LOS ANGELES — Jesse Jackson warned delegates to the Democratic National Convention Saturday that the Republican candidates for president and vice president are "wolves in sheep's clothing" who could neutralize voters who normally vote Democratic.
The veteran civil rights activist and two-time Democratic presidential candidate showed up at a meeting of the Democratic National Convention's Rules Committee to offer his words of caution.
"There was a song we used to sing," Jackson said of his work in the civil rights movement. "Keep your eyes on the prize."
Democrats, he said, are up against "masters of deceit and diversion" this year.
"They are wolves in sheep's clothing," he said referring to their comments at the recent Republican National Convention. The GOP convention emphasized diversity and compassion, with a parade of minority speakers in front of a largely white audience of delegates.
"We didn't see Trent Lott, Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and Dick Armey," said Jackson, referring to conservative Republican members of Congress. He is scheduled to speak to the full convention Tuesday night.
He noted much of the discussion since Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, was chosen as Democrat Al Gore's running mate has been about religion and race rather than resources and budget problems.
"The issue is the economic surplus," he said, asking whether the money should be used for the rich to buy "more yachts" or for the poor to buy health insurance, help children in poverty and find a cure for cancer.
He said Republican strategists like Ralph Reed and the late Lee Atwater had a theory that Republicans could win if they could neutralize 10 percent of the black vote.
And he said that there has been "so much effort to create confusion" among key groups of Democrats like Jews and blacks. The two groups have occasionally had tense relations over the years.
But any such distractions could affect the outcome of the race, he said.
He noted John F. Kennedy beat Richard Nixon, Nixon beat Hubert Humphrey and Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford by narrow margins in earlier presidential elections.
He reminded the delegates that Jews and blacks worked together to form the NAACP and marched together for civil rights.
"We have shared suffering and shared rejection and shared successes," he said.
"The race with Lieberman in it will test our mettle as a nation," Jackson said. "But we must not let it get in the way, we must work hard.
"If I don't see you again this week, I'll see you at the inaugural in January," he said.
The delegates stood and gave Jackson a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.