OXFORD, Ohio -- Vice President George Bush told Miami University graduates Sunday that President Reagan's nuclear disarmament program is founded on a commitment to 'peace without blackmail.'
The vice president, delivering the spring commencement speech to some 2,800 graduates of the southwest Ohio university, said the possibility of war is 'always agonizing' but asked whether 'some of the rhetoric has gotten out of hand' regarding Reagan's disarmament proposals.
'The only thing this administration has done to terrify the Russians is to suggest they give up some of their weapons -- even as we give up some of ours.'
But he said that last November the Soviets rejected Reagan's zero-option proposal to limit U.S. medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe if the Soviets dismantle their SS-20s.
And when Reagan last week outlined his proposal to reduce warheads and set ceilings on missile throw weights, the Soviets immediately dismissed the idea, Bush said.
'Surely it is not too much to ask the Soviets to permit verification that will satisfy the entire world,' Bush said. 'We're willing to do it and we believe the Soviets should be too.'
The vice president said he doesn't doubt the sincerity of those who believe the United States should take the lead in nuclear disarmament regardless of the Soviet's stance.
But he warned if the United States disarms unilaterally 'likely the world would become a tributary of the Soviet empire.'
'The kind of peace America wants obviously is very different, ' Bush said. 'We want peace without blackmail. We want a world protected from Polish generals and Soviet arsenals -- not a world given over to them.'
Bush was presented with an honorary doctor of laws degree during ceremonies before a crowd of 12,000 in the university's Millett Hall.
About 60 protestors gathered outside the hall prior to the vice president's address, carrying signs complaining about 'voodoo' economics and nuclear arms.
Dave Barrett, 21, a Miami University junior, said he thought it was ironic Bush was addressing the university at a time when the president is proposing reductions in federal assistance to college students.
'I think it's outrageous that this person who supports massive cuts in education is here receiving an honorary degree,' he said.