A CLARK POSTSCRIPT
All right. During the last few weeks I celebrated my victory over Ret. Gen. Wesley Clark Sr., albeit offline. Had I been posting at that time, I might have torn him apart in a mildly vicious post-mortem. Instead I counted to ten and the urge passed. But then just last week, after Clark had done right by his party and endorsed -- nay, heaped praise on -- the opponent he'd maligned so relentlessly, a couple of random Clark items caught my eye. This time I counted to ten, then twenty, without any noticeable change. So I held on to the clips in question, and here we go:
The first is the astonishing and so far mostly unreported revelation that Clark has decided to retain his delegates
going into the convention. When he did so early last week, he had already endorsed John Kerry and campaigned with him. So what's he want these delegates for? Shouldn't he be directing them to vote for the candidate he supports? Well, it seems the candidate he supports the most is still Wesley Clark. Here's what he wrote in his letter announcing this to DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe:
I write to inform you that I wish to suspend my candidacy ... effective immediately. As of this date, I believe I have earned the right to be represented at the 2004 Democratic National Convention by 63 delegates pledged to support my candidacy ... It is my understanding that I will retain the right to be so represented during the pendency of my campaign's suspension. ... If for any reason you believe that any of the foregoing is inaccurate, or if you require any further filing from my campaign, I request that you contact my attorney.
What's he trying to do, use his delegates to bargain for more time at the convention, as Howard Dean is sure to do? That is, haggle with the nominee whom he continues to campaign for, has nothing but public phrase for, and understandably wants a Cabinet-level appointment from? Well, that's my best guess.
In any case, what's really astonishing about this is not that Clark would be so duplicitous, but that this hasn't made the newspapers, even in coverage about Kerry, nor (I believe) has it made the blogs. It should be relevant to coverage of Kerry -- it would be a worthy addition to the mounting evidence that Democrats themselves are hardly attached to him. But about Clark, it's not much of a surprise -- the man never displayed any loyalty or integrity
He helped raise money for Bush yet within the year was, to the specific phrasing, questioned his patriotism. He tried to talk his way out of previous commitments and statements before and after he became an official candidate -- on the war, on who called him about Iraq shortly after 9/11 and others.
Like Dean, whose antipathy for Kerry is manifest, Clark has only "suspended" his candidacy. I'm not sure Kerry wants Clark on his side in a battle.
The second item is an op-ed
by Washington Monthly
editor Paul Glastris for the New York Times
-- promoting a longer feature
in his own magazine. Glastris' central theme is that sure, Dean's Internet thing was neat, but in "crucial ways, however, General Clark's candidacy changed not only this election but also elections to come
." (Emphasis mine. Besides, the Times
hasn't warmed up to boldface yet.)
Glastris purports to offer a handful of justifications for this over-the-top assertion. One statement -- the why of it I'll get to in a minute -- is that "Clark made national security the crux of his campaign." Really? I still have no idea what Clark's position on the war is. From his hawkish and Bush-praising Times
of London op-ed
early in 2003 to his repeated condemnations of the war and Bush-insulting, I think it's hard to say anybody thought he had gravitas -- except maybe liberal Beltway pundits
who wanted a fresher version of Kerry.
But assuming Glastris is right, this is so important because "if a candidate could persuade voters that they would be safer he would be able to interest them in other issues like the economy or health care." He must be kidding, because Clark himself has joked about launching his campaign without any position papers. And it showed, no less than when he said there should be absolutely no restrictions on abortion whatsoever, a position much further left of his fellow Democrats
field, excepting Al Sharpton. Then a few days later he muddied up his position while talking to reporters, and was gone from the race before it could come up again. And when he did talk policy, accounts of his stumping in New Hampshire were decidedly cool.
But Glastris doesn't get this. He's too busy getting excited about his belief that Clark brought credibility to the party on foreign policy, and that factor explains why primary voters ditched Dean and -- as it was predicted on bumper stickers -- "married" Kerry. Clark eschewed "platitudes and generalities" as he "explain[ed] the specifics of how [multilateral action] could win wars and secure peace." (Remember, he led a war Clinton launched unilaterally.) It's telling that Glastris offers no examples -- there simply aren't any. Clark was incoherent and inarticulate
from the get-go and never improved
The last preposterous Glastris claim I'll mention is that "Clark spoke with evident sincerity and knowledge about faith, especially his own. Other Democratic candidates soon followed, including Howard Dean." Correction -- Clark has changed denomination several times for decidedly un-spiritual reasons -- because there was a Catholic church near his station in England, back to Protestantism because he married one. And he may have spoken movingly about it on the trail, but this supposed strength was not one he emphasized in interviews or debate. And apparently it was Dean, again, who felt this heat. Well, John Edwards, John Kerry and others -- even hyper lefty Dennis Kucinich -- were talking about religion, too. That Dean overdid it, clumsily, was not prompted by Clark.
Ultimately, Glastris fails to explain why this would influence future elections, even if they were true
. These paragraphs are missing. Or more likely, it just didn't occur to Glastris that he had to explain any further. I'll tell you why it won't: Dean's telethon-style Internet fundraising was an unqualified and wide-ly reported success (for what it was worth -- tens of millions of dollars, but not a guarantee of nomination). I'll give you another: Glastris apparently believes these things Clark did changed the thinking of the electorate -- mostly moving Dean supporters back to Kerry. But if you think Clark was responsible for this, you somehow missed the last six weeks before Iowa. The aspects of Clark's candidacy that Glastris highlights are were at best too underreported to make a difference, or so far off the mark that they aren't worth considering (my contention).
Overall, as I hinted at before, I think Clark appealed to a segment of educated Democrats who wanted a tough liberal with solid foreign policy credentials. Even though Clark was not that, they allowed themselves to believe it for awhile. But not enough people believed it, and Clark is now something less than a footnote. Good.
To summarize more succinctly the kind of enthusiasm for Clark illustrated here: smart people acting stupid.