Clark or Dean? How about both?
By Jackson Thoreau
After a rocky start, Wesley Clark is finding his groove, to the fear and loathing of the Bush-Cheney forces.
A national CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll released Wednesday showed Clark within four percentage points of front-runner Howard Dean, with the support of 20 percent of 465 Democrats surveyed. Less than a month ago, Dean held a seemingly safe 21-point lead over Clark.
As the Jan. 19 Iowa caucuses and Jan. 27 New Hampshire primary near, who is my choice? I like both candidates and would like to see both on the Democratic ticket, with Clark as the presidential candidate.
Why Clark over the apparently more progressive Dean? In a race in which we should be practical and choose the candidate most likely to beat Bush this year Kucinich would get my support in an ideal country - the answer comes down to location.
Dean hails from one of the most liberal states in the country, which supported Gore by 51 percent to 41 percent for Bush in 2000. Clark comes from a state that Gore lost in 2000 after Clinton easily won it in 1996. If Clark can win back Arkansas this November, as well as the rest of the states Gore took in 2000, it doesnt matter how many dirty tricks Republicans play in Florida.
And thats what has Republicans running scared and cranking up more slimy attacks against Clark. Thats what has Republicans trying to control the electronic voting process, where they can manipulate voting totals without leaving a paper trail.
Republicans like Rove have long supported Dean because they know they can paint him as a liberal Northeasterner out of touch with mainstream America. They cant do that against Clark.
Clark is Bushs worst nightmare, a candidate whose Rhodes-scholar, NATO-supreme-allied-commander background as an Army captain in Vietnam, Clark was shot four times and received the Silver Star - sharply contrasts with Bushs average-student, drunken, draft-dodging record. Make no mistake about it, the top issue in this campaign will be national security. Clarks military background gives him a big edge over Dean and Bush. John Kerry has a solid military background and foreign policy experience, but he hails from the Northeast and will not help the Democrats win back important Southern states like Arkansas.
Look how far Clark has come since he announced his candidacy last fall. In the last three months of 2003, Clark raised more money than any Democratic contender except for Dean. Hes learned to connect with voters. Some New Hampshire formerly strong Dean supporters told USA Today and the Los Angeles Times that Clark has made them rethink their choices. His rise in the polls over candidates who have been around longer like Kerry and Lieberman display his strength.
Even though Clark isnt campaigning in Iowa to focus on New Hampshire and other states, he could still do well enough in Iowa to make some waves. In the weird primary season why cant all Americans have a chance to pick candidates at the same time? numerous Southern and Western states follow New Hampshire. That plays into Clarks strength.
While Dean scored a big recent endorsement with Gore, Clark has dozens of former Clinton staffers working for him. Clinton has said he will not endorse anyone, but he didnt object to the Clark campaign using his image for an ad. The similarities between Clark and Clinton run deeper than growing up in the same state. Both were raised as Baptists by their mothers after their fathers died when they were young. Both earned Rhodes scholarships to study at Oxford University in the late 1960s.
While Clark seems a lot older and more mature than Bush, he is only two years older. And he resonates with some Hollywood types Madonna is endorsing Clark. More established, moderate Democratic politicians like Rep. Martin Frost of Texas, the ranking Democratic member of the House Rules Committee and the most senior Southern Democrat in the House, have endorsed Clark.
Some like Lieberman have questioned whether Clark is a "real" Democrat whatever that is pointing out that he didnt vote for a Democrat until Clinton in 1992. If youre keeping score, Lieberman and many other Democrats act more like Republicans than Democrats, themselves. Hell, Ralph Hall, a conservative Texas congressman, even recently switched to the Republicans after an unfair Republican redistricting process.
Of course, Id like to see someone like Kucinich elected president, but that isnt going to happen in todays United States. Im the type of progressive who can read the writing on the wall and be practical when I have to be. I know we have to get rid of Bush in 2004, not 2008, and Clark has the best shot of doing so.
Besides, the Bush forces want Dean to win and fear Clark the most. Why do what the Bush forces want? We should do what they least want and make their year as miserable as possible.
The Bush team is so slimy it is trying to undercut former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris bid for the Senate in that state by getting Mel Martinez to quit as HUD secretary and run for Senate. Bush and Rove fear a Harris bid for Senate will bring out a lot more Democrats who remember Harris role in 2000 next November and hurt their chances of stealing Florida again. Thats how cutthroat Bush-Cheney-Rove are; they even turn on the person who is arguably most responsible for them being in the White House, save Antonio Scalia.
Clark can choose Dean as his running mate to keep Deans supporters working hard towards the ultimate goal getting rid of Bush. But thats not a given; I could understand if Clark tapped a fellow Southerner like North Carolina Sen. John Edwards or Florida Sen. Bob Graham to gain more inroads in typical Republican country, a strategy that worked for the Democrats in 1992.
Being a retired general, Clark raises some fears that he will lead the U.S. towards a more militaristic state. But Clark surprised even Academy Awards winner Michael Moore last year when he said on national television that Moore had a right to speak out against the U.S. invasion of Iraq. "Nothing is more American, nothing is more patriotic than speaking out, questioning authority and holding your leaders accountable," Clark said in a speech last year. That doesnt sound like a military dictator-wannabe speaking remember Bush saying he wished he was a dictator?
Unlike the many chicken hawks in the Bush administration, Clark has personally fought in wars and has seen the price paid in such wars. I think hed be a lot more careful about invading another country than the current administration, which wants an American empire that has the right to attack any country it pleases. Clark said he only supported a version of the Iraq resolution that would require Bush to seek approval from Congress a second time before going to war last year, and now he opposes such invasions.
Ive been impressed with Clarks proposals, from his plan to rein in corporate income tax cheaters and give the middle class tax breaks, to his job creation program that includes reducing the national budget deficit, rescinding tax cuts to the very wealthy, and a tax credit for each new employee businesses hire.
As Clark said, under Clinton, the U.S. economy created nearly 21 million private-sector jobs, and under Bush, we lost more than 3 million private jobs. "Three years ago, we were told we were getting a compassionate conservative," Clark said. "What we got instead were massive tax cuts for the rich, staggering deficits for the country, and the worst job losses since the Great Depression. That's not compassionate or conservative; it's heartless, it's reckless, and it's wrong."
Bushs bump in the polls in recent months is due to a series of lies and manufactured news. The economy is not getting better about the same number of people were laid off their jobs in 2003 as 2002. The only difference is the corporate stockholders and those at the top are getting richer under Bush, which accounts for the apparent economic bump that does not include job growth. In other words, companies are making more money with fewer employees, who are working harder.
"This White House has no plan," Clark said in a recent speech. "They say tax cuts for the rich will create jobs. They say drilling in the Arctic will create jobs. They say a new energy plan will create jobs. They say easing environmental regulations will create jobs. They are flailing. They are desperate. They know they have a problem, and they know they don't have a solution."
And Bush-Cheney doesnt just have a solution to the failing economy, they dont have a solution to how to combat Clark. Thats why they are attacking him so much and supporting Dean.
I just hope Democrats dont fall into another Republican trap. You should pick the candidate who the other side fears the most, the one who will give you the best shot to win. At the very least, Clark will make Bush-Cheney-Rove and other chicken hawks in that administration miserable for most of this year.
Jackson Thoreau is an American writer and co-author of We Will Not Get Over It: Restoring a Legitimate White House. The updated, 120,000-word electronic book can be downloaded on his Internet site at http://www.geocities.com/jacksonthor/ebook.html. Citizens for Legitimate Government has the earlier version at http://www.legitgov.org/we_will_not_get_over_it.html. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.