Everybody has heard by now that he is apparently in the race as the tenth announced Democratic contender. This is making the rounds as well — Michael Moore’s enumeration of the reasons he thinks Clark is just the guy to beat Bush:
In addition to being first in your class at West Point, a four star general from Arkansas, and the former Supreme Commander of NATO — enough right there that should give pause to any peace-loving person — I have discovered that…
1. You oppose the Patriot Act and would fight the expansion of its powers.
2. You are firmly pro-choice.
3. You filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the University of Michigan’s affirmative action case.
4. You would get rid of the Bush tax “cut” and make the rich pay their fair share.
5. You respect the views of our allies and want to work with them and with the rest of the international community.
6. And you oppose war. You have said that war should always be the “last resort” and that it is military men such as yourself who are the most for peace because it is YOU and your soldiers who have to do the dying. You find something unsettling about a commander-in-chief who dons a flight suit and pretends to be Top Gun, a stunt that dishonored those who have died in that flight suit in the service of their country.
Moore may be getting carried away by his wishfulness about beating the Bushes. I think it is a reach on Moore’s part to call Clark an antiwar candidate. Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve known antiwar candidates, and Wesley Clark isn’t one. The line about military men being inherently for peace is an easy bit of rhetoric for them to spout as they go about their business, and Clark has hardly been a vocal. visible opponent of the Iraqi intervention from its inception. The domestic policy points he scores with Moore, likewise, may be politically opportunistic. In choosing to enter the race as a Democrat at the point where Bush has his lowest poll ratings since 9-11, one would want to ‘assume the positions’ that best differentiate oneself from the failing president, wouldn’t one? I will give him one point for internationalism, which represents a credible commitment on his part forged in the fires of his NATO commandership and Kosovo. He gets a half each for his affirmative action and pro-choice stands, which are abit overdetermined and less courageous for a modern Democratic wannabe to take.
Turning to perhaps a more sober appraisal of the significance of Clark’s entrance into the race, Josh Marshall points out that political outsiders and late entrants usually don’t win, but that this is anything but business as usual. He thinks Dean’s frontrunner status won’t cut the mustard for long because his folksy social liberalism and unwavering antiwar stance won’t appeal to the swing voters the Democrats will need. Marshall says there is a large void no one has managed to fill to the right of Dean, and he will be watching how Clark does with fundraising, dealing with the temperamental and capricious press, assembling a team around him, and dealing with whatever the other nine candidates dish out. By the way, the word is that Clark has “prior commitments” that will keep him out of at least one of the upcoming Democratic candidate debates. One might argue that these are useless exercises until the field thins somewhat, but his absence might be interpreted as reinforcing the impression that Clark does not have well-formulated positions on domestic issues yet (if ever…). On the other hand, he did study economics, philosophy and politics at Oxford, and later teach economic policy at West Point, so he is not likely to be pig-ignorant on domestic issues…
After watching the debut of K Street the other night on HBO, at this point I would almost rather know what political consultants Clark is hiring. A joke, but if you believe everything you see on TV, the docufictional version of James Carville was responsible for the single best line of the campaign so far, when Dean quipped during the second debate last week that “(i)f the percent of minorities that’s in your state had anything to do with how you can connect with African- American voters, then Trent Lott would be Martin Luther King,”
Here’s an informative interview with Clark by NPR’s The Connection host Dick Gordon from last week [thanks, miguel] Clark defends his lack of political experience to Gordon by arguing that his command was like governing a small city. Let us hope that we should not take that to mean that his only template for governing a larger constituency would be military command. Former Pentagon associates have been known to characterize Clark as imperious and arrogant, not exactly Presidential material (although all bets are off when you look at the character attributes of the current occupant of the White House, of course).
For my own part, I’m desperately hoping that Clark’s entry into the race is as much about having heard Dean’s reported offer to join his ticket as the vice presidential candidate (although Dean is just the guy to have a woman as a running mate) as it is a spoiler presidential run. Having Clark as a v-p candidate would cetainly broaden the spectrum of Dean’s appeal, although that tactic in ticket-building may be out of favor in recent presidential races. In any case, one can wish that both of them, as well as the other eight, keep their eyes on the prize, which is saving the country from Junior and his henchmen. This will take civility and consensus above and beyond business as usual in primary season; probably too much to wish, I think it would require the Ten subordinating their grandiose personal ambitions to the establishment of an authentic robust meaningful opposition party in this country. I was hopeful at the time of the first debate but the true, carping, backstabbing, Senatorial characters particularly of Kerry and Lieberman began to emerge even by the time of the second outing last week. I cling to the hope that the Democrats, unlike Marshall’s prediction, have the courage and integrity to present themselves as a truely distinct progressive opposition rather than trying to attract the ‘swing voters’ with a kinder-gentler-Republican-clone pitch. And, while we’re on the topic of the crucial significance of the swing vote, consider for a moment the spoiler role of the Green vote in the 2000 election. With the possible exception of Kucinich, Dean is the only candidate who stands a chance of melding the Green vote into a facet of a Democratic majority voting bloc. Can you seen the Greens under any circumstances going Democratic on behalf of a Wesley Clark candidacy? Not likely, no matter how passionate the Michael Moores become…