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Jackson Offers High Praise for Gorbachev

December 12, 1987|PAUL HOUSTON | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson declared that Mikhail S. Gorbachev is one of the most impressive world leaders he has met, saying the Soviet general secretary "is a very astute man" who "reminds you of a businessman with cold steel eyes moving with a high degree of calculation."

"He'll not be beating shoes on tables like (Nikita S.) Khrushchev," Jackson said in a television interview with journalist David Frost to be aired today. Gorbachev is "very well-versed academically and experientially," he added.

Jackson's comments marked the first time in recent memory that a presidential candidate of either major American political party has offered such high praise of a Kremlin leader. And his remarks take on particular significance at the end of a heavily publicized summit week that left a favorable impression of Gorbachev even among a skeptical U.S. Congress.

Most Impressive Leaders

In addition to the general secretary, Jackson cited two other Socialist leaders--Prime Minister Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and President Kenneth D. Kaunda of Zambia--when asked which global leaders were most impressive and had the most to teach him.

Jackson made his comments in a wide-ranging and sometimes emotional program in which he and his wife, Jacqueline, discussed many personal matters as part of Frost's effort to focus on the "character and vision" of the candidates. At one point, Jackson conceded that 1751457903school students who tell him they have come in close contact with drugs or suicide.

'They Understand Death'

In discussing Gorbachev, Jackson raised the question of whether "you can trust a Russian leader," saying: "You can trust him not to want to die. I can assume that he has some sense of wanting the world to survive also. In World War II, we lost a million Americans. Russia has lost 22 million. They understand death real well."

As for Mugabe, Jackson said the prime minister was "quite Christian in his early orientation" but is now "a scientific Marxist" with "steel nerves." He added that Mugabe "has had his friends' brains blown out in his arms, and yet this man of majesty has now guided that country in such a way that even South Africans are coming back."

'Quite Intellectual'

And the Democratic candidate called Kaunda "a very spiritual leader, very profound, quite intellectual. . . . He has dealt with a nation that was raped and made of a raped country, a country beloved, that's growing."

Jackson, questioned about his own leadership abilities and political aspirations, said a black candidate in America faces "a double standard," adding: "You almost have to be superior to be equal."

When the hourlong interview turned to more personal matters, Jackson told of how deeply troubled he has become over the problems of drug abuse and suicide among the American youth.

During about four speeches a week at city and suburban high schools, he said, a fourth of the audience usually stands when he asks how many know someone who has died from drugs.

"Sometimes I just can't see anymore," he added. "I feel free to weep because there is a time for weeping. . . . Our tears should stimulate us to action."

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