BOSTON -- Michael Dukakis launched a preemptive strike Wednesday against George Bush's planned visit to polluted Boston Harbor, calling the vice president's trip an 'election-year conversion' to environmental protection.
Bush scheduled a Thursday morning briefing at the site of what will be a new sewage treatment facility, forming the backbone of the decade-long multi-billion dollar cleanup.
The Republican's foray is designed to capitalize on criticism that Dukakis failed to move quickly in cleaning up one of the nation's dirtiest harbors.
The cleanup project began in early August after years of delay, including efforts begun during the Massachusetts governor's first term to sidestep a requirement for more extensive and costlier treatment.
Dukakis, joined by Sen. George Mitchell, D-Maine, and former Sen. Paul Tsongas, D-Mass., tried to blunt the criticism by focusing instead on the Reagan administration's environmental record.
'I find it offensive that he should come here as a protector of the environment,' Tsongas told a separate Statehouse news conference. 'For George Bush to come here and present himself as an environmentalist is sort of akin to Bonnie and Clyde coming out for gun control.'
'Talk about election-year conversions,' Dukakis told a Statehouse news conference, charging the Reagan administration with 'doing everything they could to kill the Clean Water Act.'
Mitchell called the Reagan-Bush environmental record an 'unmitigated disaster,' charging the administration worked to decimate spending programs directed at the Boston Harbor cleanup.
'Simply put, if the Reagan-Bush administration had its way, there wouldn't be a federal water pollution control program today,' Mitchell said. 'They tried to kill it. Congress stopped them.'
The three-term governor defended his own cleanup efforts, insisting a request to waive secondary treatment requirements came after he was turned out of office in 1978.
He said much of his first term was spent 'trying to figure out what to do' to deal with what he said was centuries of pollution. The waiver was recommended after 'our engineers told us we could clean up the harbor with primary treatment.'
Dukakis even offered a rare defense of his long-time rival, former Gov. Edward King, under whose administration the waiver request was filed.
'I find no fault with the King administration for taking the recommendations and acting on them,' he said, charging the Environmental Protection Agency failed to act on the request until prodded by a re-elected Dukakis in 1983.