Bill Clinton, who left presidency two years ago, is calling on the Democratic Party to present a new and clear message focusing on national security and the economy. The former president's remarks came less than one month after Democrats lost control of the U.S. Congress to Republicans in mid-term elections.
Mr. Clinton says the Democratic Party can recover from the sweeping losses of the November elections. But he says in order to win back control of the U.S. Congress and the White House in 2004, the party must offer the American people a unified message with clear values and an emphasis on national security and the fight against terrorism. "We have a heavy responsibility to cooperate in uniting this country on security issues and also to come up with better ideas across the board. We do not have to be more liberal but we do have to be more relevant in a progressive way," he says. "We have to have a clear and strong national security stand. We have to compare results with their efforts and ours and we have to be tough and disciplined."
Mr. Clinton was addressing the Democratic Leadership Council, a group of moderate Democrats that he helped found in the 1980s. Its centrist vision also helped lead him to the White House in 1992.
In a nearly hour long speech, he called on Democrats to challenge negative images of Democrats that they are not serious about security. The former president says his party should point out that the newly created Department of Homeland Security, billed by the Bush Administration as a Republican victory, was originally presented by a Democratic Senator.
And, Mr. Clinton says Democrats should articulate the belief that the war against terrorism is more urgent than a possible conflict with Iraq. "What should our security position be? Al Qaida should be our top priority," he says. "Iraq is important but the terrorist network is more urgent in terms of our security, as we have seen recently in the attacks in Kenya and in Bali."
Mr. Clinton also criticized the Bush Administration's recent tax cut, saying it was presented before expenses were known and adopted without sufficient measures to stimulate the economy.
The former president repeatedly called on Democrats to defend themselves against Republican attacks in the media and to stand up for the values of the Democratic Party. "The last point I want to make is we have got to be strong," he says. "When we look weak at a time when people feel insecure, we lose. When people feel uncertain, they would rather have someone who is strong and wrong than someone weak who is right."
Mr. Clinton says Democrats should sit back, take a deep breathe and go on. Because, he says losing a couple of elections is nothing compared to the sacrifices made by historic leaders who have given their lives for constructive change.