Jackson agrees to endorse Clinton amid signs of Democratic harmony

July 12, 1992|By Paul West | Paul West,Washington Bureau Chief

NEW YORK -- The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, the most prominent Democratic critic of the Bill Clinton-Al Gore ticket, said last night that he would vote for the ticket in November.

The endorsement was widely viewed as lukewarm at best and left open the question of how actively Mr. Jackson will campaign for the Democratic ticket, which hopes for wide black support.

"We need a big-tent vision that makes room for all of us," Mr. Jackson said at the end of "Both Sides With Jesse Jackson," a public affairs program on Cable News Network.

"Bill Clinton and Al Gore have the opportunity, if they accomplish the burden of putting forth a plan, of healing, rebuilding and reconciliation to make America better," Mr. Jackson said.

"Clinton and Gore at their best -- the vision and activism of the people -- are the most live options that can implement this agenda. Thus, on Nov. 3 I have decided to vote for Bill Clinton and Al Gore."

Texas Gov. Ann Richards, a guest on the program and chairwoman of the Democratic Convention, said, "Welcome aboard. We need your help."

Mr. Clinton arrived last night in New York, before Mr. Jackson's statement.

"I just want to reaffirm my commitment here, to the people of New York, to be a president for all the American people," Mr. Clinton said at the airport.

Earlier yesterday, Ronald H. Brown, the party's national committee chairman, predicted that Mr. Jackson would endorse the Democratic ticket before the convention.

Mr. Brown also indicated that Mr. Jackson had agreed to campaign on behalf of the Democratic ticket. The civil rights leader was outspoken last week in attacking Mr. Clinton's choice of Al Gore as running mate, warning that an all-Southern ticket offers little to excite Northern, urban and minority voters.

For weeks, Mr. Jackson has been fighting with Mr. Clinton, after the Arkansas governor used a Jackson forum to criticize black rap singer Sister Souljah. Mr. Clinton has steadfastly refused to make a show of courting Mr. Jackson, and Mr. Jackson has responded by saying he might keep his distance this fall.

Mr. Jackson, who decided against a third presidential run this year, lacks the sort of delegate power at the convention that allowed him to draw the last two Democratic nominees into highly publicized negotiations that many Democrats believe hurt the party's chances in the fall.

The apparent decision by Mr. Jackson to endorse Mr. Clinton now leaves failed candidate Jerry Brown as the last big holdout. Party leaders are intent on avoiding the sort of raucous discord for which Democrats are known, hoping instead to showcase a new, more moderate party during the convention.

Party officials have said that the former California governor, who won about 600 delegates in the primary season, won't be allowed to address the convention unless he endorses Mr. Clinton.

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