Once and, perhaps, future Republican presidential hopeful Pierre S. "Pete" du Pont IV was one of few speakers at last weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference to strike out at President Bush and some members of his newly formed Committee for Republican Leadership.

"The president, perhaps out of a misplaced respect for the power of his old colleagues in Congress, has let the conservative standard fall," du Pont charged in the harshest speech of the conference.

Du Pont said the Bush administration abandoned conservative principles in joining in a budget agreement last fall that allowed some taxes to increase. Many of the conservatives who had been most critical of the budget agreement and of Office of Management and Budget Director Richard G. Darman have silenced their objections since the gulf war began. Not so du Pont.

He said he is not only unhappy with Darman, but also critical of new Republican National Committee Chairman Clayton Yeutter and House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).

Yeutter was wrong when he suggested in remarks to RNC members that ideologues "seldom accomplish much," du Pont said. And Gingrich, who is a member of du Pont's new group, was wrong when he criticized intraparty disputes as a waste of energy. The party, du Pont said, must regain the anti-tax high ground.