WINTERSET, Iowa — Vice President George Bush, who has claimed ethics in government as his personal passion, snapped an angry "No" on Saturday when asked to comment on new disclosures in the investigation of Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III.
At a community meeting here in this small south-central Iowa town, a citizen asked what Bush would do as President to "upgrade" his Administration in light of scandals to hit the Reagan Administration.
Meese's name was not mentioned by the citizen. But Bush apparently expected it, answering that he did not want to "judge people as guilty until they're found guilty."
The vice president noted that one Administration official, former Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan, was tried for larceny and fraud and acquitted. Donovan's now-famous response to the verdict was to ask where he could go to "get my good name back."
But Bush also lamented the plague of investigations of misconduct that have engulfed Washington recently.
"Look, you got to have the highest ethical standard. You've got 12 members of Congress they've investigated, some by the Ethics Committee. You've got members of the Administration under a cloud of some sort, you've got people ripping off people on Wall Street.
"I have leaned over backward in my 20 years in public life in terms of full disclosure. I don't accept honorariums. I wrote a book, didn't accept an advance for it."
After the event, a reporter asked if Bush would accept one question.
"No," Bush said. Then he relented. "What is it?"
Were his comments about ethics applicable to Meese?
"No. I'm not going to talk about it," Bush replied.
The Times disclosed last week that a special prosecutor is investigating a memo indicating that Meese was once apprised in writing of a scheme to bribe a foreign official but took no action.