Presidential candidate Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) said yesterday that he has sharp disagreements with President Reagan's "confusing" Central America policy and other foreign policies, and objected to an article in yesterday's Washington Post that indicated he had narrowed his differences with Reagan in a speech on Monday.
"The Washington Post headline and coverage of my speech to the VFW Veterans of Foreign Wars . . . was dead wrong," Glenn said in a telephone interview from New York.
"My statements in that speech dealt with the Third World in general and only addressed Central America as part of the Third World problem," explaining why he had not included his oft-stated criticism of "right-wing death squads" in the VFW speech. He had criticized the death squads as recently as last Saturday in a Democratic presidential forum in Iowa.
Glenn said Monday's VFW speech was "totally consistent with my previous statements on those subjects going back months and in some cases years."
"Throughout this campaign, I have absolutely refused to adopt positions or alter my views to make a special appeal to any particular voting group," Glenn said. "I have not and I will not do that with regard to these issues, and I did not do it in this case . . . . "
Glenn's speech covered a variety of foreign policy and defense issues, and in some cases his positions were similar to views that have been voiced by Reagan, who also spoke to the VFW on Monday.
The Los Angeles Times report of the story said Glenn "sounded like a younger Reagan without the oratorical skills," adding, "His foreign policy views frequently paralleled the president's."
Glenn said he took issue with the Los Angeles Times characterization, but said he was more disturbed by the implication in The Post article that he had changed past positions. "I think it's just very tortured logic . . . , when you think that every time I make a statement I'm supposed to include a whole litany of things, or I'm then accused of changing my position just because I don't mention some things," he said.
In the interview, Glenn also objected to the suggestion that he had adopted some of the president's 1980 campaign rhetoric when he said "our military might is for maintaining the peace."
"I've talked about our military might and maintaining the peace for 20 years," Glenn said. "To infer that I'm picking that up and copying Reagan and changing my position is just flat out not right."
He also indicated that he feared some political damage from The Post article.
"I imagine there are 50,000 copies going out in Iowa today. Which are wrong," he said.
In his speech to the VFW, Glenn outlined principles he said should guide the United States "throughout the Third World."
"Although we must recognize that most revolutions have their roots in poverty and injustice, the threat of communist subversion cannot be denied. Failing to address either of these . . . would be a serious mistake," he said.
He said in the speech that the United States "must encourage the forces of justice and reform," and said that in some cases economic aid "will be enough." Other cases, he said, "may call for military intervention." But he said that should be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Finally, he said that any policy must have the support of the American people. "Never again should we send American troops to fight wars we do not intend to win," he said, in language echoing Reagan's address to the VFW in 1980. Glenn then added, "Never again should we embrace policies that contradict our principles."
Another sentence that read, "In short, let there be no more Vietnams," was eliminated from earlier drafts of the speech because Glenn's advisers "thought it was . . . irresponsible shorthand," according to press secretary Greg Schneiders.
Schneiders said the three principles were written in a way that an audience would hear not only references to communism and the threat of subversion, but also would infer Glenn's support for human rights. He also said the references to death squads were left out because they apply specifically to Central America and Glenn was speaking of the entire Third World.
In past statements on Central America, Glenn has regularly charged that the death squads are responsible for two-thirds of the killings in El Salvador.
In his telephone interview yesterday, Glenn stood by those characterizations and said that his basic objection to Reagan's policies was that they were confusing "and we need to bring some order out of the whole thing. This was not a specific rebuttal to the president nor a speech on Central America," Glenn said yesterday.