WASHINGTON -- Jesse Jackson sent the Soviets a telegram today expressing his 'personal regret' at Yuri Andropov's death. John Glenn said the death offered 'a new starting point.' Ernest Hollings said President Reagan should attend the funeral.
The candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination were quick to assess Andropov's death both for its international implications and for effects it might have on American politics.
Jesse Jackson said 'it would be hypocritical' for Reagan to attend Andropov's funeral because he never met the Soviet leader while he was alive.
Jackson, speaking from his home in Chicago, also said he had sent a telegram early today to the Soviet Embassy to express his 'personal regret' over Andropov's death.
Glenn, campaigning in Des Moines, Iowa, said it might be wise to send a high-level delegation to Andropov's funeral 'to show that we wish to talk.
'I think there may be some real opportunities for potential openings (in foreign policy),' the senator from Ohio said. 'I think now that we're in a time of transition -- of lessening of higher tensions - it could well be a time where we move off of that and take this as a new starting point.'
Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colo., said Andropov's death 'offers this administration and this government a chance to start all over, to begin the process of reversing our destructive policies of the last three years and restablishing the kind of relationships with the Soviet Union built around real negotiations on arms control and arms reduction that can reduce tensions and lead the world closer to peace.'
Hartsuggested Reagan consider going to Andropov's funeral as a means of signaling his interest in better relations.
'I hope the president will ... forgo election year politics and move this country's policy back to the mainstream where the Soviet Union is concerned. The issues are so serious the potential for a runaway nuclear arms race so dangerous for us and the world this is a big opportunity to demonstrate real leadership and further the interests of the country in the process.'
Hollings, D-S.C., said, 'I think the president should take this opportunity to attend those services for Andropov in Moscow and talk with the Soviet leadership there and make them know we are ready, willing and able at any time that they are to discuss both arms control and peace in the Middle East.'
As for the effect Andropov's death might have on the presidential race, Hollings said, 'I think it's a break for Ronald Reagan. He's the luckiest politician I've ever seen.'
George McGovern criticized Reagan and praised Andropov.
'It is a modern tragedy that one of the Soviet Union's most intelligent and realistic leaders has served and died during the administration of the most ill-informed and dangerous man ever to occupy the White House,' McGovern said. It is a sin against humanity that at a time of grave international danger there was never a single meeting or conversation between the leaders of the two superpowers . ... We can only hope and pray that a realistic leader will come forward in the Soviet Union and that the American electorate will end Ronald Reagan's reign of error in 1984.'