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Democrats Should Return to Liberal Roots, says Former Presidential Contender - 2003-05-29

A one-time U.S. presidential hopeful says his fellow Democrats should return to their liberal roots, while embracing issues like homeland security. Former Colorado Senator Gary Hart is urging Democrats to oppose the president, while embracing some of his rhetoric.

Mr. Hart says he is unapologetically a liberal Democrat, and that there is nothing wrong with the term "liberal," which he says signifies bold thinking and the willingness to look for new solutions.

But he says Democrats have let the President control the debate on issues like Iraq, homeland security and, especially, tax cuts. Wednesday, Mr. Bush signed into law a tax cut of more than $300 billion, which Democrats complain will lead to huge deficits.

"Now the theory, of course, is that this will stimulate economic growth and the revenues will make up the difference," Mr. Hart said. "I know very few economists who believe that."

Mr. Hart says he will voice openly what many Democrats believe; that the President plans to eliminate much of the funding that the government uses for social spending.

"And that's what insidious about it. It's one thing to say, look, the government is too big. We shouldn't have all these social programs. Let's just cut them out and let's have a vote on it. That's what he should do," he said. "But instead, he's taking the revenues away so that down the road, when the all the trains get to the station at once and there's a huge train wreck, he'll say, gee whiz, I guess we don't have enough money to have Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid."

The Bush administration insists those public pension and medical programs are safe, and that the latest tax cut will boost the economy and increase federal revenues.

Mr. Hart, who spoke in Los Angeles Wednesday, sought his party's presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988. He was considering a run this year, but announced a few weeks ago he decided against it. He has some advice, however, for fellow Democrats, urging them to embrace the issue of homeland security and expand it to include health, education, welfare, and conservation. He says these traditional Democratic party concerns are all important to the security of the country.

He says his party is on the defensive, and that Democrats should try to control the debate in the year and a half leading up to the presidential election.