Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.) presented himself to New York voters tonight as a presidential candidate with "a 30-year record of making government work" for goals he said he shared with the late Robert F. Kennedy.
Recalling his campaigning for "my friend Bobby" in his 1964 New York Senate race, Hollings emphasized his commitment to end hunger, improve education and protect jobs in the United States.
Speaking to a receptive audience of 500 at Hofstra University in the fourth of a series of presidential candidate forums sponsored by the New York State Democratic Committee, Hollings also took a liberal line on foreign policy.
He advocated a negotiated settlement and no use of American troops in El Salvador.
He drew strong applause when he said that, if President Reagan continues to balk at invoking the War Powers Resolution regarding Lebanon, Congress should "do what we did to end the war in Vietnam" by cutting off funds to support U.S. Marines there.
"The president does himself tremendous damage," Hollings said, "by admonishing Soviet President Yuri V. Andropov to tell the truth and at the same time he is not leveling with the American people.
"Those four Marines lost in Lebanon were listed as killed in action," Hollings said, "and Reagan is playing monkeyshines with the American people."
Emphasizing his liberal domestic agenda, Hollings presented himself as the one Democratic candidate with public credibility on balancing the budget.
He told New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo (D), who asked the first question, that a "freeze" on spending increases that he offered last year and this year would save $100 billion annually and balance the budget within three years.
Hollings said the plan would cancel cost-of-living increases in entitlement programs for one year and limit them for future years, reduce the Reagan defense buildup to a 3 percent level, cancel the last 10 percent tax cut and repeal tax indexing.
Hollings' theme for his speech was the claim that, under Reagan, "We don't have a government. We cannot feed our hungry, educate our young, control our borders, protect our industrial or agricultural base or secure our interests in the world . . . except by ordering 1,200 Marines to hunker down and be killed."
Hollings said voters would trust Democrats to restore what he called "a strong government" only if convinced that we have "the self-discipline" to reduce the $200 billion annual deficits reached under Reagan.
He criticized "other candidates" who supported some of Reagan's economic measures early in the administration and now "come around promising they will undo the damage and get Americans jobs. They are the ones who are responsible for the additional 3 million unemployed."
In a news conference before the forum, Hollings made that attack specific on Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) and Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), both of whom voted for the original Reagan three-year tax cut, which Hollings opposed.
Hollings said Glenn "is very much of the Reagan ilk. He voted for Reaganomics. Now he's trying to win by waving. But if the American people want a hand-waver, Reagan will win."
Hollings also paid his respects to former vice president Walter F. Mondale, another of Hollings' six rivals, saying, "Mondale's balloon is leaking. I can see it. He's been running for 6 1/2 years. If he doesn't have it tied up by now, he's in trouble."