Pierre du Pont courts GOP right wing. From school prayer to economics, claims to out-Reagan Bush
Washington — Republican Pierre S. du Pont IV, already running hard for the White House in 1988, has set his sights on the party's powerful right wing. Mr. du Pont, the former governor of Delaware and a scion of one of America's wealthiest families, in June became the first 1988 candidate to set up his campaign committee. He says he favors the following programs and policies:
Voluntary prayer in the public schools.
Federally-funded vouchers to pay educational costs for students in public, private, and church-run schools.
Opposition to school busing for desegregation.
Improving schools by dropping courses like ``driver's education, photography, and bachelor living'' and replacing them with ``calculus, chemistry, foreign languages, and English.''
Support for freedom fighters in Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistan and other nations to spread self-determination around the world.
Greater deregulation of business, including the financial sector.
Supply-side economics, including tax cuts and reduced federal spending.
Stronger use of the presidential veto to force more spending cuts by Congress.
Reforming medicare with federally-funded vouchers to allow senior citizens to buy their own health-care programs.
Deregulation of natural gas prices.
Du Pont, like a number of other Republican hopefuls, apparently sees the need to lock up conservative support quickly in his quest for the White House.
Among those who have been vigorously courting the right are Senate majority leader Robert Dole of Kansas, Vice-President George Bush, and US Rep. Jack Kemp of New York. Conservatives could be a decisive force at the Republican convention in 1988.
Du Pont was widely known as a moderate during his two terms as Delaware governor. Today, he promotes himself as a natural successor to President Reagan -- as the person who would ``take the base President Reagan has built and expand on it.''
Du Pont concedes that there are few differences between his own policies and those of Vice-President Bush.
But he contends that he would be much more aggressive than Bush in advancing the Reagan philosophy.
The governor, who spent an hour with a group of reporters at breakfast this week, minces no words in asserting his conservatism on a number of ``litmus test'' issues for the party's right wing.
On school busing, for example, he discusses his experience in Delaware.
``I'm one of the people who lost a court case and had a federal judge impose a busing desegregation plan in Delaware,'' he says. ``We survived it. Our schools got better in spite of busing, not because of it.''
``It's devisive,'' he adds. ``It's wrong. And we ought to get rid of it.''
On school prayer:
``On the morning that the space shuttle blew up, it ought to have been constitutional for the school children of America to bow their heads in prayer. But it isn't. [Yet] America is a religious country.''
Mr. Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (``star wars'') draws a ringing endorsement from Du Pont.
He calls it ``the first program since Hiroshima that gives the United States an opportunity to build a defense against the most dangerous circumstance of our age.''
Few things have been more controversial than Reagan proposals to ``privatize'' American education. But Du Pont backs the entire Reagan package. He says:
``Education is one of the last things left in America today that's a government monopoly. The government sets the curriculum, chooses the textbooks, sets the schedule, decides how the schools are going to be run, hires the teachers, promotes the teachers, pays the teachers, and runs the whole system.''
It's time to free American children from that kind of system, he argues.
Du Pont, known as ``Pete'' to his friends, says he put his own children through private schools because he was looking for discipline and quality. He argues that it is time to bring that kind of superior education to every American child.