WINTERSET, IOWA, JAN. 30 -- Vice President Bush turned aside questions about Attorney General Edwin Meese III today but told Republican voters here, "I never judge people as guilty until they're found guilty."
Questioned by reporters about disclosures suggesting that Meese failed to pursue allegations of a possible bribery plan, Bush said, "I'm not going to talk about that."
But when a voter asked Bush about the "parade" of Reagan administration officials ousted for legal problems, without specifically mentioning Meese, the vice president recalled the case of former labor secretary Raymond J. Donovan, acquitted of racketeering charges after leaving the Cabinet.
Bush said Donovan was "accused in the press" and by "politicians" of "having done something wrong." Donovan "spent a quarter of a million dollars" defending himself in court, Bush said, and when he was acquitted asked publicly, "What office do I go to to get my good name back?"
Bush, who is campaigning for the GOP presidential nomination, then criticized what he described as a lack of ethics in Congress, in the "executive branch" and on Wall Street. As president, he said, he would "set high standards and say I don't want anybody coming to Washington to a Bush administration to profit. I want them to come to serve. It's a point I feel very strongly about."
While Bush has often criticized behavior in Congress and on Wall Street, he has defended members of the Reagan administration accused of wrongdoing, including former National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, who admitted destroying evidence and lying to Congress.