by Rob Kall
We don't know much about Wesley Clark yet and perhaps that's why he's the hottest candidate on the net, and the hottest democratic candidate we've seen yet in terms of primary candidate website activity.
Earlier this year, we used our internet statistics analysis technology to predict that Howard Dean would win the Moveon.org internet "primary" and one of our stats was found to predict within less than one percent the percentage that Dean won by. That same predictive indicator is showing that Wesley Clark is currently far ahead of Howard Dean-- with Clark's two websites americansforclark.com and draftwesleyclark.com reaching more than twice as many internet visitors than Dean's deanforamerica.com . Dean's website's reach of 235 per million is dwarfed by Clark's combined reach of 645 per million. And the more active of the sites has obviously just recently been opened.
It's seductive, the idea of a candidate who makes George Bush look like the joke he really is, in a navy aviator outfit. And of course, that's what you do-- laugh, when you see General Clark alongside an image of George Flyboy Bush.
It's attractive to contemplate a candidate who you know will stand up to the toughness test the Republicans will assuredly attack any democratic candidate on. General Clark was seriously wounded in Vietnam and he's made tough decisions in warfare.
Clark is a southerner from Arkansas and the last two democrats elected to the presidency came from the south, and presumably, helped pull in southern votes.
He's a Rhode's scholar, graduate of Oxford University, first in his class graduate of West Point and was NATO Supreme Allied Commander and Commander in Chief of the United States European Command.
He's served as a commentator on CNN.... and he's pretty.
Clark brings a lot of strengths to the table. But then there are those nagging questions-- like who he really is, what his positions on policy are and what he stands for. He seems to have convinced Michael Moore, but I'm still waiting, and yesterday, I learned that he voted for Nixon and twice for Reagan. Those are two strong strikes against him in my book. He also said he'd have voted to support the war. Now, a day later, he has recanted on that statement and added some caveats and explanations. Now you can attribute this clumsiness to starting out the gate inexperience and unpreparedness, or it might be verging on pathological, stuff your foot in your mouth honesty, but in light of all the prevarications and deceptions we now know the Bush administration used to sell the war, it could also be a lot of BS. But still, he sounds a lot like Lieberman there. Then there are the Balkan and Panamanian wartime "blunders" that are being bandied about. Who knows what truths are to be found there, but they are clearly liabilities.
On the Bill Maher show, a few weeks ago, Bill asked him if he was a liberal. The reply was this wishy washy treatise on how we live in a liberal democracy. It was waffling and avoided a straight answer.
So, I repeat, it would be attractive to have a mediagenic, smart, southern candidate who can stand up to Bush on some issues that Democrats are considered wobbly on. But we really have to be careful not to be fooled into falling for a stealth republican candidate. I'm not convinced yet. A guy who voted for Nixon, who was one of the most despicable Republicans to desecrate the office of presidency, raises all kinds of red flags for me.
On his website, he has what he calls a 100 year vision. He says, "We must balance carefully the short term needs for commercial exploitation with longer term respect for the natural gifts our country has received. We may also have to assist market-driven adjustments in urban and rural populations, as we did in the 19th Century with the Homestead Act." One cannot help but think about how George Bush talks about doing wonderful things for the environment too-- creating euphemistic titles like Clear Skies, while appointing environmental foxes to guard the hen house. Who knows whether Clark is just another say one thing do another type. Generals are taught, as part of their war training to use diversion, feints and distraction to confuse and fool the enemy.
On the other hand, Clark probably shines like a god to the DLC-- those centrist democrats we on the further edges of the left consider to be republicans in Democrats clothing. Is Clark much different than Georgia's Zell Miller and Louisiana's John Breaux? They are both democrats, but more often, they vote with the republicans than with the democrats.
The New York Times reports that at an Iowa appearance, Clark said, ""We also have to recognize that force should be used only as a last resort, when all other means have failed." There's nothing wrong with a remark like this, but it reminds me of how Bush said that the only time he'd increase expenditures or the size of government was if we were at war. This is the same kind of remark that leaves him open to go all the way. After all, Bush went ahead and lied to the congress and the people, used his surrogates to perpetrate false beliefs in the population and then started a war so he could go ahead and do what he'd said he'd never do unless....
On the other hand, the Times also reported that Clark said, ""Americans know in their hearts that you don't make our country safer by erecting walls to keep others out. You make us safer by building bridges to reach out." This sounds good, but also sounds very similar to Bill Clinton's "building a bridge to the future" line. And we know that Clark had numerous talks with the Clintons before deciding to run. The conservative website Newsmax even ran a nasty headline:
Of course, the same issue of Newsmax also speculates on Hillary Clinton entering the race. This seems to be a favorite preoccupation of right wingers. Limbaugh fantasizes about it continuously on his daily radio pontification sessions. We know that something like 75 percent of the dittohead right wing radio talk show audience is made up of men-- these needing-to-feel-macho guys who listen to hour after hour of right wing shock jocks putting down liberals. I think they want Hillary to run so that they'll have a woman to abuse-- to say mean, nasty things about, to feel superior to.
But I digress from Clark. The Hillary consideration is not irrelevant though, since, there is also talk of her running with Clark serving as a vice presidential partner. Heck, there is a lot of talk period about Clark being a vice presidential partner. His credentials would give added credibility and expand the voter demographic reach for just about any candidate.
The UK's Guardian, in reviewing comments by other pundits, cited the New York Post's Eric Fettman, ""Gen Clark's primary political function is to serve as the Democrats' beard on national security," He warned Democrats to think twice before backing a single-issue politician: "A Clark candidacy would mean a campaign based solely on the war at a time when many in the party believe Mr Bush's biggest weakness is the economy - an area in which, like every other domestic issue, Gen Clark has no track record."
I have to wonder when right wing worldnet.com commentator Joseph Farah writes a column titled Why Wesley Clark is dangerous in which he says that he's dangerous because he could win the presidential elections. The column complains that "Clark is a pro-abortion, pro-homosexual tax increaser." And then it launches into an inane list of silly items that the far right will probably whip up again and again in their left-hating fantasies, including the idea that Clark almost started world war three and that he was involved in the Janet Reno-led onslaught of the Branch Davidian Church in Waco. But the accusations are really just plain dumb. Still, the conservatives goals are to hurt any and all candidates who run against their own neanderthal picks, so some suspicion is reasonable when a right winger like Farrah speaks highly of a democrat, even when at the same time attacking him on other issues.
Clark, in his 100 year vision, says, "If we are to remain competitive we will have to do more to develop our "human potential." To put it in a more familiar way, we should help every American to "be all he or she can be." Being involved in the fields of optimal funcitoning and positive psychology, I like this idea, even though it's a military sales jingle. This kind of remark would probably be laughed at by the far right's philosopher kings, like Grover Norquist, Rush Limbaugh, Tom DeLay and Karl Rove.
But Clark, in an article on the war, which he wrote last March, spoke highly of Jay Garner, the first Bush appointee to run Iraq-- and Garner was a loser from the get-go. That's not a good sign of judgment of character.
On the other hand, back in September of 2002, Clark argued for the US to build an international coalition to fight terrorism, and he has a history of being involved in the NATO coordinated rescue of the Balkans. He's proven he can play a roll in building international concensus and cooperation, a sign that he could help heal the wounds the Bush administration has inflicted on our international friendships and alliances.
We on the left all want a winning democratic contender who can whip Bush and bring a hurricane of democratic voters into the voting booths, so they also clean out incumbent republicans and help take back the congress. Clark is off to an amazing start, and it will be wonderful if he is the real thing-- a progressive democrat who is not owned by corporations or the military.
But we don't know that yet. He has to prove himself. Hiding behind vague statements will not do it. One of the reasons Dean has been in the lead is because he regularly communicates his ideas-- putting out press releases and annoncements to his supporters on an almost daily basis. This has given people the chance to get to know who he is, what his positions are. Wesley Clark has to do the same thing and he has to do it in a hurry, since he's so late getting started. As we get to know Clark we'll find out whether he's the real deal-- a solid Democrat or another republican in Democrat's clothing.
Rob Kall firstname.lastname@example.org is publisher of progressive news and opinion website www.opednews.com and organizer of cutting edge meetings that bring together world leaders, such as the Winter Brain Meeting and the StoryCon Summit Meeting on the Art, Science and Application of Story This article is copyright by Rob Kall, but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this entire credit paragraph is attached