President Reagan said today that if he seeks reelection in 1984 he will ask Vice President Bush to run with him again because "you don't break up a combination that is working."
Reagan made the statement aboard Air Force One returning to Washington after aides asked him to confirm comments published in today's Houston Post. In an interview on his way to Texas, the president said he has decided to ask Bush to be his running mate if he enters the race. But he added that the stress of being vice president might make Bush reluctant to run again.
"I think we get along just fine," Reagan was quoted as saying. "But it would be his decision to make and I understand when there comes a time when someone says 'enough already.' "
Shirley Green, Bush's acting press secretary, said the vice president has not said that he will run with Reagan. However, she said Bush has indicated he was only waiting for the president to say if he wanted a second Reagan-Bush ticket.
Reagan's remarks about Bush topped off a heavily political weekend for the president that fanned talk among his aides and supporters here that he has decided to run for a second term. Speaking at a fund-raiser for Sen. John G. Tower (R-Tex.), Reagan made stinging political jokes at the expense of the leading Democratic candidate for president, former vice president Walter F. Mondale.
Talking about his success in slowing inflation and recent signs of economic recovery, Reagan said that despite Democratic claims to the contrary his economic policies have been fair to rich and poor.
"And I get a little irritated with that constant refrain about compassion," he said. "I got an unsigned valentine in February and I'm sure it was from Fritz Mondale. The heart on it was bleeding."
The political tone of the weekend continued after Reagan, in his weekly radio address to the nation today, said he does not support spending more federal dollars on education despite a report that said the poor quality of American schools is threatening the nation's future.
Reagan was adamant that the federal government not increase its activities in education for any reason.
The education commission said states and local officials have the primary reponsibility for financing and governing schools, but the federal government must provide national leadership and "help fund and support" efforts to promote the national interest in education.
"There are things the federal government can and must do to ensure educational excellence," Reagan said.
"But bigger budgets are not the answer. Federal spending increased 17-fold during the same 20 years that marked such a dramatic decline in quality."
Reagan's remarks drew fire from Mondale and two other Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. John Glenn (Ohio) and Sen. Gary Hart (Colo.).
"The president has said we need hope and we need to face the future. The problem is his policies do neither," the former vice president said in a prepared statement released in Washington and in New Hampshire, where he was campaigning.
Glenn, in a campaign speech in Marietta, Ga., said Reagan's budget cuts have also cut down America's standing as a leader in scientific research.
"That's what I call eating our seed corn," Glenn said. "We have to stop trying to turn the clock back. That's not how we're going to stay in a leadership position and have a better standard of living for Americans."
Hart issued a statement saying that while the president calls the schools unsatisfactory, the president's response to their problems is "unacceptable." He added: "Instead of talking about school prayer and tuition tax credits he should be talking real steps to improve our educational system."
Rep. Norman Y. Mineta (D-Calif.), in the official Democratic response to the speech, said: "The president does not seem to understand that it is his policies and his proposals that threaten public education in this nation as it never has been threatened before."