George Bush vowed Wednesday that he and newly minted running mate Dan Quayle would campaign like "a couple of pit bulls" against the Democrats this fall.

"Competence is important, but ideology is very important, and we're going to be talking on both," Bush said at a crowded news conference a few hours before the Republican National Convention met to hand him the presidential nomination. "We're going to tell the truth" about the political opposition, he said.Bush said he tapped the 41-year-old Quayle to run with him because he is "one of the rising young stars of the Republican Party."

With Quayle standing at his side, Bush said, "yes he's young" - but also qualified to be "one heartbeat away from the president."

"I believe he will help our case in every part of the country because he understands that what's important is not only what we've accomplished but what we will accomplish," Bush said.

Bush bristled when he was asked about criticism over his introduction of his three Mexican-American grandchildren on Tuesday as "the little brown ones."

"I find it personally offensive, and I don't want to see these kids hurt," he said. His voice rising, Bush added, "I don't like it and this is my family and I'm going to protect them. This heart knows nothing but pride and love for those children, and you're going to see them with me every inch of the way."

There was a lighter moment as well at the first news conference by the Republican ticket.

When Quayle was asked about reports that he was worth a few hundred million dollars, Bush stepped to the microphone and said, "Why do you think I picked him?" Quayle said estimates of his wealth were vastly exaggerated.

The vice president opened his news conference with an announcement that Pakistani President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq and U.S. Ambassador Arnold L. Raphel had been killed in an aircraft explosion in Pakistan.

"Pakistan and the U.S. have a very special relationship, and the loss of Gen. Zia is a great tragedy," Bush said. He hailed Raphel as an "outstanding ambassador."

"I knew him well," said Bush, who has sought to make his experience in foreign policy an important ingredient in his campaign.

Bush said he and Quayle would each be campaigning across the entire country. Aides said they would head for Quayle's home state of Indiana when they left the Republican convention city on Friday and would make a joint campaign swing over the weekend.

Behind in the polls, Bush said, "We're going to tell the truth, and it's going to seem like they've engaged a couple of pit bulls."

Bush and Quayle met reporters in their nationally televised news conference after the vice president paid an early morning visit to the Superdome to check out the hall where he will deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday night.

Bush joked from the podium, banging the gavel and listening to the echoes as he repeatedly called the mostly empty convention hall to order.

Earlier, he had said the goal of his convention speech would be "to show how I want to lead this country, what my qualifications for leading the country are." He said the speech would include "`some specifics, some competence matters, but I also think ideology counts."

"I feel comfortable with what we've got now," he said of the speech he has prepared, and added that his wife, Barbara, did not fall asleep when he tried it out on her.

Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis had confessed that his wife, Kitty, dozed off while reading an advance copy of his acceptance speech in Atlanta last month.