WASHINGTON — Vice President George Bush Friday told leaders of the Rev. Jerry Falwell's conservative Liberty Federation that the nation "is in crying need of the moral vision that you have brought . . . to our political life," and the group reciprocated with majority support for his bid for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination.
After Bush addressed a luncheon attended by about 300 state leaders of the new national federation, which incorporates the old Moral Majority, Falwell reported that a poll of "about 200" of the leaders taking part in a breakfast meeting showed that 57% supported Bush's candidacy.
Helms Also Supported
Falwell said that the poll let participants choose among eight contenders from both parties or write in another name. He listed as runners-up Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), 22%; Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), 11%; radio evangelist Pat Robertson, 9%, and Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.), 1%.
Bush received round after round of applause for endorsing political positions adopted by President Reagan and supported by the Liberty Federation, a conservative Christian umbrella group that Falwell helped organize four weeks ago.
He declared that the Constitution set the framework for "a moral as well as a political union" and said he could not believe that "our Founding Fathers intended that the Constitution prohibit children from opening their school day with simple, silent voluntary prayers."
Nor, he said, could he believe that "the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech should be used to protect smut dealers." He noted also that the GOP platform has "dedicated itself to the sanctity of human life."
Bush rejected liberal charges that religious fundamentalists have used "moral McCarthyism" and said he thinks it is "all right" for liberals and conservatives to advocate views at the extremes of the political spectrum, "even when they're 180 degrees different from what I believe in my heart."
The vice president said that the nation needs "more leaders who understand, as you do, that the way to world peace is not through a weak America but through a strong America" and who realize that Reagan's space-based missile defense program, the Strategic Defense Initiative, "is based on a fundamental moral vision . . . of a world free of the madness of nuclear terror."
The federation aims to "keep in place a conservative trend on social issues" and will "do everything we can," Falwell said, to assure election this year of a Senate that will confirm Reagan's nominations to the Supreme Court--even though there are at present no vacancies on the high court.
'Pray for Retirement'
After noting that evangelist Robertson had said that conservatives "must wait for the mortality tables to do their work," Falwell said he would not put it that way but "let's pray for retirement."
To assure a 5-4 conservative majority on the court, "we just need two more Sandra Day O'Connors," Falwell said, referring to Reagan's only appointee to the high court.