President Reagan, visibly angry, yesterday called the kidnapers of Brig. Gen. James Lee Dozier "cowardly bums" who won't fight fair.
The president was asked what is being done to free Dozier, the senior American officer at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization base in Verona, Italy, who was kidnaped by Red Brigades terrorists while in his Verona home.
"I think that everything is being done that can be done," Reagan began, his voice rising as he continued. "This I think is a terrible situation. It's a most frustrating situation because I would like to be able to stand sometime--I'm sure we all would--and say to the people who do these things, 'They are cowardly bums.'
"They aren't heroes or they don't have a cause that justifies what they are doing. They're cowards."
The president's anger appeared to increase as he spoke. "They wouldn't have the guts to stand up to anyone individually in any kind of a fair contest," he added.
Reagan began another sentence and then made an exasperated gesture with his right hand and broke off. He was speaking to journalists who were allowed to enter the Cabinet Room briefly to take photographs as he sat down for lunch with the leaders of the four U.S. automobile companies.
In the wake of Iran's release of the American hostages last January, Reagan declared that anyone who seized U.S. citizens would face "swift and sure" retribution.
Reagan was not asked about retribution yesterday, but White House deputy press secretary Larry Speakes was. Speakes replied that the president "recognizes this is a delicate situation."
The automobile executives emerged from their luncheon saying they were encouraged by Reagan's comments to them, but the president did not commit himself to any action to aid the sick industry.
The executives, Roger Smith, chairman of General Motors; Philip Caldwell, chairman of Ford; Lee Iacocca of Chrysler and Gerald Meyers of American Motors, told reporters they discussed several possible aids for the auto industry.
Earlier, Reagan met with AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland to discuss events in Poland. Kirkland reiterated his call for an end to all U.S. assistance until there is an end to martial law in Poland.
Kirkland was asked if he sees any hope for the Polish union Solidarity.
"Solidarity is the people, and I think the spirit still lives in the people," he replied.
Speakes said the president and Kirkland saw eye-to-eye on Poland during their meeting.
Speakes also took sharp exception to Assistant Defense Secretary Richard N. Perle's statement that the United States was taken by surprise by the Polish army's crackdown.
"We do not see his statement on that as accurate," Speakes said.
Speakes also clarified remarks Reagan made on a morning television show. Reagan said "I would think" private aid to Poland "would be suspended just as our own government aid is."
The spokesman made clear, however, that private U.S. citizens and groups such as churches and social clubs are free to send humanitarian assistance to Poland while U.S. government aid remains suspended. Reagan said at his Thursday news conference that it would be impossible to resume aid to Poland while martial law is in effect.
On "Today" (NBC, WRC), Reagan also was asked if he ever gets up in the morning and wonders why he took on his current job.
"Well, I never really go quite that far," Reagan answered. He added, however, that some days in the Oval Office aren't much fun. "There are days that all seem like Monday," he said.