Democratic presidential front-runner Michael Dukakis came under attack from his right and left Friday as Republican George Bush labeled him "naive at best" on defense, and Jesse Jackson said the Massachusetts governor has failed to come up with an effective plan for fighting drugs.
Dukakis kept up his criticism of the administration's handling of negotiations aimed at persuading Panamanian Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega to relinquish power. Noriega is under indictment in the United States on drug charges.The vice president told reporters when asked about the negotiations, "I said I would not comment on it." But he went on to say, "I want to see change. I want to see him brought to justice."
Bush told workers at a Hughes Aircraft Corp. plant in Fullerton, Calif., that "the Dukakis doctrine is the doctrine of wishful thinking." He said the Soviets respect only strength and "to think that they would agree to cuts in their strategic and conventional arsenals in the face of unilateral American abandonment of major weapons programs is the height of folly."
In an interview published Friday, Jackson said Dukakis' drug war plan is "a farce," and he described the Massachusetts governor as sounding little different from Bush on various issues.
All three presidential candidates were in California, the last big prize of the primary season and, more importantly, the biggest bloc of electoral votes at stake in the general election.
Strategists in both parties regard California, with 47 electoral votes, as crucial to the prospects of both Bush and Dukakis. The two likely rivals appeared to be campaigning with an eye to November rather than to the June 7 primary.
With more than enough delegates for the GOP presidential nomination, Bush was using his campaign appearances as to attack Dukakis, the all-but-certain Democratic presidential nominee.
The Massachusetts governor expects the final round of Democratic primaries on June 7, including New Jersey, New Mexico and Montana as well as California, to give him the delegate majority he needs for the nomination.
Dukakis said he has not begun to consider the selection of a running mate.
Asked if he would consider someone who had supported aid to the Contra rebels in Central America, Dukakis replied that no single issue would be a disqualification.