- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2002

From combined dispatches
Former President Bill Clinton yesterday urged his party to present a message that focuses on national security and reviving the economy, but also to remain united against conservative media criticism.
In a speech at New York University, Mr. Clinton's first to party leaders since the midterm elections, the former president told a gathering of the Democratic Leadership Council that Democrats failed because of a lack of clarity on those issues.
"When people feel uncertain, they'd rather have somebody that's strong and wrong than somebody who's weak and right," he told the DLC, a national organization composed of centrist and conservative Democrats.
Much of the party's weakness, Mr. Clinton said, also can be blamed on Democrats' failure to back each other when they are attacked by other politicians and "extreme right-wing elements in the media."
"Somebody's got to lead the Democrats, in the House, in the Senate, and running for president. And the rest of us have got to stand up for them and stand with them when they're subject to these attacks," said Mr. Clinton, who was impeached on a mostly party-line vote that his administration attributed to Republicans' "extreme partisanship" and a "vast right-wing conspiracy."
Mr. Clinton said the Democrats lacked appeal to voters who felt insecure after the September 11 terrorist attacks. He said the party also failed to attract those looking for a way to revive the sluggish economy.
"We don't have to be more liberal, but we do have to be more relevant in a positive way," he said.
Bob Borosage, co-director of Campaign for America's Future, a liberal policy group, dismissed Mr. Clinton's call for Democrats to move away from more liberal positions to achieve electoral success.
"I think he was just pandering to his DLC audience," he said. "All the positioning on labels is just DLC nonsense."
Republicans scored last-minute victories in U.S. Senate races that were considered dead heats on Election Day in New Hampshire, Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri. The Republican sweep enabled the party to regain control of the Senate.
Mr. Borosage blamed the influence of the centrist DLC for the Democrats' failures in the last election.
"Everyone with a head on their shoulders knows that the Democrats didn't say anything about the economy," he said.
The Democrats should take a more "progressive position" on the economy, said Mr. Borosage, which would entail ending the days of "arguing that the most important thing is to balance the budget."
Even the DLC, according to Mr. Borosage, is now starting to move left on economic issues. "They are now saying that the economy has to be kick-started with deficit spending, investments and tax cuts for the middle class," he said.
Mr. Clinton said Democrats "have a heavy responsibility to cooperate in uniting this country on security issues, and also to come up with better ideas across the board." Going after terrorists should be the first concern in the Democrats' national security plan, Mr. Clinton said, adding that the war on terrorism is more pressing than United Nations weapons inspections in Iraq.
"Al Qaeda should be our top priority," said the two-term president. "Iraq is important, but the terror network is more urgent in terms of its threat to our security."
Mr. Clinton helped found the DLC in the 1980s to steer Democrats toward a more centrist image.
James G. Lakely of The Washington Times contributed to this report.

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