Vice President Bush today accused Walter F. Mondale of running a "mean-spirited campaign" by seeking political gain from the "human tragedy" in Beirut and "inappropriately" exploiting the stalled arms talks with the Soviet Union.
Speaking to 4,000 boisterous, flag-waving people at Texas Tech, Bush said Mondale's campaign amounted to "whining, tearing down the president and hoping there is going to be some bad news."
Bush, apparently roused by one of his largest crowds, gave his most cutting speech of the campaign, and it was enthusiastically received.
"Geraldine Ferraro, eat your heart out. I never saw a crowd like this," Bush said at the beginning of his speech, referring to the big crowds that often greet his vice-presidential opponent.
Then he castigated "liberals like [House Speaker Thomas P.] Tip O'Neill [Jr. (D-Mass.)] and Walter Mondale . . . [who] have had their chance and now all they can see in this great country of ours is gloom and disaster [and try to] scare, frighten, whine and carp, and hope something goes wrong so they can get back into office."
In a news conference later, Bush elaborated on what he called Mondale's "mean-spirited campaign," citing the car-bombing of the U.S. Embassy annex in east Beirut last week and Mondale's talks with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko in New York.
"I want to express concern over the direction the Democratic campaign has taken in recent days," Bush said reading a prepared statement. "We've seen Walter Mondale take a human tragedy in the Middle East and try to turn it to personal political advantage.
"And we've seen Mr. Mondale inappropriately try to exploit sensitive discussions between the president and Foreign Minister Gromyko . . ." he continued. "In these last couple of weeks [Mondale has] descended to personal attacks against President Reagan. There's not one positive idea contained in all of Walter Mondale's carping and criticism, not one idea worthy of a man running for the highest office in the land."
Bush credited Mondale with one idea -- raising taxes to pay off the deficit. But the vice president said that idea "bombed so badly [Mondale] doesn't even talk about it anymore."
Bush was unstinting in his criticism. After telling the crowd that he knew Texans would "never vote for a weak leader, a tax raiser, a more government hand-out promiser like Walter Mondale," the vice president told reporters he knew the reason for Mondale's recent attacks on Reagan.
"[They are] looking for some way to get their dragging campaign off its backside," he said bluntly.
Bush defended Reagan against Mondale's recent charges that the president has not "mastered what he must know to command his own government" and "didn't bother to learn" that submarine-based nuclear missiles cannot be recalled once they are fired.
"Make no mistake about it, this president is in charge," Bush told the students. "He is in touch, he is a strong leader. I saw it when he met with Gromyko the other day. I was there."