DEARBORN, MICH., OCT. 14 -- Vice President Bush, stung by his early setbacks in the battle for convention delegates here, tonight lashed out at what he called "kamikaze warfare" by Republican rivals evangelist Marion G. (Pat) Robertson and Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.).
Bush denounced efforts -- so far successful -- by a coalition of Kemp and Robertson forces to exclude from the Michigan delegate selection process about 1,200 Republican nominees to state and local office, most of whom are committed to Bush. The Bush campaign has gone to court over the issue, hoping to avert a possible defeat in this state, which Bush carried in the 1980 Republican primary.
The Kemp-Robertson forces have effectively taken control of the party organization here. Without mentioning them by name, Bush tonight complained harshly about his predicament, portraying the Kemp-Robertson people as intruders in the Republican Party and recalling his service as the party's national chairman.
"I don't like kamikaze warfare coming in to disrupt an entire party and leave it in shambles later on," he said in a question-and-answer session with several hundred Michigan GOP precinct workers. "I want to see us play fair," he added.
Bush, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, suffered another setback by Robertson in an Iowa straw poll last month, and he referred sarcastically tonight to claims that the television evangelist is bringing new people into the GOP. "Yes, I think new people are welcome and all, but. . . we've got to fight it," he said, urging the party veterans not to relent in the "tough" Michigan contest. The state's national convention delegates are to be selected by late January, just before the Iowa caucuses.
Explaining the Iowa straw poll defeat, Bush said tonight that while Robertson had amassed his troops at the political event, "a lot of people that support me, they were off at the air show, they were off at their daughter's coming-out party, or they were off teeing up on the golf course for that all-important last round, or they were turning up at a high school reunion."
Bush, who officially launched his campaign Monday with a pledge not to raise taxes, raised new questions about that pledge today in an interview in Atlanta with Cable News Network in which he said:
"What I have said is if I were convinced that all the spending that could possibly be constrained or cut had taken place, then and only then would I consider a tax increase." This language is similar to a formulation used by Reagan in the past and by Bush in 1984. Bush said today, "I've always said that, same as Ronald Reagan. Anyone thinks he's soft on raising taxes -- they're crazy."
After flying to Michigan, Bush insisted he was not opening the door to a tax increase. He told reporters here, "I'm not going to raise taxes, period."
Earlier today, in an address to a business group in Atlanta, Bush proposed a reduction in the tax rate on capital gains to 15 percent from the current maximum of 28 percent. Bush said this new tax break "would not cost the government a dime," adopting the argument by supply-side enthusiasts that such a tax cut would generate more revenue than it would lose because it would stimulate economic activity. Others have said, however, that such tax cuts would cost the government revenue and enlarge the federal deficit. A Bush spokesman said the vice president is proposing a tax break on capital gains for individuals, not corporations.
Last year, as part of the tax revision bill, special breaks for capital gains income -- profits made over a period of time on such things as real estate and stocks -- were removed. The administration has maintained that the tax code should not be altered to provide new tax breaks. Bush has previously advocated new tax breaks for the oil and gas industry.
Bush also fired back tonight at criticism from Owen Bieber, president of the United Auto Workers union. Bieber had attacked the vice president's offhand remark in Belgium recently that Detroit could use quality-control advice from Soviet army mechanics, which received wide attention here and for which Bush later apologized. Bieber took a "cheap political shot at me," Bush said when asked about the controversy.