Kennedy: 'just begun to fight' maybe
Washington — Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's command decision was to try to salvage his campaign by appealing to those who have made up his constituency all along. For the doves, he was telling President Carter to be cautious in applying toughness to the Soviets -- that he must not make moves that would so antagonize the USSR that it might lead to global conflict.
For the liberals and the minorities and the poor, among others, Mr. Kennedy recommended immediate wage-price controls -- including a freeze on profits, dividends, interest rates, and rents.
When Mr. Kennedy expressed his opposition to draft registration, the students at Georgetown University screamed their approval. This Kennedy position may "play" well among doves, and, particularly, among youths.
The senator's gas-rationing proposal may not be popular with many people -- but it may gain support among those who feel the only way to avert a world war over oil is to move immediately to energy independence.
The senator apparently rejected the advice of some political aides that an attack on the President for "getting us into this mess" in Afghanistan and Iran be the centerpiece of the speech which was aimed at triggering a Kennedy comeback.
But the Democratic president challenger did charge that Mr. Carter's failure to take strong actions against Soviet troops in Cuba encouraged Russia to invade Afghanistan.
Viewers, by and large, called the Kennedy speech a "stemwinder," beautifully written and executed. "It was one of the best speeches I ever heard," one veteran observer said. However, one White House observer referred to it as "desperation politics."
More than anything else Senator Kennedy stood before the nation -- in his Georgetown university speech -- as a man who wanted to be looked on being "presidential."
Was this the kind of counsel the public and, particularly, the voters (who would vote in caucuses and primaries) in Maine and New Hampshire were waiting for? Has Senator Kennedy clearly differentiated his views from those of President Carter in a way that would turn his campaign around? Was this the "new beginning" he had hoped for? Only time would tell.
In what many see as the Kennedy make-or-break contests in New England, the senator is seeking to win by making it very clear that the President is the "conservative" and he is the "liberal."
This approach seems to counter the fact that few US senators have been more supportive of the President's programs than Mr. Kennedy.
Referring to domestic issues, Senator Kennedy made the charge -- that may not sit well with some Democratic voters -- that Mr. Carter is a "Republican president" who ran under a Democratic label.
"Under a Democratic president" he said, "we have had three more years of Republican inflation, three more years of Republican interest rates, and three more years of Republican economics."
This is tough, abrasive talk -- the sort of thing the public might expect from a Republican adversary but not from a fellow Democrat.
Can Senator Kennedy muss up the President that much without stirring up a backlash among many Democrats who won't like to hear their president spoken of in that manner by another Democrat?
Mr. Kennedy emphasizes that he will go on in his quest for his party's nomination. "I have only just begun to fight," he says.
Some listeners are adding "maybe."