AUSTIN, TEX., FEB. 26 -- Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis today took some indirect shots at his opponents' tax and trade policies, as the four major Democratic presidential candidates spread across the South in an intense day of campaigning with "Super Tuesday" only 11 days away.
In a speech to 2,000 people who overflowed the auditorium of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library at the University of Texas-Austin, Dukakis implicitly criticized Rep. Richard A. Gephardt's support of the 1981 federal tax cuts and Gephardt's trade bill amendment proposing retaliation against nations, like Japan, with persistent trade surpluses.
"One of the biggest mistakes in recent American history was the 1981 Reagan tax bill," Dukakis said. "In seven years, that one mistake transformed our nation from the world's largest creditor into the world's largest debtor. Reaganomics isn't an economic theory, it's theft from our children. It's a felony against the future and it has done a number on the hard-working, tax-paying families of middle America."
Declaring that "we're not going to get our fiscal house in order with more voodoo economics," Dukakis told the university audience, "we're not going to meet the challenges of the 1990s by building walls around America. We need more trade, not less. One and a quarter million southern workers depend on exports for their jobs. They know that if we're going to make America No. 1 again, we've got to do more than wave a fist at our foreign competitors; we've got to roll up our sleeves, go to work and beat them."
Gephardt, campaigning in Florida, took his anti-big-business theme to Eastern Airlines, describing the company as an example of "greed" in corporate management. Representatives of Eastern's three major unions, engaged in bitter negotiations with the company, joined Gephardt at Miami International Airport, where he called the firm "an example of the attitude of corporate management in this country, and that attitude is greed."
Eastern officials denounced the statements, saying they "should be recognized for what they are, a cheap attempt to get votes . . . . It's extremely unfortunate that a collective bargaining situation is being used for cheap political gain."
In Georgia, Jesse L. Jackson spoke to the state legislature and the Atlanta Bar Association, where he continued his peacemaker role by urging the other candidates to quit fighting. "You can become so bitter until in July there's too much emotional strain to regroup for the big race in November," he said.
Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (Tenn.) campaigned in Greensboro, N.C., and Jacksonville en route to the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Atlanta, where he, Gephardt, Dukakis and Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) delivered their standard campaign speeches to an audience of Democrats who filled two ballrooms tonight. Gephardt appeared to draw the most applause.
Dukakis came to Texas after an exhausting but politically rewarding 22-hour marathon Thursday in Florida, in which he solidified his alliance with liberal, labor, ethnic and retiree groups at rousing rallies and raised a reported $250,000 at three fund-raisers.
Dukakis has hundreds of campaign workers in Florida, and his key operatives believe he has a chance to win the largest slice of delegates in the second biggest state voting on Super Tuesday.
In Texas, Dukakis apparently faces a harder battle, but he again has deployed the largest organization and enlisted support from a liberal-labor coalition, including many activist Democratic women.
CNN will televise a debate of the six Democratic candidates in Atlanta at 3 p.m. Saturday.