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April 17, 2005

Clark 08

Looks like Clark is readying himself for 2008. Good. Longtime readers know I was a big Clark-booster in 04 and I think all the same arguments will apply this time around, so I'm glad to see him taking it seriously. Looking back, there's little doubt in my mind that, had Clark entered the primaries when Dean did, he would've won them. I'm also convinced that Kerry/Clark rather than Kerry/Edwards would have taken home the presidential bacon. Kerry thought his resume enough to prove his national security cred; he was wrong. I remain certain that the reason John lost was because it was easier to imagine Bush traipsing through Vietnam than it was to see Kerry do the same -- appearances, unfortunately, matter.

Happily, Clark oozes military. It's impossible to imagine the guy anywhere else. And that's the key thing for a Democrat right now. We've got a persistent advantage on domestic issues and the credibility we've built there is attached to the party, any nominee can use it. What we don't have is a party-wide credibility on national security issues; that needs to be brought my the nominee. Luckily, Clark brings it. And since Scott unearthed my posts on this from last time around, let me be the first to take up the call again -- Clark/Sebelius 08.

By the way: Clark, Dean, Angelides, Westly -- seems like this years CA Dem convention didn't suck. I covered last year's as press and found it a horrible depressing affair. A procession of ambitious, backbiting politicians cycling anonymously over the stage while taking potshots at each other because Arnold was still too popular to hit. Made me want to be a Republican. Wish I'd gone this time around, though.

April 17, 2005 in Election 2008 | Permalink


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» Looks Like Wesley Clark Is In For 2008 from TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime
The California State Democratic Convention took place this weekend. CVCobb01 live-blogged Wesley Clark's speech and sat next to Clark's media advisor. He reports that Clark all but announced he is running in 2008 - enough so that he feels comfortable... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 18, 2005 12:27:27 AM

» Wesley Clark...good for the Dems in '08? from bennellibrothers.com
Mark Kleiman has a post discussing a speech Wesley Clark gave at a fundraiser: Just back from a fundraiser for Wesley Clark's WesPac, with Clark himself as the main attraction. Clark is running for President in 2008. He stopped just... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 18, 2005 3:00:07 PM


Interesting. I definitely think that what would have happened if Clark had entered the race a year earlier will be the great haunting question of the race. I got the impression that his bad campaigning was more inexperience than lack of talent; at least, I'd like him to run a serious enough campaign that we can find out.

Posted by: Scott Lemieux | Apr 17, 2005 8:38:40 PM

I'm a Clark booster too, for the same reasons. I hope he's learned his lessons from 2004. It's hard to enter a presidential campaign as a political neophyte.

Posted by: Rebecca Allen, PhD | Apr 17, 2005 8:38:40 PM

What Ezra said. Every word.

Posted by: Armando | Apr 17, 2005 8:42:14 PM

Amen. And there are no faster learners than Wes Clark. First thing he's learned--don't start so late that you can't be prepared for multiple contingencies. That's what caught him last time.

Posted by: Jai | Apr 17, 2005 9:17:52 PM

I'd support Clark in a heartbeat over Biden, Bayh, Richardson, Kerry, and Gore. And probably over Hillary.

I'm very afraid, however, that Rove would "swift-boat" him with enemies he made his climb to 4 star general (and there were many), and because he is a multi-lateralitst. I can almost hear the French-UN connotations being hung around his neck.

In my mind, he is one of the best minds around, and he seems to be a quick political learner now.

BUT - no elective office history and no executive experience outside the military. That will be hung around his shoulders too.

US history has shown that popular military generals can be elected. Does Clark earn the term 'popular'?

I thought his best role was as a VP to Kerry. It may be that his next role should be VP with a man like Gov. Schweitzer in Montana, who has the populist, 'regular guy' credentials to sweep the mountain states and southwest.

Wes Clark is a great man, but he's probably not the person that will win over those who elect someone like Bush 'because they like him'. I'd sure like to know how he polls with suburban women, and white Christian men over 30, before I got onto his bandwagon.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Apr 17, 2005 9:29:26 PM

Clark for VP. Fine. Make him NSA too. Brilliant.

But I don't want a general for president.

And I'm not sure he could win anyway.

Eisenhower was better than his era (although his relatively hands-off attitude toward the excesses of that era is more than disappointing, if less than damning), but he was a genuine War Hero, the SAC of WWII, and more importantly, a politician because of that. Clark is a onetime general with about a tenth of the name recognition and with a hint of pop-eyed wildness and some rough edges that some political experience would sand down but that haven't been sanded yet.

Clark for VP. But let's have a seasoned politician for president. Say, Rendell of PA. Or find some westerner, a former gov and live-and-let-live populist.

Not a general.

Posted by: bleh | Apr 17, 2005 9:56:23 PM

What do you think of Clark/Dean in '08?

Posted by: fightingdem | Apr 17, 2005 10:23:11 PM

I'm also convinced that Kerry/Clark rather than Kerry/Edwards would have taken home the presidential bacon. Kerry thought his resume enough to prove his national security cred; he was wrong. I remain certain that the reason John lost was because it was easier to imagine Bush traipsing through Vietnam than it was to see Kerry do the same -- appearances, unfortunately, matter.

I still don't think you're right about this, Ezra, and I'm also a massive Clark fan. I don't see how his appearances would've transferred to Kerry on top of the ticket. Plus, his inexperience wouldn't have helped much on the campaign trail either. I think if Clark "looked the part" enough to have to put Kerry over the top if he had been on the ticket, then he would've done a lot better in the primaries, but there's a lot more to it than looking the part.

Posted by: Haggai | Apr 17, 2005 10:34:06 PM

See, I think he would've done a lot better in the primaries had he entered Iowa. Post-Iowa, the whole thing got so distorted and swept up in its own momentum that no one else had a chance. Clark on the ticket would've, I think, given Kerry valuable rhetorical ground on which to base his national security appeal. "My Vice-President not only faced down a dictator, he stopped the genocide without losing even a single American life. That's why I've chosen him -- right now, America needs its best, most competent men running te foreign policy..."

Posted by: Ezra | Apr 17, 2005 11:19:49 PM

I was a huge Clark fan before he got in the race, but was then constantly dissapointed by his performance on the trail and on the issues. For someone who was supposed to have such great national security cred, his positions on Iraq and the war on terror never struck a note confident, or, yes, hawkish enough to jibe with the image he needed to project and we thought he would project. Kerry's defeat showed how all that NATO talk rings hollow as an electoral position; it is not, by itself enough to win on the issue of defense.

I fear the only way for a Democrat to be elected president in any election where security is an issue and the Republican candidate is not a total disaster is to be the more hawkish one, or at least to neutralize the issue by making the difference not as great. Kerry allowed, willingly I believe, the perception that he would not be as strong on the War to persist because he didn't constantly attack Bush on it, and obviously did not know how to frame the debate in a way that was consistent with inflated American fears (the line I always wanted him to use was "victory in the war on terror is too important to be left up to George Bush"). Clark allowed the same thing to happen, but not quite as bad, and I think in rhetoric, if not in policy, he has moved in the right direction since then. But multilateralism just doesn't seem to play, and I hope Clark gets that.

Which brings up another point; Clark, for all his great attributes, always seems to be vaguely off, or strange, or not quite right. Am I the only one who feels that way? What's the tangible intangible that's missing?

Posted by: SamAm | Apr 17, 2005 11:29:13 PM

Ezra, it wouldn't matter if the Democrats ran George Washington; the Republicans would still find a way to take his military record down a few notches. When are Democrats going to learn that no one--NO ONE--is immune to any sort of attack from the Republicans, especially when it comes to foreign policy? All it takes is a group of ostensibly independent people with a grudge and a good promoter, and all of a sudden, you have a controversy, both sides of which the media is "obligated" to report. Hell, Republicans would paint the god of the Torah as too soft because she let Lot get out of Sodom. What makes you think they wouldn't find a way to destroy Wes Clark, who has much lower standing in American history than George Washington or God?

Posted by: randomliberal | Apr 17, 2005 11:40:11 PM

I think there was way too much on people's minds in 2004 for them to care who the vice-presidential candidates were.

Posted by: Ethical Werewolf | Apr 18, 2005 12:16:35 AM

If they try to take Clark down, he'll fight back--hard and fast. He has a lot of appeal, I think; even my redneck relatives in Florida like him. Finally we can agree on something political.

Posted by: aw | Apr 18, 2005 12:53:23 AM

What I liked about Clark was his ability to respond quickly to attacks. What I disliked about Clark was his inability to respond to day-to-day questions. If he's picked that up, I look forward to seeing him on the campaign, in a bittersweet kind of way.

What do you think of Clark/Dean in '08?

I like it a lot less than Dean/Clark in '08, to be frank. I'm pretty sure Dean's not going to run, though.

Posted by: Kimmitt | Apr 18, 2005 1:08:51 AM

It's not that Clark is immune to attacks -- no one is. But attacks stick better to some than others. Kerry looked suspiciously unmilitary anyway, it was no tough thing to believe he was no war hero. Clark will come under different fire, but he's not going to be painted as anti-troop and, for the Democratic party, that's the key thing.

Posted by: Ezra | Apr 18, 2005 2:37:17 AM

"I'd beat the living shit out of them." -- Wes Clark

This was in response to a hypothetical about someone attempting to smear his patriotism. I only wish he had gotten on the phone to Senator Kerry. I know everyone's rehashed everything to death, but I've eventually settled on this. If Mr. Kerry had not lain low for a month while the Swifties gained momentum, if he had come out swinging at the White House, he would have had the tough-guy image he needed to win over waverers at the polls. My own parents started out strong on Kerry's "war hero" credentials, but the Swifties won them over. A little bit of "President Bush wants to mock my war record? He can do it to my face, if he's not still a coward" would have done wonders.

Anyway, I think Mr. Clark would be much more aggressive at counterattack. If that were all, that would hardly be a sufficient endorsement. But he's a smart guy, too, and I think it would be nice to have a smart, well-educated thoughtful person running the show for a change. Never mind the experience question. Everyone harps on experience, then turns around and harps on what a mistake it is to choose a Senator as a candidate. Being governor of virtually any state does not give a person the experience to handle US domestic or foreign policy. And unlike the reassuring bull puckey about Mr. Bush in 2000, I would trust Mr. Clark to pick solid advisors and listen to them.

Posted by: mds | Apr 18, 2005 9:44:11 AM

I see the Clarkies are out in full bloom. I continue to find it fascinating that supposed progressives fall over each other for someone who was barely a Democrat and a Reagan supporter. Having said that, I was impressed by certain aspects of Clark's campaign, giving him some slack as a political neophyte, and I think Clark would make a lot of sense as VP on an Edwards ticket. I would not favor him for the top spot unless the only other choices were Clinton, Bayh and Warner.

Posted by: Paleo | Apr 18, 2005 11:17:38 AM

Of course they will try to impugn his military cred. I truly belive, that Rove was worried about him in '04, because though the swifties did their job on Kerry, it would be much harder to convince the American public that one of our Generals, who worked his way all the way up the military ladder was somehow a phony. That would be a lot for the American people to swallow.

Anyway, this is great news. And Ezra, you just shot up pretty high in my book.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 18, 2005 11:41:49 AM


HOW MANY DEMOCRATS VOTED FOR REAGAN???? It's something we need to accept. MOST of us voted for Reagan.

My question is, why did Clark tell the truth about voting for Republicans in the past? He could have SO EASILY LIED; but he told the truth. In my book that says a lot.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 18, 2005 11:52:24 AM

In theory, Clark should have large crossover potential for attracting moderate Republicans. Unless he has taken some steps to improve his ability to campaign, though, that potential will fail to be met. Regardless on his resume (or gravitas - to borrow a '00 term) he lacks saavy and for all the honesty his tone/delivery, at least to my ear, is consistently off key.

The Kerry/Clark ticket idea is interesting, Ezra. I'm not sure I agree that it gets them over the top because Clark in 04 was such an ineffective communicator. I agree that he may well have fended off the swift boat deal, however, I think Kerry could have gotten Clark to help out more even with Edwards or anyone else on the card, after all Clark would have been a very logical choice for Sec. Def. in a Kerry admin. The fact that Kerry wasn't able to leverage Clark in this manner may be a good indicator as to why Kerry didn't call on Clark to fill the number two slot.

Posted by: Publius Rex | Apr 18, 2005 12:38:32 PM

"HOW MANY DEMOCRATS VOTED FOR REAGAN???? It's something we need to accept. MOST of us voted for Reagan."

Uh, as I recall, at least 75% of Democrats did not vote for Reagan. In any event, that's besides the point. That some Democrats voted for Reagan is one thing. That does not mean our nominee has to be one of them.

Posted by: Paleo | Apr 18, 2005 1:23:08 PM


You're certainly right that Clark would have been a better bet than Edwards. If for no other reason that AR was potentially winnable and NC wasn't.

A Dem Gov from a red state (KA, AZ, MT) would also have been better.

The VP choice was Kerry's big decision to make and he blew it. Still that's a different discussion isn't it.

As to Clark's military record though.....

Isn't indiscriminant bombing from 30,000 feet a war crime these days? That is unless he wanted to hit refugee columns, commuter trains, TV stations, the Chinese Embassy..... ;-)

BTW What is Clark planning to do for the next three years? This isn't the 1950s and he's not Ike - you just can't reach the top in politics in one leap.

Anyway this is all moot - we all know that the wicked witch will be the nominee and ANYONE who trys to get in her way will end up looking worse than Dean did in Iowa.

Posted by: Boethius | Apr 18, 2005 1:53:09 PM

A vote for Reagan over two decades ago is not damning enough for me to hold it against Clark. I hope he runs again. He certainly looks like he has improved his stump skills here and there, and it's been good seeing him on TV again. I was a big supporter back during his campaign, and I've always believed he would be an excellent President, but he never was the best campaigner back then.

Posted by: sprocket | Apr 18, 2005 1:56:05 PM

"That does not mean our nominee has to be one of them."

Of course it doesn't mean our nominee HAS to be one of them. But why do you exclude these people, even if it was not a majority of Democrats. You're pretty much saying that 25% of Democrats should have no right to be our nominee because they voted for one of the most popular presidents of all time. That sounds like a losing strategy to me. And I would really like to know what you think about my comment before about his honesty, does it not show you something?

Posted by: Joe | Apr 18, 2005 1:59:57 PM

Geez, are we still calling Clark a war criminal? Is Clinton? Is Albright? How come it's Milosevich being tried and not Clark and Clinton?

I have no problem with people questioning his judgement in Kosovo, but to just blurt out that he's a war criminal does no one any good.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 18, 2005 2:06:35 PM

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