NEW YORK – Former President Bill Clinton laid out the Democratic battle plan Tuesday in a speech to moderate Democrats in which he critiqued what went wrong on Election Day.
"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,'' Clinton told about 200 members of the Democratic Leadership Council, the organization he helped found back in 1984 and then used to propel him to a White House victory a decade ago. "We don't have to be more liberal, but we do have to be more relevant in a positive way."
Echoing the recent media criticism by former Vice President Al Gore and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, Clinton partly blamed Democratic defeats on what he believes is a Republican-influenced media. However, he cited only the Wall Street Journal by name.
"Democrats have to have ideas to win. Republicans will always have more money, more powerful interest groups, the fervor of right-wing emotions," he said. "They have an increasingly right-wing and bellicose conservative press."
Clinton, who was a frequent campaigner on the Democratic election trail this fall, said Democrats lost on "message, money and turnout."
"The problem with our message was that to weak Democrats and independents, we were MIA on national security and we had no positive plan for America's domestic future. It's not fair to say we were missing in action on national security. The Democrats supported the president in the war against terror."
Referring to the recently established Cabinet-level Homeland Security Department, Clinton said the administration has to do more than just reorganize the government. It has to put forward plans like those proposed by Democrats that are aimed at protecting the nation's bridges, tunnels and infrastructure from would-be terrorist attacks.
He urged Democrats to unite and fight back against Republican attacks and urged them to discuss more about the faltering economy.
"We've got to look strong. When people feel uncertain, they would rather have someone who is strong and wrong than weak and right," he said.
Clinton was reflective and philosophical in his off-the-cuff, hour-long speech in which he spoke on topics ranging from tax cuts to the Peace Corps. He said that while Iraq is clearly an important issue, the more pressing priority is the threat to the nation posed by Al Qaeda and pointed to the recent attacks in Kenya and the bombing of a Bali nightclub as proof of their continued strength.