Former Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart said Friday that he plans to return to public life in the fall by making a series of speeches on domestic and foreign policy and added: "My own view is that people are not going to want to talk about the events in May."
Hart was referring to his abrupt withdrawal from the Democratic presidential race on May 8 after his campaign was paralyzed by reports that he had spent a weekend in Washington with Miami model Donna Rice while his wife was in Denver.
In a long interview with The Times, the former Colorado senator said he is working in his Denver law firm, hopes to organize an international trading company and spends much of his time "talking on the phone to friends from all over the country."
"My first priority is my wife and children. I'm spending time with them," Hart said, speaking by telephone from his office. "But I am also answering my mail, saying 'thank you' and 'I'm sorry' to my friends and supporters.
"Contrary to some reports, I am not in hiding," Hart continued. "At 10 o'clock in the morning on the Monday after I dropped out of the race, I was in my law office, and I have been here working most days ever since. When anyone wants to do a substantive interview, I'm here."
Hart made it clear that while his long campaign for the presidency is over, he misses the process and is eager to be heard during the 1988 campaign.
"I want to contribute in some way to the debate," Hart said. "I care about the issues, I care about the future of this country. And even if it is just talking to students in a classroom, I want to do what I can to help."
Noting that he had talked privately with Soviet leader Mikail S. Gorbachev last December in Moscow, and that he had served on both the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees, Hart said: "I think I bring something to the arms control process, and for as long as I live I want to work to reduce the danger of nuclear war."
Thus, he said, his first speech in September will be on U.S.-Soviet relations.
"I don't have a forum or a location (for the speech) but I want to do it," Hart said. "I am writing it now. And I had prepared three speeches on domestic economic policy (to deliver in the campaign) and I want to give those after the Soviet policy speech. And then I am going to go around the country and give a kind of all-purpose speech on the future of this country and the changes we have to make."
Effect on Others
It is not clear whether that would detract from the efforts of the remaining Democratic candidates to present their own visions for the future, but a top Democratic political consultant and a policy adviser both said Friday that they did not think it would.
"There will be a natural process from which one of the unknown candidates will emerge and nothing Gary does will take away from that," said Washington consultant David Doak. "Now that Gary is not a candidate, people can separate the personal stuff from what has always been Gary's strong point, his grasp of issues."
Harvard Prof. Robert Reich, whose ideas on reindustrialization have been taken up by Hart and many of the Democrats, said: "My view is the Democratic Party needs all the help it can get as it searches for ideas and for integrating themes--something Gary is very good at. I think his contributions would enrich the debate."
Hart was asked in the Friday interview if he thought the public and the press would allow him to focus on issues in the fall rather than on the Rice affair.
He said: "I am not going to get into that issue. . . . My own view is that people are not going to want to talk about the events in May. Based upon the letters I have gotten and the public response I get when I move around, I think I will be able to communicate with people.
"How the opinion makers characterize my speeches, or the questions they ask--I have no control over that. But I am not going to go back and revisit all the events in May. Sooner or later people are going to get tired of people selling pictures and stories."
The latter was a reference to reports that Rice friend Lynn Armandt was paid big sums by People magazine and the National Enquirer to provide photos and information about Hart's relationship with Rice.
Hart, who was accompanied by Rice, Armandt and Washington lawyer William Broadhurst on a yacht trip to Bimini before the May events broke, has said that he and Rice were simply friends and that he had not done anything "immoral."
When Rice was asked in a television interview broadcast Thursday night, "Did you sleep with Gary Hart?" she replied: "I don't want to answer you. The reason is because it's a question of dignity. Whether I did, whether I didn't with Gary Hart or anybody else, I wouldn't answer it one way or the other."
Hart is credited even by his critics with being a solid thinker on foreign and domestic issues, and when he quit his campaign he angrily lectured the press about what he believes is its obsession with trivia at the expense of substance in presidential campaigns.
David E. Dryer, Hart's national policy adviser, said in an interview that he has a file cabinet full of the candidate's detailed position papers on issues ranging from trade to education, agricultural policy and arms control.
When asked Friday if he thought any of his ideas--first developed when he nearly won the Democratic nomination in 1984--would become part of the Democratic agenda now that he is no longer a candidate, Hart replied:
"I have no formula for doing this, but in as polite a way as I can I intend to make those issues and ideas available to the other candidates and encourage them to use them."
Hart also said: "I had thought, frankly, that (New York Gov.) Mario Cuomo or (New Jersey Sen.) Bill Bradley would get into the race after I got out, but apparently they will not."
Although he said he had "great respect" for the seven remaining Democratic presidential candidates and thought they were being underestimated by some political observers, he indicated there was room for improvement.
"Each of them, frankly, has to elevate his policy approach to the more macro, comprehensive level. You can't run for President on ideas like day-care centers and things like that. The issues are big, they are structural and they have to be talked about. You have to talk about the total revamping of this nation's economy. And clearly day-care centers are a part of that. But it's bigger and more global.
"You also can't hide on issues like the Persian Gulf. You have to come out early and take some chances and say we should not be doing this, not wait for opinion to form and then follow it.
"They need to think bigger and take some risks. That is what leadership is all about."
As for reports that he was in Los Angeles earlier this week to meet with agents who will work on "mending" his own image, Hart said: "I'm not going to hire somebody to fix my image. That's not the way I operate. Whatever image repair has to be done I will do myself."