NASHUA, N.H. — Vice President George Bush Monday launched a broadside against the Congress--and by extension Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, his chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination--contending that "Congress is a part of the problem, not a part of the answer."
Six of the 13 major-party presidential candidates "are creatures of the U.S. Congress,"Bush told more than 100 Rotarians in Nashua.
"The President has to chart a course, has to take his message to the American people. . . .The Congress has a different role . . . modifying it, studying it, passing a commission to study something, responding.
"A President is different. You act, and then Congress reacts."
Bush did not mention Dole by name, but the rhetoric marked a shift in Bush's approach in the last crucial days before the Iowa caucuses and the succeeding New Hampshire primary. It came on the heels of a weekend Bush campaign mailer, sent to thousands of Iowans, that characterized Dole and the Congress as "inefficient."
'Typical Cheap Shot'
Campaigning in Hooksett, N.H., Dole dismissed Bush's comments as a "typical cheap shot," and said Bush had done little to further President Reagan's legislative agenda.
"We've provided the leadership for Ronald Reagan," Dole said. "He (Bush) has been running on the Reagan record. Who does he think got it through the Congress? George Bush? He didn't do anything. He doesn't even vote except in case of a tie . . . I've been carrying the mail for Ronald Reagan."
Until now, Bush has concentrated on giving voters a slice of his priorities--education, the deficit and the curtailment of nuclear weapons. But speaking before New Hampshire voters Monday, the vice president drew a sharp distinction between his executive experience and the backgrounds of other candidates.
He outlined his private and public service background and needled criticism of him as a "resume" candidate.
"People say Bush is a resume candidate. I have a feeling it doesn't hurt to have experience," he told voters gathered in a Merrimack church.
He boasted of his stewardship of the CIA in the mid-1970s, saying "I made more decisions running the Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence community in a week than I did in four years as a congressman from Texas."
Bush's comments were not meant solely for Dole; he managed a dig at virtually all of his Republican competitors with one line:
"You're going to be making a choice not for congressman, not for senator, not for governor,not for pastor," he said. "You're going to make a choice for the President."
Among the other Republican candidates are New York Rep. Jack Kemp, former Delaware Gov.Pierre S. (Pete) du Pont IV and former television evangelist Pat Robertson.
But in additional comments, Bush was clearly shooting for Dole. Asked at one point what measures he would undertake to ease the nation's drug abuse problem, Bush seized the opportunity to criticize Dole's call for a temporary spending freeze to ease the budget deficit.
He argued that a firm freeze would harm programs such as drug eradication where "we have to have additional resources.
"The straight freeze where you freeze every account simply doesn't accommodate society's changing needs," he told the Rotarians.
Bush is running ahead of Dole and four other Republicans in the polls in New Hampshire, but has placed second in polls in Iowa to Dole, who has won support from many in the state by emphasizing their shared Midwestern background. A Bush mailer sent to Iowans this weekend belittles that approach.
Staff writer Bob Secter contributed to this story.