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Wesley Clark
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Recently I was bitching because there wasn't a Democratic candidate I would even remotely think of voting for.

So now that Wesley Clark has entered the race, does that change my mind?

The short answer is: I don't know.

I haven't seen him speak very much, and after reading some about him, I still don't feel like I know enough about him to make a judgment.

I saw him back on Meet the Press on June 15th, but I wasn't watching with my full attention, and I have to say he didn't make much of an impression.

There's already been a fair amount of talk about his stance on the war with Iraq, and by many he's been labeled "anti-war". But apparently there's some confusion over his stance.

And I'm confused by what he said to Tim Russert:

MR. RUSSERT: Where are the weapons of mass destruction?

GEN. CLARK: I think there are some mass destruction capabilities that are still inside Iraq. I think there’s some weapons that have been shipped over the border to Syria. But I don’t think we’re going to find that their capabilities provided the imminent threat that many feared in this country. So I think it’s going to be a tough search, but I think there’s stuff there.

Personally, I couldn't give a crap if the threat was "imminent" or not. I think that's the point behind the Bush doctrine. If we wait until the threat is imminent, it's too late. Clark is certain that Hussein possessed illicit WMD and wanted to acquire more. So what would have been his policy toward Iraq? Let them keep their weapons, keep subverting the inspections regime, let the U.N. keep issuing resolution after meaningless resolution?

In the same interview, he comes out against the Bush Tax Cuts. Fine with me.

But not only does he support affirmative action...

MR. RUSSERT: You and other former generals filed an amicus brief in support of the University of Michigan’s affirmative action plan.

GEN. CLARK: Right.

He filed a brief in support of it? This doesn't warm me over to his side.

But then he danced around the issue of gays in the military:

MR. RUSSERT: In the brief you talked about combating discrimination. Many people would point to the military’s policy on gays as being discriminatory. Are you in favor of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military?

GEN. CLARK: I’m not sure that I’d be in favor of that policy. I supported that policy. That was a policy that was given. I don’t think it works. It works better in some circumstances than it does in others. But essentially we’ve got a lot of gay people in the armed forces, always have had, always will have. And I think that, you know, we should welcome people that want to serve. But we also have to maintain consistent standards of discipline; we have to have effective units.
So I think that’s an issue that the leaders in the armed forces are going to have to work with and resolve.

Not exactly rock solid and clear, is he? I guess I was hoping that a candidate who was not a career politician would speak more plainly, but I suppose to become a high-ranking general, you really are a career politician. If he's such a crusader for civil rights, why not just say, "I support openly gay men and women serving in our military."? "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a ridiculous, outmoded policy, and he should have said so. But his campaign advisors probably got bad numbers back from pollsters on the issue, so he waffled through five questions on it before he finally said he would reexamine the issue. Sheesh.

For further insight into Clark, there's also this Newsweek profile, which is pretty interesting. It paints an interesting picture of the man, on one hand a brilliant student and military man and on the other an arrogant, brown-nosing climber.

I thought this was the most interesting bit, though:

In his interview with NEWSWEEK, he vigorously argued that to win the war on terror, President Bush should be concentrating on Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, not Iraq. “You have to persuade [Pakistan President Pervez] Musharraf to shut down the religious schools,” he said, “and get the Saudis to secularize.” But what if these deeply Islamic countries don’t want to secularize? “You’ve got to work the issues,” said Clark, in an urgent, confident tone that suggested that he could bring around the most stubborn imam.

Look, I agree in principle, but his solution is to "work the issues"? Gee, that's specific. How about openly condemning Saudi policies and human rights violations? How about using newfound influence with Pakistan to finally pressure Musharraf to hold the democratic elections he's been paying lip service to?

And then there's this:

Clark can become worked up making a point and sometimes resorts to mimicry. He imitated a Bush official’s crude approach to power: “We unleashed force! We hit the Arabs! Clinton was a pussy!” Hearing himself, he hastily added, “It’s the way they think.”

Yeah, that's a nuanced view of our foreign policy. Good grief.

Okay, maybe I have already made my mind up on Clark. Still, I'd like to hear him speak a bit more, and try to articulate his views. I'd like to see him in a debate.

My impression is that he jumped to the head of the polls so quickly because most Democrats are hungry for a decent candidate, and they see his military experience as a form of Kryptonite against Bush. I don't think it's going to be that simple, but time will tell.

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