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Democrats Trying To Turn Focus From Gulf War to Domestic Front

March 23, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Democrats are vowing to push domestic issues to the forefront of public debate, hoping a focus on the home front will erode the boost the Persian Gulf war is giving President Bush and his fellow Republicans.

″Our economy is in trouble,″ Democratic Chairman Ron Brown said today. ″This administration does not have a common sense economic policy that speaks to the needs of everyday working Americans. I think that’s going to be the issue″ in the 1992 campaign.

But as Brown tried to play up the Democrats chances of unseating Bush one of the party’s most controversial figures said that would happen only if the Democrats developed a coherent message of their own.

Boston University president John Silber said the party’s number one problem was that it was relying on Republicans to fail instead of offering a more attractive platform.

″There’s no appeal to a party that has to prepare a recipe for disaster to have to win an election,″ Siber said. ″If we can’t do better than the Republicans are doing we are a sorry lot.″

Silber, who lost the 1990 gubernatorial race in Massachusetts, said he has no plans now to run for president but does not rule it out.

The party regulars got their spirits boosted Friday afternoon by one of their past and perhaps future presidential aspirants, House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, who promised congressional Democrats would not shy away from clashes with the popular president.

″We’ve got the right message, we’ve got the right ideas, we’ve got the right values,″ Gephardt told members of the Democratic National Committee. ″This is the party that represents, that cares for, that does things for the people of this country.″

Ironically, Gephardt’s emotional stump speech came just hours after he told reporters he was not running for pre 0 oval to several resolutions dealing with domestic policy, offering their positions while criticizing Bush’s stands on energy policy, his support for allowing companies to permanently replace strikers and opposition to mandated parental leave.

The Democrats, the majority party in both chambers of Congress, also gave initial approval to a resolution opposing limits on congressional terms, an idea supported by the GOP and one that appears to be picking up steam with voters.

And the Democrats took time out as well to salute the troops who fought the Gulf war.

Final votes on the measures are scheduled for today.

With Bush’s popularity soaring because of the swift victory in the Gulf war, early assessments of the Democratic Party’s chances of winning the White House in 1992 are bleak.

But the activists gathered for the two-day Washington meeting predict the glow from the Gulf war will wear off, particularly if the economy languishes in recession.

″The American people are going to be tired of it,″ Texas Democratic Chairman Bob Slagle said of the war as a political issue.

″In three months I just don’t believe the American public is going to be talking about the victory in Iraq,″ said Phil Angelides, the California party chairman.

Gephardt wasn’t the only former Democratic presidential candidate to drop by the DNC meeting.

Jesse Jackson urged the party to be more aggressive in promoting statehood for the District of Columbia. He then met with reporters and predicted he could win the Democratic nomination in 1992, but said he had not decided whether to seek it.

Jackson said he would decide ″later in the fall″ whether to run for president a third time.

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