SPARTANBURG, S.C. — U.S. loans to East Bloc countries have imperiled the American textile industry and permitted "communist tyranny around the world," Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson said Monday, accusing his rival, Vice President George Bush, of doing nothing to combat the problem.
Speaking in textile-dependent northwest South Carolina, Robertson escalated his effort to portray himself as a populist and Bush as a candidate of the wealthy establishment. Robertson is campaigning extensively in the state prior to the March 5 vote here, which he hopes will demonstrate his ability to win against Bush in a primary.
Robertson said Western banks have lent $120 billion to communist countries and that the countries refuse to repay the loans unless they are allowed to export huge amounts of textiles to this country. As a result, textile imports from the Soviet Union, Hungary and Zimbabwe have soared since January, 1986, while 300,000 U.S. textile jobs were lost, he said.
'Bush Had 8 Years'
"George Bush has had eight years to come up with a textile policy," Robertson told a breakfast crowd at the Beacon drive-in restaurant here. "We haven't heard one word about textiles from him. Who does he represent? I'm not going to say--you can figure (it out) yourself, which side he's playing on in relation to the United States' interest. I'm for the American worker. . . ."
Trying to recover from his last-place finish in the New Hampshire primary, the former religious broadcaster also was fighting to prevent getting tarnished from the latest sex scandal involving a television evangelist.
After addressing a rally at Clemson University, Robertson was asked by a reporter to comment on Jimmy Swaggart's confession that he had sinned and would leave his pulpit for an indefinite period following reports that he went to a hotel with a prostitute.
"I don't know anything about it," Robertson said. "Ask George Bush. Have you asked him what his reaction was?"
"No," the reporter responded, noting that Bush was never a television evangelist.
"I'm sorry. I don't have any comment. I don't know anything about it," Robertson repeated. "I know as much as you do."
Concerned About Fallout
The Robertson campaign is concerned that fallout from the Swaggart affair may get in the way of Robertson's appeal to new voters. At the Town and Country shopping center in Easley, Kathleen Carmen said friends who support Robertson had urged her to come and listen to him. She said he was a good speaker but said she has "a long way to go" before supporting him. The Swaggart scandal, she said, "has a big hand" in making her reluctant.
At 13 campaign stops Monday, Robertson drew crowds numbering from two dozen to several hundred. At each stop, Robertson sought to sell himself as "one of you," noting that he is the only GOP candidate born in the South.