A hard-hitting Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, hoping to draw his main Democratic opponent into active campaigning, has lashed out more heatedly than ever at the policies of the Carter administration.
The Massachusetts Senator preceded a four-day campaign push in New Hampshire with a broad-ranging attack given in a speech at Harvard University Feb. 12, saying that President Carter is posturing himself "as the high priest of patriotism" while fumbling his power away.
This latest salvo, delivered before a friendly Bay State audience, further defines the Kennedy candidacy as one based on bringing an "active presidency" to the White House.
"The Rose Garden is a place to grow flowers," Mr. Kennedy asserted," not to harvest votes."
The Harvard address, the first since what his supporters consider a political turnaround in the Feb. 10 Maine caucuses, faulted President Carter for inept handling of national and international affairs. Senator Kennedy suggested that Mr. Carter should have foreseen potential trouble in Afghanistan and drawn the line with the Soviets before the Red Army's invasion. But in reaffirming his opposition to draft registration, Mr. Kennedy contended that Americans should not take military action to defend strategic oil supplies in the Middle East.
"We must not spill blood in the Persian Gulf in order to top off gas tanks at home," he asserted.
Senator Kennedy acknowledged that gasoline rationing would not be popular, but held that the President must be willing to make unpopular decisions for the good of the nation.
President Carter, he charged, should respond more forcefully, and not from a spirit of despair and resignation to the problems on both the domestic and international fronts.
At no point in his remarks did the Massachusetts senator mention California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., the third candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, who polled 12 percent of the vote in the Maine caucuses and is campaigning in both the New Hampshire and Massachusetts presidential primaries. Touching on pocketbook issues, the Democratic presidential aspirant said that the present White House occupant should not have gone for decontrol of petroleum prices until he had gained passage of the windfall profits tax.
Terming the 1972 tax law "the most regressive tax legislation since the days of Calvin Coolidge," he said the President "should have held Congress to the fires of public opinion and forced the passage of fair tax relief."
The 40-minute Kennedy talk also touched on his support for passage of the equal rights ammendment and improved opportunities for minorities.
The Carter presidency, he charged, is a passive one at a time when active leadership is needed.
"I seek an active presidency," he asserted.
Although perhaps a bit more forceful than his Jan. 28 address at Georgetown University in Washington, the Kennedy speech at Harvard was pretty much on the same track, with most of the same issues raised.
Despite the Massachusetts senator's stronger-than-expected showing in the Maine caucuses, some of his New England supporters remain apprehensive concerning his prospects for besting President Carter in the Feb. 26 New Hampshire primary.
Winning in the March 4 Massachusetts primary is not a concern; the senator is considered to be ahead of the President there by at least 2 to 1.