It's been a bit more than a week now since former general Wesley Clark declared his intention to campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. During that time, Clark has gained a solid ranking in public opinion polls, even rivaling former Vermont governor Howard Dean. In that same amount of time, however, many of Wesley Clark's supposed advantages have turned out to be weak, unreliable or just confusing.
For example, one of Wesley Clark's strong points as a presidential candidate was supposed to be that he had the support of Democratic Party insiders, like the Clintons. The funny thing is that now that Clark has declared his candidacy, both Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton say that they never promoted his campaign. Does Clark really have all the insider support he claimed to have, or was it all just a bunch of hype?
Wesley Clark has also been strongly promoted as an anti-war candidate, in spite of the fact that as a general he has made a career out of planning and waging wars. Clark has claimed to have consistently opposed George W. Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq. However, under examination, this claim just doesn't hold up.
By now, all Democrats are aware of Wesley Clark's surprising comment that he would have voted in favor of the war powers resolution of 2002. That resolution gave the Bush Administration a generous permission to wage war in Iraq whenever and however Bush wanted to. Clark now admits that "I've said it both ways," which isn't very helpful to Democrats who are being asked to vote for him. Since Clark's flip-flop, confused Democrats have been asking themselves how Clark can claim to be anti-war when he has taken such a strongly pro-war stance.
What many Democrats do not know is that Wesley Clark went on the record as being in favor of Bush's invasion of Iraq long ago. Media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting has uncovered several strongly pro-war public statements made by Clark in the weeks leading up to Bush's war against Iraq.
In October 2002, Wesley Clark wrote an article for Time magazine entitled, "Let's Wait to Attack", in which he argued that a war against Iraq would be a good idea, so long as the timing was right.
In January, Clark supported Bush's assertions about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, saying that he "absolutely" believed what Bush had to say.
In February 2003, even as news reports indicated that much of George W. Bush's so-called "evidence" of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was completely fraudulent, Wesley Clark proved to be gullible, and fell for Bush's deception hook, line and sinker. In fact, he even pressured other people to fall in line behind George W. Bush and support the war against Iraq. That month, Clark said on CNN, "The credibility of the United States is on the line, and Saddam Hussein has these weapons and so, you know, we're going to go ahead and do this and the rest of the world's got to get with us.... The U.N. has got to come in and belly up to the bar on this. But the president of the United States has put his credibility on the line, too. And so this is the time that these nations around the world, and the United Nations, are going to have to look at this evidence and decide who they line up with."
Oops. It has long been clear that Iraq in fact had no weapons of mass destruction before the American invasion. Just today, a Bush Administration official admitted that American forces have found absolutely no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Given that Bush never gave any credible evidence for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction before the war, Wesley Clark's readiness to go along with Bush's claims makes Clark look extremely gullible.
It doesn't look like Wesley Clark was really very anti-war at all. Even while millions of Americans were asking for national leaders to stand up and speak out the truth about Iraq, Wesley Clark went along complacently and gave the war his strong support. Clark had the opportunity, as a paid on-air analyst for CNN, to call attention to the clearly inadequate case for war. Instead, he did nothing. Clark made statements in favor, not in opposition, to Bush's war.
After the war began, Clark continued his pro-war comments. On April 10, Clark wrote in a London Times article that George W. Bush and Tony Blair "should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt," and used the word "victory" to describe the outcome of the Iraq war. "Already the scent of victory is in the air,", he said. Oops. That scent now has the distinct aroma of bullshit. Clark's statement ranks in accuracy right up there with Bush's announcement of "mission accomplished". Clark was apparently so gung-ho on the war in Iraq that he completely failed to anticipate the upcoming tragic guerilla war. It seems that Clark's declaration of "victory" was premature.
As the weeks pressed on, Clark seemed to forget completely that he ever had any doubts about Bush's Iraq adventure, and became a cheerleader for the war. In the same London Times column, Clark wrote that "Liberation is at hand. Liberation-- the powerful balm that justifies painful sacrifice, erases lingering doubt and reinforces bold actions." Here Clark is saying that the war in Iraq was justified. Explain to me please, how does this make Wesley Clark anti-war???
Wesley Clark even abandoned his earlier reservations that Bush was rushing into war too fast. In describing Bush's decision to reject United Nations involvement in Iraq and invade in March instead of waiting just a few more weeks, Clark wrote that Bush and Cheney "certainly made the right call." Let's focus on that word, "certainly", shall we? That word tells us that Wesley Clark not only supported Bush's invasion of Iraq, but supported the way that Bush went to war, and did so without reservation. Anti-war my foot!
While Wesley Clark now pretends that he was always against the Iraq war, he is sure to be hounded by the outrageous, over-excited celebrations of the war that he made just a few months ago. On April 11, in the London Times, Wesley Clark wrote, "The campaign in Iraq illustrates the continuing progress of military technology and tactics, but if there is a single overriding lesson it must be this: American military power, especially when buttressed by Britain's, is virtually unchallengeable today. Take us on? Don't try! And that's not hubris, it's just plain fact." Plain fact, huh? I'd like to see Wesley Clark try to explain that "plain fact" to the families of the hundreds of soldiers who have been killed and maimed in Iraq.
The fundamental problem with the Wesley Clark campaign is that it has no real substance. Take away Wesley Clark's pretense at being an "anti-war" candidate, and there's nothing left. Absolutely nothing.
Wesley Clark has no political experience. He hasn't even been active in local politics. Why should the Democratic party elect someone who has no more history of involvement in politics than Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Wesley Clark himself admits that he's almost completely ignorant about domestic policy matters. Just days before announcing his candidacy officially, Clark proudly told reporters that he doesn't have a clue about the economy, or the environment, or civil liberties issues, or other matters that the President of the United States deals with outside of war. He commonly responds to citizens' questions by saying things such as "I don't know enough to give you a comprehensive answer at this point."
In fact, Clark doesn't seem to think it's a problem that he hasn't bothered to educate himself about the most basic political issues. Referring to his upcoming performance in a debate this Thursday, Clark said, "There are prime ministers I don't know, and there are economic facts I don't know, and I'll get stuff wrong." Apparently, Clark thinks that ignorance in a presidential candidate is no big deal. It's understandable, then, that Democrats are asking themselves whether they really want to nominate someone who appears to be their own intellectual equivalent of George W. Bush.
Wesley Clark is supposed to have been preparing to run for President for months now, and still he doesn't know where he stands on important political issues. Is this the kind of candidate who's going to be able to beat George W. Bush? It takes more than just off-the-cuff raw charisma to beat an incumbent president. It takes hard work and organization.
Is Wesley Clark at all well organized? The signs are not good. On the Wesley Clark campaign web site, the "grassroots" link leads just to a list of blog entries that people have written about him. Don't get me wrong. I think that Internet journal doodling is great - in fact it's really what Irregular Times is all about. However, we're not so arrogant as to think that writing a blog is the same thing as "grassroots" organizing. If Wesley Clark wants to prove that he's capable of political organization, he's going to have to do better than just assembling a list of blogs.
It isn't even clear that Wesley Clark is a truly committed Democrat. It has been revealed that Clark voted for Republicans Richard Nixon and George Bush the First. Even more amazingly, Wesley Clark voted for Ronald Reagan twice. Senator John Kerry has referred to Wesley Clark's history of voting Republican, saying "I know that when he voted for Reagan and he voted for Nixon, I was fighting against both of them."
The more we see of Wesley Clark, the more clear it becomes that he's a quite conservative, pro-war kind of Democrat - in other words, a Republicrat. Clark seems to have surrounded himself with other big fans of the Republican Party as well. One of Clark's main strategists was quoted in the Mercury News as saying of Republicans that, "we could use more of them in this country." A Democratic candidate whose campaign thinks that we need more Republicans in America? Sheesh. Wesley Clark seems to be more like Senator Joseph Lieberman than any other politician, only less experienced, less educated, and less honest.
Forgive me if I restrain myself from leaping aboard the Wesley Clark bandwagon.
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