Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) yesterday strongly signaled his interest in running for the presidency in 1988, hinting that he no longer feels constrained by family considerations that kept him out of the 1984 race and saying, "I'd like to be president someday."
In an interview with The Boston Globe and in speeches at Hempstead, N.Y., Friday and a strategy session of Democratic senators in Shepherdstown, W.Va., yesterday, Kennedy hinted at his plans and admonished the Democratic Party to steer a more moderate course for 1988. Kennedy's interview with Thomas Oliphant of the Boston Globe confirmed that he was considering another bid for the presidency. Until now, he has not been so specific about his plans.
"I've always said I'd like to be president someday," he said, "though my sense from my own contacts with people around the country is that they're still too exhausted from the last election to be focusing on the next one.
"I will maintain my political committee and contacts, and hopefully that is something that could be readily activated should any decision come," he said.
The Globe quoted senior Kennedy advisers as saying that a decision is at least a year away.
Kennedy was defeated in his 1980 bid for the Democratic nomination by President Jimmy Carter. He did not run in 1984, citing personal and family considerations. But he told his home-town newspaper, "My children and the other members of my family I feel responsible for are clearly doing very well today."
He did emphasize, however, that he would be satisfied to remain a senator from Massachusetts.
"When the Republicans took over the Senate, I thought there would be less opportunity to shape policy," he said. "But with the loss of so many able and gifted Senate members, there has been an increasing vacuum. I have welcomed the chance to be involved, and it's become very interesting and challenging work, though I still feel the frustration in terms of taking ideas and turning them into policies."
Kennedy's weekend politicking began Friday at a symposium on the presidency of his slain brother, John F. Kennedy, at Hempstead, where he served notice that he would be at least a major force in the debate over the party's future.
He called on Democrats to steer a more centrist course and avoid becoming the party of special interests.
"As Democrats, we must understand that there is a difference between being a party that cares about labor and being a labor party," he said. "There is a difference between being a party that cares about women and being the women's party. And we can and we must be a party that cares about minorities without becoming a minority party. We are citizens first and constituencies second."
He accused Democrats of losing "the feeling of hope, the spirit of change" that had marked the party and called for a reexamination of the party's positions.
"We cannot and should not depend on higher tax revenues to roll in and redeem every costly program," Kennedy said. "Rather, those of us who care about domestic progress must do more with less."
He said Democrats must show "the courage to discard" outdated programs. "The mere existence of a program is no excuse for its perpetuation, whether it is a welfare plan or a weapons system," he added.
Kennedy continued this line at a West Virginia resort where 37 Democratic senators gathered to discuss strategy.
"We must acknowledge that some social welfare programs just continued people living in desperate situations," he said. "We have to be more innovative. That has been important to our party."
Kennedy said Democrats must regain public confidence in their economic and foreign policies.
"We have to realign our position, but that doesn't mean we have to abandon our present policies," he said. "We have to be more concerned with having less money and dealing with it more effectively."