Skip to comments.Clinton's General
Posted on 09/16/2003 12:35:21 AM PDT by ABG(anybody but Gore)
Is a Howard Dean-Wesley Clark ticket the Dem dream team for '04? The two have met, and Dean has publicly asked Clark to join the race, if not yet his ticket. Clark is about to announce that he will run for president, and an alliance with Dean seems illogical. Why would a four-star general who is banking on his military record want to link up with a man like Dean who has the needle pegged on the whackometer? All you need to know is that Clark -- whatever else he may be -- is a member of Team Clinton.
It's redundant to say more to prove Howard Dean's unfitness for the presidency than he has already said himself. His vitriolic attacks on President Bush are not just McGovernism, they are Michael Mooreism. In a recent Dem gabfest, he said that we shouldn't take sides in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He sticks to the line that the Iraq campaign has made us less secure, not more, and was a diversion from the war against terrorism. He would beg the U.N. for 50,000 foreign troops to join ours in Iraq. If we elect Dean, we might as well hand the keys to the Oval Office to Kofi Annan and eliminate the middle man. Maybe they would start renting out the Lincoln Bedroom again.
Dean is too shrewd a pol to think that he could win in '04 with "hate Bush" as his only claim to office. That's why he is pushing the former NATO commander to run for president. In Dean's mind, Clark would be a perfect balance to him as a #2 on the Dean ticket. But Dean should know where the General's loyalties lie, and they're not with him. Clark is, above all else, a member in good standing of Team Clinton. Which means Dean is toast if Clark can have any say in it. And he will.
For months, Clark has been teasing the media about his possible candidacy, but hasn't gotten past that Dan Quayle-like deer in the headlights look he gets every time he's asked an unexpected question. We know he's for "reproductive rights," against private ownership of assault weapons, and was strongly against the Iraq campaign. There is precious little else we know about the man. Because he may announce his candidacy as soon as tomorrow, it's time to learn more.
When I mentioned to a few sources that I was interested in Clark, I began receiving what soon became a flood of e-mails all of which said that Clark was a faux-soldier, a pretty face, the General from Central Casting, and not too smart. The other common theme was that as a commander, he knew little about how to fight, and had to be bailed out of bad decisions almost every day. Some of that is true. Most of it is not.
People who know him assure me Clark is brilliant, and his personal courage is unquestionable. Another Rhodes Scholar from Arkansas, Clark was first in his 1966 class at West Point. He won a Silver Star in Vietnam, which is only one step down from the Medal of Honor. He's an intense man with a tremendous work ethic. One senior Air Force officer guessed that Clark must have not gotten more than four or five hours of sleep during the Kosovo campaign. That's the good Clark.
The other Clark is the Friend of Bill, a man with a Jimmy Carter-like personality. Clark is a micro-manager of the worst sort. He distrusts his subordinates and injects himself into little decisions so much that he loses track of the big picture. He trusts his superiors even less. That's what got him fired from NATO.
Ever since Clark and Lil' Billy got together (which apparently happened in 1968, in their overlapping months at Oxford) Clark has been a FOB. Years later, when the army had made Clark a two-star, it had no future plans for him. But the Clintons did, and put him in line for three- and four-star jobs, culminating in the NATO command.
Clark and his wife are good friends with the Clintons, but that didn't save him from being fired from the SACEUR -- Supreme Allied Commander, Europe job. Clark was fired not by the Clintons, but by then Defense Secretary Bill Cohen. Clark got cross-wise with Cohen for routinely going to Clinton around both Cohen and then-Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Hugh Shelton. He did this all the time both indirectly -- through his pal Madeleine the Short -- and directly on the phone and in person with Clinton. Clark was such a publicity hound, that Cohen once ordered a subordinate, "Tell Clark to get his f#$%^&g face off television." Cohen, no small ego himself, thought Clark was hogging the camera.
Clark was fired because of his overweening ego and because he -- like so many others -- misjudged Clinton. He might have thought he could get away with what he was doing going around Cohen and Shelton, that Lil' Billy would protect him. So Clark was fired and to no one's surprise (except perhaps Clark's) Clinton didn't protect him. Now, the Clintons are using Clark again.
Clark wants the presidential nomination and the Clinton team -- who never act without clear orders from Billy and Hilly -- are lining up to get it for him, or at least use him to deny it to Dean. According to U.S. News & World Report's "Washington Whispers" by Paul Bedard, "Many of Clark's team in waiting are Clintonistas, like the former president's handyman Bruce Lindsey, scandal spokesman Mark Fabiani, and maybe even ex-Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, who's close to New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton." With a team like that behind him, Clark isn't aiming to play second banana. (Unless Hillary runs in '04, which is pretty unlikely. A Clinton-Clark ticket? I wonder how many ashtrays the general has had tossed at his head?)
As I said a couple of weeks ago, the Clintons are fighting against the Dean candidacy because they recognize that if Dean is nominated -- and goes down like McGovern did -- it will take a decade or more for America to again take the Dems seriously. That would mean Hillary would never make it back to Pennsylvania Avenue. Clark's job is to keep the Dems from following Dean off the McGovernik cliff. But how will he do that, given his positions?
Clark isn't clear on that many issues, and he may yet cleave to the center. But Clark is pro-abortion, against the Bush tax cuts, and opposed to the expansion of law enforcement powers in the "PATRIOT Act." Clark opposed the Iraq campaign, and has said again and again that the Iraq campaign was an "elective" war and that "we went into Iraq under false pretenses." He thinks we now have to "establish legitimacy" by getting the U.N.'s full endorsement (which means turning Iraq over to Kofi, Dominique, and the rest of the U.N. clown show). No wonder he gets along so well with Madeleine.
Clarks' solution to the war on terrorism is pure Clintonism. About a month after 9-11, Clark gave a speech in which he said, "Our best protection is not going to build a wall around America. It's not going to be to create a missile-defense impenetrable shield. It's going to be, instead, to create a community of common values and shared responsibilities and shared interests in which nations and people get along. That really is ultimately the only protection." Or he can lead the world in a chorus of "Kumbaya."
Clark will leap over the sure-losers among the Dem candidates by sundown on the day he announces. According to a CNN poll, he would be #5 of ten immediately. He'd be ahead of the Breck Girl, Al, Carol (even with her NOW endorsement) and Dennis the Menace but behind Kerry, Lieberman, Gephardt and Dean. Still, I don't see how it's possible for a military man who isn't a proven die-hard leftie to get the Fonda-McGovern party's nomination.
Clark won't want to run as anyone's Number Two Boy, far less any likely loser such as Dean. But that's the catch. After gaining credibility in a primary run, Clark would be established as a national political figure in a way he will never be otherwise. Simply to keep his prominence, he might take a #2 slot at the Demo convention, especially if they make a big publicity splash drafting him. And if he is someone's #2, and they lose, it leaves him in competition with Miz Hillary in '08.
Which is the point the Clintons lose control over Clark. He is enough of his own man to want the prize, and not settle twice for second place. What Clark doesn't realize that he won't -- ever -- become such a luminary that the Hollywoodenhead fundraising stars and the others the Dems rely on will defect from Hillary to him. Forget it, general. They'll use you and suck air out of your bubble whenever it pleases them. Sooner or later -- and I bet sooner -- Clark will join the rest of those who have been used and discarded by the Clintons.
Jed Babbin was a deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush administration, and now often appears as a talking warhead on MSNBC.