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
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
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
Vincent Fiore is a freelance writer.