Vice President George Bush said Friday he didn't authorize aides' comments depicting Edwin Meese III as a campaign liability but "I must say I am troubled by some of the allegations" against the attorney general, while Michael Dukakis pocketed the endorsements of six Democratic governors as he moved toward his party's nomination.
Jesse Jackson, the only other active candidate in the 1988 presidential race, was in California as part of an intensive, costly effort to ambush Dukakis in the June 7, season-ending primary.He complained anew that he was not being treated fairly in the party's delegate selection process, but added soothingly, "We need not speak in terms of a fight."
Bush, the all-but-certain Republican nominee, told reporters he would have to "get on the phone" and find out what two top aides said about the attorney general, whose conduct is being investigated by a special prosecutor.
"I haven't authorized anything," the vice president added as he campaigned in Idaho.
Later, in Billings, Mont., Bush said he had talked to the aides but would not characterize his conversation. Of Meese, Bush said: "I know him well, favorably, but I must say I am troubled by some of the allegations. I think fair play dictates that the system go forward and make the determination."
When asked if Meese had become an albatross on his campaign, Bush said: "An albatross? I don't think so."
He added that the independent counsel probing Meese's legal difficulties soon will release a report and "we'll see what it says. It's only a matter of a few days away."
The comments of the Bush aides were reported in the Detroit News, the latest development in an ethical controversy that has provided Democrats with campaign ammunition and turned Meese into a political embarrassment in the eyes of some Republican strategists.
The paper, in a story published earlier in the day, said Peter Teeley, Bush's communications director, and Robert Teeter, a senior campaign adviser, made the comments in interviews this week in Washington.
"Meese is a liability," Teeley was quoted as saying.
"What a guy like Meese does is take away the opportunity to discuss the issues that you really want to discuss," Teeley told the newspaper. "I mean, you are consistently asked about Meese's problems, how you deal with it, how you stand . . ."