WILMINGTON, Del. — Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. entered the 1988 Democratic presidential race today with a promise to rekindle idealism in America and replace what he called an ethic of greed.
"For too long, we have sacrificed personal excellence and moral values to the mere accumulation of material things. . . . For a decade, led by Ronald Reagan, self-aggrandizement has been the full-throated cry of our society: 'Got mine, get yours!' " Biden said.
"Compassion for the poor, the hungry and the homeless among us can no longer be viewed as charity," he said in a clear reference to President Reagan's suggestions that private charity could make up for reductions in federal social programs.
Biden, senator from Delaware since 1973, is the fifth Democrat to announce his candidacy for the party's 1988 presidential nomination.
Biden, 44, considered with Jesse Jackson as one of the two best orators in the field, has raised more money than any of his rivals. But he is at the bottom in public opinion surveys.
Heads Judiciary Panel
He has a generally liberal voting record and has used his position on the Judiciary Committee, which he now chairs, to block Senate approval of judicial nominees considered unfriendly to minorities.
But he also has a reputation for brashness and arrogance and has broken with liberal orthodoxy by seeking limits on school busing and opposing federal funding for abortion.
Calling America "a nation at risk," Biden told supporters at the Wilmington train station from which he commutes to Washington daily that every issue in the election must be weighed against the obligation to provide a better world for the country's children.
Biden, who is pitching his campaign toward the post-World War II "Baby Boom" generation that accounts for 60% of American voters, said he was not making a selfish appeal.
"In 1988, the clarion call for my generation is not 'It's our turn,' but rather 'It's our moment of obligation and opportunity,' " he declared.
Other Democrats who have announced include Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois.