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Bush, Dukakis Seek to Broaden Appeal Among Blacks

June 12, 1988

Undated (AP) _ The two presidential contenders sought Sunday to broaden their appeal among blacks, with Republican George Bush urging a strong civil rights agenda and Democrat Michael Dukakis meeting with black mayors and promising a tough policy in the war on drugs.

Dukakis, in a speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Salt Lake City, lashed out at the Reagan administration’s anti-drug programs, criticizing the president’s cuts in the Coast Guard budget and federal aid to state and local police in light of his tough rhetoric on the issue.

″What we have today is chaos,″ Dukakis said. ″We’ve got to back up what we say with what we do.″

The Massachusetts governor also met with Democratic mayors and held a private session with a smaller group of black mayors.

The likely Democratic nominee called for tougher drug laws and stringent sentencing guidelines, but he stopped short of urging capital punishment for drug dealers. Bush has criticized Dukakis for failing to endorse the death penalty for major drug traffickers.

The vice president, meanwhile, delivered the commencement address at a predominantly black college in Wilberforce, Ohio, where he told the 275 graduates of Central State University that the nation needs a ″positive civil rights agenda.″

Bush added that the policy must go beyond that to ″knock down the walls of indifference and other barriers that result in economic exclusion.″

The certain GOP nominee, responding to reporters’ questions, said he would work ″to broaden the base of our party, talk on the issues that I think transcend black, white, American issues that are out there and are going to appeal.″

Bush, who celebrated his 64th birthday, received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the college. The award was announced last year, but Bush was unable to receive it until Sunday, said Ed Chamness, a spokesman for the university.

In his speech, Bush told the graduates they made it though college despite ″poverty, broken homes, inadequate schools and the social challenges or threat of drugs and violence.″

Dukakis, focusing on the drug issue in his speech to the nation’s mayors, said that the war on drugs can be won, ″but we have to recognize that it is a war, a war of wills, a war of values, a war of confidence and courage and strength.″

Dukakis promised that if elected he would increase federal law enforcement staffs and federal aid to state and local police. He did not provide specifics.

He also said he would issue an executive order prohibiting the payment of CIA or other government funds to suspected drug dealers, a reference to alleged payments to Panamanian ruler Manuel Antonio Noriega.

″Never again, never again are you going to bankroll a drug peddler who is poisoning our society and killing our children,″ Dukakis said.

Jesse Jackson, runner-up to Dukakis in the presidential nomination sweepstakes, appeared to back down from claims that the Democrats should offer him the vice presidency based on his second-place showing.

Asked if in his recent comments he was saying he should be offered the nomination and then would decide whether to accept it, Jackson said, ″No, I’m not saying that because I do not want to push Mike Dukakis to that point. It’s not necessary.″

Jackson, interviewed on NBC-TV’s ″Meet the Press,″ said he has not made a decision on whether he would accept the vice presidency, but added, ″I believe I’ve earned serious consideration.″

Jackson backed efforts by his supporters, meeting in Michigan with other Democrats on the party platform, to include a call for raising taxes on the rich in the proposed plank.

″We ought to be candid with the American people,″ Jackson said. ″There’s no miraculous way of getting out of this budget deficit. ... We certainly cannot come out just by collecting the uncollected taxes of Reaganomics. We must collect some exempted taxes of Reaganomics.″

Jackson said that President Reagan has given the Republicans ″a party, now they must pay for the party.″

The Democrats, winding up their weekend meeting, sidestepped the question of the federal deficit and whether to call for higher taxes on the rich.

The party regulars did agree to brand South Africa a terrorist state, called for the appointment of a federal drug czar, adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment, an end to homelessness, expansion of AIDS research and providing advance notice of plant closings.

″I found more areas of agreement than disagreement,″ said Rep. William Gray III of Pennsylvania, the drafting panels’ chair, following the three-day meeting on Mackinac Island.