Gen. Wesley Clark stands out in the Democratic field
by Daryl Moore
Generally, I don’t fawn over candidates who supported Nixon and Reagan. And, generally, I don’t find myself supporting a candidate who praised George W. Bush at any Republican fundraisers. But, generally, there’s not a general who is running as a Democrat for the presidency. This time there is. And I’m a huge Wesley Clark fan.
What’s not to like? No candidate—Democrat or Republican—has a more impressive biography. Born in Chicago in 1944, Clark lost his father when he was young, so Clark and his mother moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, to live with his grandparents. He was a star swimmer and top high school student in Little Rock.
Clark received an appointment to West Point, where he graduated first in his class. He was a Rhodes scholar. He served in Vietnam, was wounded in combat, and received two Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart, and the Silver Star. (During this time, Dubya was hiding out in the National Guard to avoid combat, and Howard Dean was snow skiing in Aspen—on a medical deferment.) After obtaining the rank of four-star general, and after serving as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, General Clark received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Running as a Democrat, Clark provides the party an opportunity to nominate a candidate who is untouchable on national security. Running from the South, Clark provides the party an opportunity to carry some Southern states, which is necessary if the Democrats are to reclaim the White House.
Still, many of the Democratic faithful are afraid of Clark. They say he’s not a “real” Democrat, as reflected by his voting for Nixon and Reagan. Who in the Democratic primary is a “real” Democrat? Kerry, Gephardt, and Edwards, who supported the resolution for invading Iraq in a pre-emptive strike? Dr. Dean, who called Medicare “one of the worst federal programs ever”? Joseph Lieberman, the Republican-lite candidate who is politically dead and doesn’t yet know it? That leaves Al Sharpton, Carol Mosely Braun, and Dennis Kucinich. And even if they are “real” Democrats, none of them is polling 1 percent.
I’ve attended two Wesley Clark events and he sounds like a “real” Democrat to me. He disdains John Ashcroft, who he calls “unpatriotic” for erasing individual freedoms that Clark fought for. He blasts the Bush administration for “deceiving the American public” into supporting a premature invasion into Iraq, even though there was no “causal nexus” between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, or Iraq and September 11. He talks about tax relief for the real middle class—not just for those who earn more than $200,000/year, which seems middle class to King George and Vice President Halliburton.
And General Clark is vocally pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, and pro-gay rights.
Choice. “It’s a decision the woman has to make … It’s her choice.”
Affirmative action. “I know this firsthand from my 34 years in the United States military: Affirmative action was essential to creating the diverse officer corps we need to defend our country. Throughout my career, I have seen the benefits of seeking out qualified minority candidates for leadership positions—and I am a beneficiary of their leadership.”
Gay rights. “It’s not right that people should hide their sexuality. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell violates the principles of honesty, candor, and full development of the human potential that have been secrets of the military’s success.”
As General Clark himself has said, if he were a Republican, these positions would “make him the loneliest Republican in politics.”
I don’t care whom Clark voted for in 1972 or 1980. He seems like a real Democrat now. And he seems like he has a real chance of taking the White House away from Bush.
In fact, he reminds me of another Democrat who grew up in Little Rock, left Arkansas, and became a Rhodes scholar, entered politics, and ended up defeating an incumbent named George Bush.
Except the general has something Clinton lacks: self-discipline. And that makes me a real Wesley Clark disciple, because he’s real enough for me.
Writing from the liberal end of the spectrum, Houston attorney Daryl Moore has a general practice and is board certified in civil and appellate law.