WASHINGTON -- George Bush predicted Tuesday he will be an active and influential vice president who enjoys Ronald Reagan's confidence, but that he will not try to become a powerful public figure in the new administration.
In an interview one week before being sworn in as vicepresident, Bush said Reagan has talked to him about assignments in the areas of foreign policy, intelligence and congressional liaison in addition to his constitutional job of presiding over the Senate.
Bush also said he wants to help Reagan with the major economic plan which he predicts will be the new administration's No. 1 objective for its first 100 days.
'I want to get to work,' Bush said, expressing the wish that the inaugural ceremonies and the 30-odd parties, balls, ceremonies and other events he must attend in the next week were over.
'I want to be a useful, informed, active, substantive vice president,' he said.
But the former U.N. ambassador and liaison to China described his new role as that of a low-key presidential helper who will stay out of the limelight.
'I want to be helpful to the president,' he said. 'And that's the best and really only thing to do. If you're not, he views you as something of a problem, the whole mechanics of the thing works that you don't have anything to do, useful, except (to view) the world's biggest turkey ... but you can't help solve the biggest problems. And I want to do the latter.'
Being helpful to the president means not blowing your own horn, Bush said.
'If I'm out saying, 'Gosh, let me tell you what I managed to do the other day' ... you inevitably get cross-threaded with the president,' he said. 'It will probably mean less visibility in terms of public statements and all of that.'
In an office around the corner from Blair House where Reagan stays when he's in town, Bush said he has developed a comfortable relationship with his new boss since they teamed up almost six months ago.
'There is no real problem ... we've been on the same wave length,' he said. 'That's a tribute to Governor Reagan, in the way he reached out to me.'
Have there been differences?
'Sure, just as there will be in the future. The reason I think I have the confidence of the president is that he's not reading about them (the differences) in the UPI. I think it's the kind of thing where a good confidential relationship is one in which you speak up and make differences, but the two people there don't think one or the other is going to run out and make it public.'
'He's very easy to do that with,' Bush said. 'He's invited that. He's said 'I want differences of opinion.' There is public misconception of Ronald Reagan. He's got strong convictions. But he is not afraid of ideas, nor does he want to be surrounded by yes people.'
'I just say, 'listen, here's my view on this,'' Bush said.
Bush defends Reagan against charges he has been remote from his advisers during the transition.
'I know he's been involved. He's made the final Cabinet decisions,' Bush said. 'How do I know? Because I was clued in on all that. I know he's been involved in some of these next layers of appointments.'
'I think it's correct he's not felt inclined to look like he was running the country, or be here all the time ... and I don't equate that with being out of touch,' Bush said.
'He's not going to be worrying about every detail. We are in for a different kind of president. He really does want to get more of an active Cabinet approach and I think he wants to have conflicts of ideas debated in front of him,' he said.
Bush said he can learn a lot from the way his predecessor handled the job.
'Vice President Mondale set a standard that none other has achieved,' he said. 'I'd like to see certain ingredients of his vice presidency be part of what I try to do -- access to the president, confidentialrelationship, not out there posturing, trying to build himself up.'
Like Mondale, Bush has been assured he will have some status not given other vice presidents -- a seat on the National Security Council, an office in the White House and a vice presidential staffer sitting in on all White House senior staff meetings.
'You know the whole thing is to knock the vice president, and everybody laughs,' Bush said. 'I keep saying to myself, that's true, but everybody seems to want to be that. So here I am. Now try to be useful.'