Campaigning last week, Vice President Bush attempted to flex a little conservative muscle, but his comments could backfire.

Bush, according to The New York Times, boasted to a GOP audience that he was director of the CIA "at a very difficult time. I went in there when it had been demoralized by the attacks of a bunch of little untutored squirts from Capitol Hill, going out there, looking at these confidential documents without one simple iota of concern for the legitimate national security interests of this country. And I stood up for the CIA then, and I stand up for it now. And defend it. So let the liberals wring their hands and consider it a liability. I consider it a strength."

Bush's remarks seemed clearly directed at the activities of the Senate select committee that investigated the CIA, known as the Church Committee for its chairman, the late senator Frank Church (D-Idaho). In 1975 the panel issued a report highly critical of the CIA.

The report was endorsed by such committee members as Republicans Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (Md.) and Richard S. Schweiker (Pa.), President Reagan's first secretary of health and human services. White House chief of staff Howard H. Baker Jr., then a committee member, said, "The abuses {uncovered by the committee} cannot be condoned and should have been investigated long ago."

Asked whether that "bunch of little untutored squirts" included Baker, Mathias and Schweiker, a Bush aide reported that the vice president "was referring to committee staffers and not to members of Congress."