Sounding increasingly like a presidential candidate, former U.S.
Democratic Sen. Gary Hart warned Monday in San Francisco that Americans should
"get prepared" for more terrorist attacks if the U.S. goes to war against Iraq.
"We're going to kick open a hornet's nest, and we are not prepared in this
country," Hart told about 200 people at a joint gathering of the Council on
Foreign Relations and the World Affairs Council. "When we engage in a military
conflict in the Middle East, the threats to this country will skyrocket."
Hart's speech, intending to present an alternative to the Bush
administration on foreign policy, particularly regarding Iraq, is one of a
quartet of such "major policy addresses" he will deliver nationally to measure
support for a run at the presidency. At a press conference, Hart -- who wrote
a report on terrorism that predicted domestic attacks two years before Sept.
11, 2001 -- said he would announce his intentions in the spring.
Former Sen. Gary Hart addresses the World Affairs Council at the Omni Hotel in San Francisco. Chronicle photo by John O'Hara
He said the Bush administration's "preoccupation with military superiority"
could undermine "the admiration the world has for American character."
"We drive the world's prosperity," Hart said. "We are the champions of the
ideal of democracy. We are the world's greatest source of optimism, energy and
hope. To compromise that goodwill through belligerence is to squander our
Hart, who chairs the Council on Foreign Relations task force on
national security, offered a blistering view of the president's handling of
the current world crisis, saying the Bush administration "has embarked on a
dangerous effort to apply power without relationship to America's principles."
"Its doctrine seems to be that we are powerful enough to do as we wish, and
those not with us are against us," he said.
Offering his own proposals for "a foreign policy based on principle," Hart
said America must continue to support democracy and free speech around the
world, but never allow "elites and special interests" to determine our foreign
policy or our actions abroad.
"When we resort to manipulation, deceit or intrigue in our dealings with
other nations, we become some other kind of nation than who we truly are,"
said Hart. "And when we do so, we always pay a price. Indeed, we diminish our
authority as a world leader when we abandon our ideals or violate our
The former senator from Colorado warned against U.S. preparations to engage
in Iraq and create a permanent U.S. presence there afterward, saying "this
secret dream of empire represents hunger for power at its worst and is
contrary to America's traditional principles. This is the kind of aggressive
and arrogant post-Cold War thinking the American people must steadfastly
Hart was an unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1984, but he led the
Democratic pack in 1988, when his run was derailed by a sex scandal over an
extramarital affair the senator was having with a young model named Donna Rice.
But Hart's troubles paled in comparison with the far more salacious sex
scandal involving President Bill Clinton and intern Monica Lewinsky, and the
former senator's expertise in foreign policy and national security issues has
in recent years drawn attention and followers.
Several other Democrats, including Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the
Rev. Al Sharpton, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Sen. John Kerry of
Massachusetts have already set up exploratory committees for possible runs.
North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Florida Sen. Bob Graham and Sen. Joseph
Biden also are strongly thought to be considering running. Rep. Dick Gephardt
has already signed on prominent California Democratic political consultant
Bill Carrick as an adviser, and Tom O'Donnell, the political strategist who
helped shape Gov. Gray Davis' two election wins.
Democratic strategist Garry South said Monday that an apparently crowded
field of Democrats, including Hart, will help the party sharpen its message.
"There's an advantage to (Democrats) to having a cacophony of voices taking
on Bush on every front," says South. "This is a sign that people don't think
Bush is an 800-pound gorilla that can't be beaten."
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle