- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

Bill Clinton failed to lead the Democratic Party during last month's midterm elections, the Rev. Al Sharpton said yesterday, and the former president is now compounding the party's poor showing by blaming others.
"For him to say that the Democrats failed to bring out a message is wrong," Mr. Sharpton said in an interview with The Washington Times. "He was the messenger, he was the one out there and helped run the campaign, him and [Democratic National Committee Chairman] Terry McAuliffe. So how can he give an objective opinion with his subjective involvement?"
Mr. Clinton said in a speech Tuesday to the Democratic Leadership Council that the Democratic Party lost the midterm elections because its candidates could not convince voters they could handle national security, and that the party was perceived as weak in the face of terrorism.
The former president campaigned almost nonstop in the final weeks leading up to the election, stumping for candidates in person and recording telephone endorsements for others.
"I respectfully disagree with him," Mr. Sharpton said of Mr. Clinton's speech. "He should have been out there making the case for security. It was him who should have delivered that message."
He added that Mr. Clinton, who was famously described as the "first black president" by author Toni Morrison, was actually "the first beige president. If I run, I will be the first black president."
Mr. Sharpton, 48, is exploring a presidential bid and will announce his intentions early next year.
He said the wholesale losses suffered by the Democratic Party in last month's elections revealed a weakened party that needs him.
"The Democratic Party has moved away from its base and the philosophy that it has used in the past," he said. He noted that the last 12 years have produced prodigious victories for Republicans, including the retaking of Congress in 1994 as well as winning back the Senate last month.
"These guys who have been leading have failed," Mr. Sharpton said. "The analysis that you get from them is that they cannot afford to alienate the white male vote. They don't have it anyway. And for years they have been saying that we can't run off the swing voters. They aren't coming. They need to wake up and realize that the swing voter is not going to swing their way."
The last Democratic president to win a majority of the white male vote was Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
Mr. Sharpton said if he decides to run for president, he will be able to draw heavily on the votes of the working class and minorities, "all of whom did not turn out" in November's elections.
"I can get white voters. I got white voters when I ran for Senate, I got dairy farmers, I got all kinds of people. I've been moving all over the country for the last two years, talking to people. The [Democratic Party] is underestimating our impact."
As a the first black U.S. Senate candidate in New York, Mr. Sharpton in 1992 received 27 percent of the overall vote in the Democratic primary; he won 90 percent of the black vote. He also ran for mayor of New York City in 1997, surprising many, even local Democratic Party leaders, by receiving 32 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary.
He has solicited financial support for his exploratory campaign from several well-heeled contributors, including Percy Sutton, a New York civil rights lawyer; Earl Graves Jr., founder and publisher of Black Enterprise magazine; and Robert Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television.
Today Mr. Sharpton will deliver his first urban policy speech in Salt Lake City at the National League of Cities Conference.
The highlight of that speech will be a proposal to spend $250 billion over five years on infrastructure revamping, a project he said would infuse the private sector with jobs and money.

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