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The "New" Democrat
by Vincent Fiore
28 September 2003Wesley Clark, "New" Democrat

The only difference between General Clark and his competitors is the four stars upon his shoulders.

Barely a week into his campaign, retired NATO Commander General Wesley Clark rests atop a Newsweek national poll at a commanding 14%. Trailing within the margin of error is fire-breather Howard Dean and the always mournful looking Senator Joe Lieberman, both at 12%. And as is the case with all Democratic candidates and polls this election season, the number that stands out is the "never heard of" one. Wesley Clark has officially joined the ranks of Democratic hopefuls with a 45% invisibility rating. But that surely will change as quickly as General Clark has changed political parties. Once a Republican, voting for Nixon and Reagan; at times claiming to be an independent; and now a "New" Democrat, ala Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Bringing the media elite to near joyful apoplexy, General Clark has been presented to the electorate as the savior of an otherwise drab Democratic presidential field. Billed as a Democrat with the military muscle to go up against Bush, progressives gleefully pen puffpiece commentary from their scented cubicles inside the editorial rooms. But what of this "new" rough and tumble Democrat? Who is he? And what does he stand for?

After announcing in his home state of Arkansas, General Clark gave a speech at the familiar confines of The Citadel, a military college that has seen many a General pass through her halls. In his presentation to nearly 150 cadets, Clark called for a "new American patriotism," to go with his anointing as a "new" Democrat. But there is nothing new here to hear. Sounding like a befuddled Howard Dean, whose Bush-bashing is a polished art, Clark ladled out the same bitter hash that has become the prerequisite for running in 2004. Calling for "A new kind of patriotism that recognizes that in times of war or peace democracy requires dialogue, disagreement, and the courage to speak out," Clark reaches out to anti-Bush radicals and the Democrat party fringe.  See anything "new" or profound here? More than likely, you have heard this for months now out of those old type Democrats on the campaign trail.

On Iraq, Clark asked the gathering, "What was the strategy? What was the purpose? What is the success strategy? How are we going to finish the mission there?" Now, we know these lines are rhetorical flourishes, meant to pad a candidate's stump speech and make them seem informed as to the current political flavorings of the moment. But wasn't Clark a military man for nearly all his adult life, the height of which was leading the assault in Bosnia in the 1990s? Again, we have heard these demands from the Gephardts and Deans running for the nomination. Knowing very well the who, what, and why for this war, Clark is looking to create a credible niche for himself. But he succumbs to the same malady that has befallen the other nine potential nominees of his newfound party, the dreaded "Noansweritis."

As all these Democrats have become very astute in pointing out and inflating the problems of the Bush Presidency, none have offered any real solutions outside of raising taxes. This holds true for Wesley Clark. On the Clark For President website, there is no "Issues" page to speak of. Tellingly, Clark sounds every bit the amateur, and will be eaten up by the savvy likes of Kerry, Gephardt, and Dean. They will not sit idly by so Clark can clear the underbrush for Hillary Clinton.

Clark's entire emergence into the political jetset seems wrong and wholly contrived. From entering late, to producing more flips on issues than an International House of Pancakes, he is a 4-star deer in the headlights. But most suspect about Clark is his total lack of any sustained political party convictions. Talking to Newsweek, he petulantly opined that he "would have been a Republican if Karl Rove returned my phone calls." But no calls were ever made. Further, his calling for "a new American patriotism" implies that Democrats -- and not the Republican Bush administration -- are the sole protectors of free speech and open dissent. This, as everybody who has drawn breath these last two years knows, is pointedly ridiculous.

From human shields flying into Baghdad, to naked "lie down" demonstrations in the streets of Manhattan, to "vomit ins" in San Francisco, Bush has never curtailed political dissent against the war. Much like the panicked uprising of librarians who accuse John Ashcroft of subjugating their public domains to jack-booted Justice Department search and seizure raids, it is much ado about nothing.

Wesley Clark was a good General, but only marginally so. He served his country adequately in times of war and peace, and is generally looked upon favorably by many in both political parties. On the battlefield, Clark could claim honor and got it. On the political battlefield, he shamelessly sullies himself by accusing a war time administration over its handling of Iraq, knowing full well that as a military man, he has seen and participated in far worse. This from the General who waged war from 15,000 feet over Bosnia, and counseled the Clinton White House against action in Rwanda, where mass genocide ensued.

As stated earlier, Clark has a steep learning curve in regard to domestic policy. At present, he is two steps below Arnold Schwarzenegger. If ranting about the loss of three million jobs, UN participation, and spending eighty-seven billion dollars on the war is "New," than somebody had better inform the other nine Democrats, and the media, that the hate-laced rhetoric we've been hearing from them these past months has fallen on deaf ears. There's a new Democrat in the race now. And the only difference from his contemporaries in the Democratic party is the four stars upon his shoulders, and nothing else.

Vincent Fiore is a freelance writer.

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