Presidential candidate Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) said tonight that his party is "destined to lose" the 1984 presidential election unless it learns that "appealing to the whole national interest is far more important than appeasing the special interests."
In a week when his chief rival for the Democratic nomination, former vice president Walter F. Mondale, is expected to win the endorsement of the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO, Glenn tonight appeared to be trying to sharpen the distinction between himself and Mondale.
Appearing at the fifth in a series of New York forums for the Democratic candidates, Glenn told an overflow audience of 1,500 people that the party "must not allow the next election to become a choice between the policies of the 1930s and the 1960s," and said the Democrats cannot recapture the White House "by recasting old slogans and calling them new solutions."
But he ducked a direct question from New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo (D), who asked Glenn how he differs with Mondale on industrial policy and on education. Instead, Glenn stuck closely to the familiar themes and rhetoric of his standard stump speech during the 90-minute session at a downtown Syracuse hotel.
Glenn's advisers have begun a campaign recently to question the integrity of the process that is expected to bring Mondale the endorsement of organized labor. Glenn's speech tonight seemed to be a continuation of his strategy to portray himself as one who is not catering to special interests. Although Glenn never mentioned Mondale by name, the implication of his statement was clear to the audience.
In his presentation tonight, Glenn called for an industrial policy that emphasizes cooperation among business, labor, finance and government, along with tax changes to channel money to industries that need it. He said the tax code now provides funds to firms that don't need it.
But Glenn said he opposes a Japanese-model industrial policy, and added that his administration would not favor central economic planning or government direction of private financing.
On foreign policy, Glenn said he was pleased at the role that Saudi Arabia played in arranging the cease-fire in Lebanon, and called the Saudis a "key element" to bringing peace to the Middle East. "It is important to keep the Saudis involved," he said.
At the same time, he accused the Reagan administration of enlarging the role of the U.S. force in Lebanon without just cause, saying the Marines should concentrate only on maintaining the stability of Beirut, not all of Lebanon.
Glenn applauded President Reagan for indicating today at the United Nations that the nuclear capability of U.S. allies should be taken into account in arms-control talks with the Soviets, saying he has long believed that the Soviets will not reduce their stock of weapons until there is a way to involve the French, the British and the People's Republic of China in such negotiations.
Many of the questions in this university town tonight dealt with education, giving Glenn the opportunity to repeat his call for a $7 billion program to upgrade education in this country.
The former astronaut said the nation should set a goal of making all students literate within 10 years, and he called for tougher basic standards, higher pay for teachers and restoration of college loan funds that have been reduced by the Reagan administration.
As part of his industrial policy, Glenn said he would introduce legislation in the Senate to create a job-training trust fund.
"We must see to it that no worker who is willing to learn is ever denied a chance to gain new skills for a better job," he said.