Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, in the latest effort to lead fellow Democrats out of the wilderness, accused his compatriots of "sheepishly acquiescing" to G.O.P. efforts to cut the social safety net. The liberal icon, in a Washington speech, also tossed barbs at Democrats eager to break with President Clinton, noting that many apostates were defeated last November regardless. "Sometimes the task of a great political party is to face the tide, not just ride with it, and to turn it again in the direction of our deepest convictions," Kennedy said. "If Democrats run for cover, if we become pale carbon copies of the opposition and try to act like Republicans, we will lose, and deserve to lose."