WASHINGTON -- Former Sen. Paul Tsongas said Thursday the nation needs an 'economic Paul Revere' and promised to take on that role in the 1992 presidential campaign to help create a renaissance of U.S. economic power.
The Massachusetts Democrat, in an appearance at the National Press Club, said although his soon-to-be-announced candidacy is considered a long-shot in political circles -- particularly in the midst of President Bush's overwhelming popularity -- he believes his ideas for making America the world's dominant economic nation again will be received positively by voters.
'I am here because I see our country on a path that need not be,' Tsongas said. 'I am here because I fear for my country's economic security. ... This country needs an economic Paul Revere. I intend to play that role. There is an economic peril and avoiding it will only prevent us from overcoming it.'
Tsongas, who has described himself as a 'pro-business liberal' and plans to officially announce his candidacy in his hometown of Lowell, Mass., later this month, added that Revere did not ride through the Massachusetts to spread despair, 'but to mobilize a response in order to meet the threat.'
The former Capitol Hill lawmaker served in the House from 1975 to 1978, when he was elected to the Senate. He was Massachusetts's junior Senator until 1985, when he left to public office after being diagnosed with lymphatic cancer.
Tsongas, 50, said he has overcome the illness with a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy.
Tongas denounced the economic policies of the Reagan and Bush administrations and their practice of 'avoidance politics,' and also challenged the Democratic Party to redefine its agenda.
'We must become the party of economic rebirth, of economic nationalism, of economic patriotism,' he said. '... It means reaching out to the business community of America (and) seeing business as our ally against the foreign threat. American business is not our enemy.'
'Unless we (Democrats) convince the American people that we care about economics ... we will never be entrusted with the White House,' he added.
Tsongas said one of the worst mistakes fellow Democrats have made has been to engage in 'protectionist demogogery,' and said while the United States must be tougher in negotiating trade agreements with other nations, 'We're in trouble because we have to get our act together. The model is Germany.'
Tsongas said he is unconcerned about being labeled 'another Massachusetts liberal Democrat' by opponents.
'I am proud of being a liberal on human rights issues, civil rights issues, women's rights issues and environmental issues,' he said. 'But on energy and economic issues I am a realist.'
The former senator also said he would likely have voted against authorizing President Bush to use military force to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait.