Michael Dukakis accused rival George Bush of being hopelessly out of touch with American workers for saying wages have dropped because of "competitive change," while President Reagan used some of his harshest rhetoric to date to denounce the Democratic ticket for advocating "a Disneyland defense policy."
Bush and Dukakis went back on the road Wednesday for the post-Labor Day campaign blitz. Bush was appearing before the same American Legion audience that Reagan warmed up Tuesday, and Dukakis was preparing fresh assaults on Bush's claim to be the education president when the Democratic nominee appears at Kean College in Union, N.J.Behind the scenes, Dukakis agreed to Bush's request that they meet face-to-face only twice and have running mate Lloyd Bentsen debate Republican Dan Quayle once. Negotiations continued Wednesday on scheduling and format.
Dukakis criticized Bush on Tuesday after the vice president told a shipyard worker in Portland, Ore., his wages have dropped from $13.36 an hour to $9.50 an hour under the Reagan administration because "you're going through a competitive change." The reference was to foreign competition.
After being met by a booing and jeering union crowd at the Northwest Marine Iron Works in Portland, Bush said during lunch, "All I need is 51 percent of the vote."
"George Bush made it clear Wednesday that he really does not understand the hopes and dreams and aspirations of millions and millions of American workers across this country," Dukakis said in response to Bush's comments. "That's not an adequate answer to American workers."
Last week, Bush evoked an angry response when he called a recent increase in the unemployment rate "statistically irrelevant."
Bush was planning to speak Wednesday to the 70th annual convention of the American Legion in Louisville, Ky., where Reagan on Tuesday lambasted the Democratic ticket on defense matters before the audience of 7,000 veterans and their families.
Reagan said that while Bush's opponents have praised him for reaching a treaty with the Soviets banning intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe, they also "opposed deploying the missiles that made that treaty possible."
"Yes, it comes down to this: After eight hard years of rebuilding America's strength, do we really want to return to a Disneyland defense policy - with Mickey Mouse treatment of our men and women in uniform, Goofy strategic plans and Donald Duck-like lectures telling us that whatever goes wrong is our own blankety-blank fault?" Reagan asked.
The battleground of the airwaves began seeing some action. In ads that began airing Tuesday in several states, the Democratic National Committee accused Reagan and Republicans of misleading Americans about the threat posed by the federal budget deficit.
Later this week, DNC plans include an ad stressing Dukakis' "bring prosperity home" theme, which emphasizes economic policies.
A Dukakis campaign ad that began airing nationally Tuesday night shows a montage of shots from Dukakis' speech at the Democratic convention and lists his major accomplishments as governor.
The Dukakis campaign also began airing a third ad just in Texas, touting Dukakis and his running mate, Bentsen, for supporting legislation to give workers 60 days' notice before a plant closing.
Despite the air time, Dukakis had some trouble getting his campaign off the ground Tuesday.
His flight was grounded in Chicago after a surprise inspection turned up three minor safety violations, forcing the Massachusetts governor to cancel an appearance in Columbus, Ohio.