WOODSVILLE, N.H., JAN. 15 -- Vice President Bush said today "all the questions have been answered" about his involvement in the Iran-contra affair and expressed frustration with what he described as the "same old questions over and over again."
Peter Teeley, the Bush campaign's communications director, said there is no additional information on the vice president's role to come from the congressional committees. "In all fairness to the vice president, I think the press ought to consider this issue essentially closed," Teeley said. He added that Bush would answer questions only "if you hound him on it."
Speaking briefly with reporters during a campaign stop here, Bush praised Sen. Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.), vice chairman of the Senate Iran-contra committee, for speaking out Thursday on Bush's behalf. "As far as I'm concerned, all the questions have been answered, and that's the last one I'm taking on the subject," Bush said.
Rudman, also chairman of Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole's presidential campaign here, said Bush was correct in not revealing the private advice he gave the president.
Later, Bush told reporters they could send in more written questions on the Iran-contra issue but added that he would like to get the focus on "things people care about," such as the economy. "We have a good message and I would like to get it out . . . without answering the same old questions over and over again on something I don't think the American people are caring about . . . . "
Bush's reluctance to take more questions about his role marks a turnabout from last week's pledge to answer any questions except on the advice he gave President Reagan.
But today, he seemed to think that the questions had gone far enough. His aides were pleased by Rudman's comments, as well as the statement by former White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan supporting Bush's contention that he had expressed reservations about the secret Iran arms deals beyond his previously stated concerns about Israel.
The vice president's staff knew in advance that Regan and Rudman intended to speak out. Bush said he was "very pleased" about Regan, who spoke up, the vice president said, because "he wanted to tell the truth," and "I think he sees people kind of jumping on my case all the time."
Bush said he telephoned Rudman to thank him for his remarks. "Fair play," Bush said. Both the vice president and his advisers appeared to waver today on how far to take Bush's gestures of openness on the Iran-contra issue. After Teeley said the issue should be considered closed, another senior Bush adviser, chief of staff Craig Fuller, said the vice president will still answer questions about it.
When asked at the Happy Hour restaurant in Wells River, Vt., whether he intends to stop responding to questions, Bush said: "Forever? Oh no, no!"