Democrat Michael Dukakis accused Republican presidential nominee George Bush on Saturday of cynically manipulating the crime issue to deflect attention from mounting criticism of Bush's running mate, Dan Quayle.
Bush last week zeroed in on a controversial furlough program for convicts in Massachusetts that Dukakis supported as proof the Democrat was soft on crime.But the Massachusetts governor in a visit to Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, said, "I don't need any lectures from Mr. Bush on crime fighting or on the sensitivity or compassion we must extend to the victims of crime."
Dukakis said his father was beaten, robbed and left bound at age 77 and that his brother Stelian was killed by a hit-and-run driver.
The Democrat also said that when Ronald Reagan was governor of California, a police officer and school teacher were murdered by inmates on furlough. And he said that under the Reagan administration, the federal prison system "has granted thousands of furloughs to drug pushers and drug traffickers."
Dukakis added that Bush was concentrating on the furlough issue because, "He is trying to run away from Mr. Quayle." The Democrat added: "We will never exploit human tragedy for cynical political purposes."
Bush has used the case of Willie Horton, a Massachusetts convict who fled the state while on a weekend pass from jail and went to Maryland, where he raped awoman before being caught.
Meanwhile, Bush criticized the press for suggesting that he is withholding full support from Quayle.
Reports surfaced after the Indiana Republican senator was perceived to have done poorly in his debate last Wednesday with his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas.
"This concept that I see in some ofthese reports that I am not supportive of Dan Quayle are absolutely ludicrous. They are ridiculous," Bush told reporters outside his Washington home.
"He did well in that debate, he has my full support and he is getting strong support since the debate and before around this country," a clearly irritatedBush said.
"And I made a good decision and the American people saw it in that debate and so I am very proud to have a chance now to take that one question because I get a little tired of erroneous reporting out there," he added.
Bush spoke briefly to reporters after receiving the endorsement of Dewey Stokes, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, one of the largest police associations in the country..
Recent press reports have cited a perceived coolness on Bush's part toward Quayle. According to polls taken after last Wednesday's debate, Quayle failed to dispel lingering questions about his capabilities and was outperformed by Bentsen.
Quayle himself took a poke at the press on Friday, spraying with water reporters accompanying him on a tour of a robotics laboratory in Chattanooga, Tenn.
"This is for all the articles you've written about me," he said as he hit a CBS television news crew with a fine mist of water from a paint sprayer.
President Reagan quoted a line that Quayle used during the debate in his weekly radio address to the nation.
Reagan, hailing the report on Friday that the U.S. jobless rate fell to 5.4 percent in September, said: "There's nothing more pleasing than watching America move forward with purpose, and the news reminds us yet again that this great nation is, as Senator Dan Quayle said, `the envy of the world.' "