President Carter's Rose Garden reelection strategy represents a "cynical abuse of presidential power," Republican presidential hopeful George Bush charged today.
Bush, fighting for his political survival in the Pennsylvania primary, said Carter has manipulated the machinery of government and misled the American people on the Iranian hostage situation in a flagrant attempt to further his reelection prospects.
'Our policy on Iran has been one of failure, inaction and even calculated deception," the former ambassador and CIA director said in a speech delivered at Gettysburg College.
He also accused Carter of engineering a low interest $290 million loan from U.S. Import Bank for Rupert Murdoch, the publisher of the New York Post, in exchange for the newspaper's endorsement of Carter in the New York primary.
But Bush deleted some even harsher criticism of Carter from his prepared remarks. At one point in the prepared text distributed earlier in the day, Bush said:
"I am sick and tired of the sanctimonious utterances from Jimmy Carter regarding the foreign policy of this nation . . . this president needs some guidance regarding ethics and morality in government."
At another point, the prepared remarks said: "Do I believe that the president has played politics with the American hostages in Iran? The answer is: He has."
Bush didn't read the more strident criticisms of Carter during the speech, one of only three public appearances he scheduled today because he wanted to spend more time taking questions from the college audience, said press secretary Peter Teeley. Bush stands by the printed text, he added.
After a string of primary defeats, Bush is running an almost entirely media-based campaign here. He is seeing few voters in person, concentrating instead on attracting as much local television and newspaper coverage as possible.
He also is staging a series of 30-minute "Ask George Bush" television shows across the state. His Pennsylvania coordinator, Thomas Tripp, said today that the shows have received so much favorable reaction that the campaign has decided to rerun them two or three times.
Bush made only one speech during six hours in Philadelphia today. And it was an essentially non-partisan address at the Union League Club, a traditional stopping off place for Republican office seekers.