House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. (D.-Mass.), making his own last hurrah before retiring, yesterday counterpunched President Reagan's attacks on him, saying "the truth is a frequent casualty in the heat of an election campaign."
Reagan, meanwhile, headed west through Colorado and Nevada as part of his week-long drive to boost Republicans in tight Senate races.
In Alabama, the chaotic three-way race for governor calmed a bit with Attorney General Charlie Graddick's decision to give up his faltering write-in campaign, leaving the field to fellow Democrat Bill Baxley and Republican Guy Hunt.
O'Neill used an appearance before the Wisconsin Board of Education in Milwaukee to respond to Reagan's campaign pitch of recent weeks against congressional Democrats, O'Neill in particular.
"I must say that I get a kick out of the president campaigning across the country one day attacking Democrats--warning against electing a 'hostile Congress,' and then returning to Washington to sign the bipartisan drug bill, the bipartisan tax bill and the bipartisan immigration bill," O'Neill said.
"He made up quotes from me alleging that I wanted to raise taxes."
"Well, that is about as accurate as the president's assertion that trees are the leading polluter in America," O'Neill said. He referred to 1980 campaign remarks in which Reagan suggested that trees and other vegetation were serious sources of air pollution.
"For the last two years I said there would be no new taxes unless the president asked for them. He did not ask, so we did not act," O'Neill said.
"But as we all know, the truth is a frequent casualty in the heat of an election campaign," the speaker added.
Reagan, though, was still warning voters that Democrats are itching to raise taxes.
In Colorado Springs, Colo, Reagan said the choice in the Senate race there is between a supporter of a strong defense or "a man who would vote to weaken America and raise your taxes."
Republican Rep. Ken Kramer is in a dead heat with Democratic Rep. Tim Wirth to succeed Sen. Gary Hart, who is retiring to concentrate on gaining the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination.
Reagan repeated his resolve to pursue the Strategic Defense Initiative to produce a shield against attack by nuclear missiles. The issue has become a jobs issue in Colorado.