WASHINGTON (AP) _ Jesse Jackson said today that President Bush is practicing ''the politics of fear and race'' that would eventually lead the nation to hatred and violence.

In the keynote address to the Rainbow Coalition convention, Jackson also said the Persian Gulf War cost billions of dollars ''yet failed to bring peace and stability to the Middle East.''

He spoke just 24 hours before the Gulf War victory parade at which hundred of thousands of people were expected to line streets to welcome U.S. troops back from the war against Iraq. Hundreds of Marines were staying at the hotel where Jackson spoke.

Sen. Al Gore, D-Tenn., one of the few Democrats who voted in favor of the use of force in the Persian Gulf, told the meeting that, ''I believe this country feels good about the fact we are welcoming home the men and women who fought in the Persian Gulf.''

''We're saying to them - and at long last to the Vietnam veterans - welcome home,'' said Gore, one of several potential Democratic presidential candidates invited to speak at the Rainbow convention.

Jackson said the while the United States has ''maintained a first rate military at great cost, yet we have declined into a fourth rate economic power.''

''We are now facing a White House that consciously uses the politics of fear and race to divide the country in pursuit of electoral victory,'' said Jackson.

''Race-bait politics divides and distracts,'' he said. ''And it works, short term. False comfort for ignorance and fear leads to hatred and violence.''

As the founder and president of the Rainbow Coalition, Jackson was never far from the spotlight. He also decided who spoke and when, which was bad news for Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas.

Clinton was the only likely contender for the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination who wasn't invited to speak. It was sweet revenge for Jackson who was angered when denied a chance last month to address the Democratic Leadership Council, which Clinton heads.

''We invited everyone we knew who was expressing some interest in 1992,'' said Jackson, who said he didn't know Clinton was interested in running for president.

In addition to Gore, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia also was on the agenda.

House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri, who says he's unlikely to run in 1992, and Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, who says he's considering it, appeared on Thursday and gave quick versions of their standard stump speeches.

Former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas, the only declared candidate for the Democratic nomination, invited Jackson and any other Democrats to join him.

''It's getting lonely,'' he said.

''The Democratic Party has a responsibility to field the best team that it can out there in the primaries,'' Tsongas said.

''I think the fact that we're all looking afraid isn't appropriate,'' he said. ''I welcome the reverend to join me.''

Jackson proclaimed himself ''the front-runner'' in the race for the 1992 nomination, but said he has not decided whether to make a third run for the White House.

''I'll make a determination about my own role in 1992 later in the year,'' he said.

Govs. L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia and Mario Cuomo of New York were unable to appear.

At his opening news conference, Jackson said he sees little difference between the Democratic and Republican parties.

''Too often we have seen two parties called by two different names, going essentially in the same destructive direction, and operating under the same false assumptions,'' he said.

His comment drew an implied rebuke from Democratic National Chairman Ronald H. Brown, who was Jackson's convention manager when the Democrats met in Atlanta in 1988 to nominate Michael Dukakis for president.

In a luncheon speech as Jackson sat a few feet away, Brown talked of people who say ''it doesn't really matter what party it is.''

''There's nothing wrong with honest sincere debate among us,'' the party chairman said. But, he added, ''I don't know any institution in the world where its members are harder on each other than they are on our real adversaries. We've got to change that.''