even so, Keene, who later split with Bush and recently worked in Bob Dole's campaign, says when Reagan asked Bush to be the Vice Presidential nominee, Bush had no difficulty swallowing any disagreements on issues.
DAVID KEENE: I just don't think they were deep and strongly held beliefs on his part, so I think he was able to shift relatively quickly, particularly in the domestic area where his interests were peripheral at best.
MS. WOODRUFF: Bush was thrust into the spotlight almost immediately after he and Mr. Reagan took office when the President was shot and had to undergo surgery.
VICE PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH [March 31, 1981]: I can reassure this nation and a watching world that the American government is functioning fully and effectively.
MS. WOODRUFF: Since then, Bush has spent much of his time on the road, traveling over a million miles to 74 different foreign countries. Over the past 7 1/2 years he has spent 160 days out of the United States. The Vice President's friends tease him about how many foreign leaders' funerals he has attended.
GEORGE BUSH: [November 5, 1987] Remember my friend Jimmy Baker said, you know, Bush's motto, our now Secretary of the Treasury, he said, you know Bush's motto, "You die and I'll fly."
MS. WOODRUFF: Whether in Washington or on the road, Bush has worked hard to maintain and expand the network of friends and supporters he has built up over time.
BOBBIE KILBERG, Bush Family Friend: He'll go on a foreign trip and he'll come back and the whole staff is exhausted and they're sleeping on Air Force II and George Bush is sitting there and he is handwriting notes. He is handwriting thank you notes, not just to heads of state. He's handwriting thank you notes to people who were nice to him in the hotel, to junior people who helped him do this and that, to his advance men, who did the trick for him.
MS. WOODRUFF: Bobbie Kilberg and her husband are longtime Bush friends. She says the Vice President's ability to stay in touch with many people and make them feel he really cares about them is a remarkable political asset.
BOBBIE KILBERG: He's been in this town now close to 18 years and what I haven't seen in political life among other people is that reaching out beyond a small coterie of friends to a broader group, to make them feel included and genuinely make them feel that they're wanted in the political process. That's unusual.
MS. WOODRUFF: Publicly, on the other hand, Bush has kept a low profile as Vice President. Connecticut Republican Sen. Lowell Weicker who is a fan of Bush's says nothing the Vice President has done stands out in his mind as a contribution to the Reagan Administration.
SEN. LOWELL WEICKER, [R] Connecticut: No. He has been part of a team. He doesn't set the policy. The President does.
MS. WOODRUFF: Washington Post David Broder agrees.
DAVID BRODER, Washington Post: There's not a scintilla of evidence that he had any substantial impact on any policy or action during this whole period of time.
MS. WOODRUFF: Broder says he knows of no instance where Bush has taken a position on an issue that was different than the President's.
DAVID BRODER: Either he has been extraordinarily successful in keeping those occasions secret or there haven't been any such occasions.
MS. WOODRUFF: Jim Baker, who served as White House Chief of Staff during the first term of the Reagan Administration, suggests the former is correct, that what occasions there were have been kept quiet.
JAMES BAKER, Bush Campaign Chairman: Many times when you wanted to make a point with the President, you would enlist the support of the Vice President to do that, and just like in all cases sometimes he was successful or we were successful and sometimes we weren't. He hasn't weighed in on every little item that comes along. You learn I think that you don't cheapen the product by running to the boss with every little complaint or difference of opinion that you might have. That's true of a chief of staff if I may say so.
MS. WOODRUFF: Pete Teeley, Bush's former Press Secretary, also insists Bush has made contributions. But the examples he gives are relatively obscure. They include negotiations with China in 1982 on the issue of arm sales to Taiwan.
PETE TEELEY, Former Bush Press Secretary: Those particular meetings resulted in the communique between China and the United States which have established relationships between the two countries since then.
MS. WOODRUFF: However, a senior foreign service officer who was at the embassy in Peking when Bush visited and who asked that his name not be used says most of the work was done by the President and by then Secretary of State Alexander Haig. On another overseas mission to Western Europe in 1983, Bush is given credit for helping persuade U.S. allies to go ahead and deploy medium-range nuclear missiles.
KENNETH ADELMAN, Former Arms Control Official: Well, he held hands very nicely. He explained our position very well. He just told them to stay firm, that things were going to work out find, that the alliance wasn't going to come apart, as people were saying in '83.
MS. WOODRUFF: But Kenneth Adelman, who headed the Reagan Administration's Arms Control Agency until last year, says Bush has left no real footprints.
KENNETH ADELMAN: He has gone along in government and done a competent job, no great waves, no great imprint, and people say when all is said and done there is more said than ever done.
MS. WOODRUFF: Bush has headed up a number of task forces as Vice President on government regulations, terrorism and drug control.
GEORGE SHULTZ [May 4, 1987]: The Vice President has been really out in front on this issue. He has been a key factor in marshaling our forces to turn back the tide of narcotic trafficking.
MS. WOODRUFF: Ironically, it is very familiarity with these issues that has made Bush vulnerable recently to criticism that the drug task force should have moved more aggressively against alleged drug traffickers like Panama's Manuel Noriega, and last year to accusations that Bush should have done something to stop the Iran/Contra affair from taking place.
SCOTT ARMSTRONG, Investigative Journalist: Not only is it clear that Bush could have prevented much of this from happening, but it's fairly clear that much of it happened to accomplish policy objectives that he fully supported.
MS. WOODRUFF: Scott Armstrong is an investigative journalist who has followed the Iran/Contra Affair in exhaustive detail. He says Bush sat in on at least 15 meetings where the Iran arms sales were discussed. Bush himself acknowledges that he bears part of the responsibility for the Iran arms deal.
GEORGE BUSH [January 8, 1988]: We got reports that Mr. Buckley, now admitted he's a CIA station chief, was being tortured. The President and the Vice President, certainly the President, bear the burden of that more than anybody else, and if we erred, and I think we did in retrospect, looking back, a deal that wasn't supposed to be arms for hostages proved to be that. But if we erred, we erred on the side of trying to free Americans that are held by terrorists.
MS. WOODRUFF: Scott Armstrong says Bush should have known better given his extraordinary past experience.
SCOTT ARMSTRONG, National Security Archives: He's been the Ambassador to the United Nations, he was our Ambassador to China, he was the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency at a time when it was undergoing enormous change. He came into this Administration and became the head of the crisis planning group. He was the head of the task force on terrorism, the task force on drugs. All of these different aspects gave him more than anybody else at those meetings the qualifications to know precisely what was involved in this kind of a covert action.
PETE TEELEY, Former Bush Press Secretary: Some people would say that, but I think that it's easy to second guess and I think that unless you really knew what information was being presented, then it's really difficult to make that judgment.
MS. WOODRUFF: Pete Teeley says the Vice President was kept in the dark about much of what was going on.
PETE TEELEY: I think if you go back to the very beginning when the initial initiative was put together, that is trying to develop communications and an opening with groups in Iran, more moderate than the current regime, he was supportive of that. Somewhere along the line, after that particular policy was put together, we got into a different situation, the arms for hostages, and those are the things that were essentially kept away from both the Vice President and the President.
SCOTT ARMSTRONG: But not only was he in the loop on the Iran part of the Iran/Contra Affair, but he was in the loop on the Contra part. In fact, he may have been one of two people where the loop overlaps. That is to say it's a policy that only he and the President were really aware of what was going on in Iran, in the Contra side of the shop.
PETE TEELEY: I think that he knew quite a bit about aiding the Contras. That was a policy of the Administration. I don't think there's any question about that. Now if you're talking about laundering money from the arms sales to the Contras, he knew nothing of that.
MS. WOODRUFF: Bush has continually stuck to his guns as he did in his confrontation last January with CBS Anchorman Dan Rather.
DAN RATHER [CBS, January 25, 1988]: If I may suggest that this is what leads people to say, "Either George Bush was irrelevant or he was ineffective. He said himself he was out of the loop." Now, let me give you an example. You said to ask you the question --
GEORGE BUSH: May I explain out of the loop. No operational role. Go ahead.
MS. WOODRUFF: Armstrong is skeptical of the claim Bush knew little of what was happening given his interest in foreign policy and national security issues.
SCOTT ARMSTRONG: These were things that he said will be at the center of my plate. This is the private shop that I will manage while I'm Vice President. Now suddenly he said he was out of those loops. If he was managing them, how was he out of the loops? It just doesn't make sense. And I think it really undercuts his credibility in terms of his Vice Presidential years.
MS. WOODRUFF: The Washington Post's David Broder says if Bush is telling the truth about his role in the Iran/Contra Affair, that says a great deal about his overall role in the Administration.
DAVID BRODER: If he was, as he says himself, essentially a non- player, in that discussion, my presumption at this point is that he's been a non-player throughout the policy discussions of the Reagan years.
MS. WOODRUFF: Broder says it is both a lack of passion about policy questions and the fact that Bush is comfortable with his back seat role it explains his passive behavior.
DAVID BRODER: He clearly has felt a great sense of obligation, deference, appreciation to Reagan that I think everything we know about Bush would make it hard for him to challenge Reagan directly even in private. But I also have to say that looking back over the years, George Bush just doesn't have that degree of passion, strength, belief, commitment to policy questions that most people who spend their lifetime in politics and government have.
MS. WOODRUFF: Former CIA Deputy Director Bobby Inman says if Bush has had influence as Vice President, it's very hard to document. On the few occasions when he asked Bush to raise a matter with the President during their weekly private lunches, Inman never learned whether Bush followed up or if anything happened as a result.
ADM. BOBBY INMAN [Ret.], Former C.I.A. Official: I never once got any kind of de-brief for anything he discussed with the President at all, never even the slightest inkling back on how the President nodded, reacted, smiled or whatever. He treated those lunches with absolute confidentiality as the fundamental requirement.
JAMES BAKER, Bush Campaign Chairman: He has subordinated, which a Vice President must do, his own agenda to the extent that he has one or had one when he was out running against the President, and this is the way I think that a Vice President should serve a President.
MS. WOODRUFF: Longtime Bush friend Lud Ashley, however, suggests that subordinating himself to the Reagan agenda has not been a comfortable position for Bush to be in.
THOMAS "LUD" ASHLEY: I think that it's been a difficult seven years and I think any Vice President actually suffers under the same problem. It's not his government; it's the President's government; and you serve with absolute loyalty, and I think that that has been frustrating for him.
MS. WOODRUFF: Jim Baker says Bush as Vice President has been misunderstood in a way.
JAMES BAKER: It's a super numerary office, if you will. You are a person in waiting for the President. The constitutional responsibilities are very few, preside over the Senate, so I don't think it's so much misunderstood as it is a case of the fact that this person who's been in the Vice Presidency for 7 1/2 years, that is traditionally, customarily and, in fact, a very weak office. He has handled it, I think, exactly the way it should be handled. RECAP
MR. MacNeil: Again, the main stories of the day, George Bush defending his running mate Dan Quayle, said he was the victim of shrill partisan attacks. In Poland, the government sent troops into major industrial plants as the strike to legalize Solidarity spread to its birthplace, the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk. Six Cuban Americans were charged with illegally training and supplying commandos to fight against the Sandinista Government of Nicaragua. Good night, Judy.
MS. WOODRUFF: Good night, Robin. That's our Newshour for tonight. We'll be back tomorrow night. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thank you and good night.
- The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
- Producing Organization
- NewsHour Productions
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- NewsHour Productions (Washington, District of Columbia)
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- Episode Description
- This episode's headline: The Bush Record; Poles Apart. The guests include In New York: ROBERT MacNeil; In Washington: JUDY WOODRUFF; GUEST: PETER MROCZYK, Solidarity Movement. Byline: In New York: ROBERT MacNeil; In Washington: JUDY WOODRUFF; GUEST: PETER MROCZYK, Solidarity Movement
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- Copyright NewsHour Productions, LLC. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode)
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- Moving Image
Producing Organization: NewsHour Productions
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: NH-1280 (NH Show Code)
Format: 1 inch videotape
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- Chicago: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” 1988-08-22, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 22, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-862b85443p.
- MLA: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” 1988-08-22. NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 22, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-862b85443p>.
- APA: The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Boston, MA: NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-862b85443p