- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy proposed “a progressive vision for America” in a speech yesterday that outlined his hopes for the future of the Democratic Party.

The Massachusetts Democrat proposed a litany of spending initiatives, such as free college for everyone who finishes high school and government-sponsored health care for all. He also recommitted to preserving the Social Security system as is.

“We will not let any president turn the American dream into a nightmare for senior citizens and a bonanza for Wall Street,” Mr. Kennedy said, a reference to President Bush’s proposal to allow workers to divert some of their payroll taxes into private investment accounts. “The biggest threat to Social Security today is not the retirement of the baby boomers, it’s George Bush and the Republican Party.”

In his speech yesterday at the National Press Club, Mr. Kennedy at times struck populist tones notably similar to those of John Edwards, the former vice presidential candidate and senator from North Carolina.

“It is shameful that in America today — the richest and most powerful nation on earth — nearly a fifth of all children go to bed hungry at night because their parents are working full time and still can’t make ends meet,” the patriarch of the Democratic Party said.

Mr. Kennedy also warned fellow Democrats against becoming “Republican clones.”

“If we do, we will lose again and deserve to lose. The last thing our country needs is two Republican parties,” he said.

Mr. Kennedy vigorously dismissed the notion that the November election carried any profound lessons for Democrats, saying “a switch of less than 60,000 votes in Ohio would have brought victory” for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. Mr. Kennedy did not mention the Republican gains in the House and Senate.

“I categorically reject the deceptive and dangerous claim that the outcome last November was somehow a sweeping, or even a modest, or even a miniature mandate for reactionary measures like privatizing Social Security, redistributing the tax burden in the wrong direction or packing the federal courts with reactionary judges,” Mr. Kennedy said. “Those proposals were barely mentioned — or voted on — in an election dominated by memories of 9/11, fear of terrorism, the quagmire in Iraq and relentlessly negative attacks on our presidential candidate.”

Mr. Kennedy ended the speech with an attack on Mr. Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq, calling it “George Bush’s Vietnam.”

“Our misguided resort to war has created more — and much more intense — anti-American feeling than Osama bin Laden ever dreamed of,” he said. “And the sooner we reverse that distressing trend, the better.”

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