NEW YORK — Vice President George Bush has declined to participate in an ongoing public television series about the 1988 presidential campaign, "Candidates '88 With Marvin Kalb." He thus becomes the only one of the current presidential aspirants not to be interviewed by Kalb before a studio audience on the weekly, hourlong series.
His replacement on the Jan. 3 broadcast, Kalb said, will be former Sen. Gary Hart, newly re-entered into the Democratic presidential race.
"Intellectually, I simply don't understand it . . . it is mystifying," Kalb, the former NBC News correspondent, said of Bush's withdrawal.
"The official reason given was that he is overbooked," Kalb said by telephone Wednesday from Cambridge, Mass., where the series originated at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
"Unofficially," he continued, "I was given a variety of other problems that all the candidates have, such as being overtired and having the scheduling problem of traveling all 50 states. More significantly, I think, I was told that a one-hour, substantive conversation with Marvin Kalb, on TV, would not advance the Bush candidacy."
A spokeswoman for Bush said Wednesday that the decision not to participate in the PBS series was made on the basis of "time limitations," and not because of any unwillingness to take part in this type of TV program. She said that the campaign leaders reached a final decision just this week "because we didn't want to preclude participation until we could take a hard look at the schedule nearer the time (of the Jan. 3 program)."
To date, all but five of the contending Democratic and Republican Presidential hopefuls have appeared on the series, which premiered Nov. 1 on most public television stations around the country, including KCET Channel 28, where it is broadcast Sundays at noon.
The series is set to include a Jan. 10 appearance by Gov. Bruce Babbitt and is scheduled to conclude with a Jan. 17 session with Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.).
This week's session with Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) was scheduled to be taped in Cambridge Wednesday night, for delayed broadcast Sunday, due to the Christmas holiday weekend.
"We've had more conversations with the Bush campaign than with any other, and in these talks they went from 'yes' to 'maybe' to 'it looks pretty bad,' " said Kalb, noting that invitations to participate in the series were extended to all the presidential candidates last June.
Kalb said he still would "accommodate" Bush, should this week's decision be reversed. He said the series, which is funded by the New York Stock Exchange Foundation and produced by Boston public television station WGBH, could be extended to Jan. 24.