Democratic vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen says the booing he heard from the Veterans of Foreign Wars doesn't mean he failed to get across his message that Democrats are strong on defense issues.
"I tried in a dispassionate way to set the record straight. And they'll remember that," said Bentsen.In his speech Thursday in Chicago before the VFW, the Texas senator called Republican attempts at painting the Democrats as weak and unpatriotic "scurrilous."
Bentsen planned to reinforce his defense message Friday with a visit to Atlanta and appearances with Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Meanwhile, presidential candidate Michael Dukakis was catching up on state business after two days of wooing support in key industrial states.
The Massachusetts governor planned to spend most of Friday in his office, emerging only to swear in a new member of the state authority that oversees Logan International Airport. He arrived home Thursday night and attended a fund-raising event after campaigning in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Bentsen, a decorated World War II bomber pilot, was greeted with a standing ovation from the VFW. But he was interrupted four times by boos and jeers from the crowd - three times when he talked about Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis and once when he mentioned former President Jimmy Carter.
"It got my adrenalin up," Bentsen told reporters later. "I've done enough campaigning that I know you're going to have some of those along the way," he said of the unfriendly reception by some in the audience.
He said he was not surprised by the negative reaction to his mention of Dukakis, saying, "In part, you saw orchestrated response by some who were quite partisan."
But the loud boos that greeted Bentsen's assertion that Carter started the recent defense buildup "surprised me," he said.
"Jimmy Carter toward the end of his term began to appreciate . . . that our defense forces had deteriorated. He turned that around," Bentsen said. "That's not generally remembered, and they really didn't want to remember that."
Bentsen, wearing his VFW cap, asked the veterans to consider Dukakis, also a veteran, as someone they could rely on to keep the nation protected. He recited a list of defense programs supported by the Massachusetts governor, including the cruise missile, the stealth bomber and a new conventional weapons initiative.
"The simple truth is this: Governor Dukakis is a veteran, a patriot, and an advocate of American strength and steadiness," Bentsen told the VFW. "He can be trusted as a defender of American security and as a champion of American values."