Does Wesley Clark have what it takes?

Maybe. Ten Presidents in our history were genreals in the armed services:

Washington, Jackson, W. Harrison, Taylor, Pierce, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, B. Harrison, and Eisenhower.

There’s only been 43 presidents(well 42 really because G. Cleveland was elected twice non-consecutively)

10 out of 42 that’s 24% – thems pretty good odds of a general being president, regardless if he knows anything about politicts, issues, or anything else. Heck, I mimght just have to vote for him just to shut up all the other whiney, bitch and moan, democrat, crybaby bitches.

Aren’t you guys tired of the Dems brow beating you with “bush sucks, vote for me” bullshit?

Well, that was nonsensical. If Larry King ever retires, I’ll nominate you as his replacement.

He’ll have to change his name, though. Larry King has a certian zip to it that bmulligan can’t match.

There’s a nice food restaurant on the corner of Belmont and Shanks… Betrayal can bring about the coldest season of the human heart… I disapprove of anyone who might cheat on a test… Check out the rack on that Bernadette Peters… Will someone help me get these curlers out of my hair?.. I am afraid of scary bats… Hey, there’s pears in this Jell-O!.. All the people who were ever important to me are dead… Lord Jesus, how I wish I was Robert Wagner… Always carry a hammer with you… I forgot to refrigerate the butter… The brown bananas taste very, very different… Are you famous? If so, I love you!.. Where’s my Bromo-Seltzer?.. There’s nothing like breathable black dress socks on a sunny day… Somehow I got all wet again… If you look up marmosets in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of a small furry mammal… Christ, my freakin’ head is spinning!.. What was I talking about again? Oh yeah… Charles Kuralt has worn some of the finest sweaters known to man…

Tell ya one thing — Clark has already staked out the absolute best position on the war in Iraq.

“I supported the resolution for war, but am disgusted by the post-war aftermath.”

I thought Clark’s position was that he didn’t support going into Iraq before the war: that it was a mistake that took us away from the most important battle which was with Al Qaeda, and that the Bush administration’s unilateralist approach was just plain wrong-headed. Perhaps triggercut or one of our other local Clark experts can clarify.

The Bush administration’s mistake in Iraq, says Clark, is one of priorities. “They picked war over law. They picked a unilateralist approach over a multilateral approach. They picked conventional forces over special-operations forces. And they picked Saddam Hussein as a target over Osama bin Laden.”

Looks like “it was a bad idea to stiff-arm the UN” to me.

Clark’s also been quoted (this week’s Time, I think, though it’s been a nutty week and I don’t remember where I saw the article) as saying that he thinks the order of enemies was wrong. He’d have taken on al Qaeda first, then North Korea, then Iran, then maybe Iraq. I haven’t exactly been studying Clark’s positions, though I don’t think I’ve read anything about him offering such blanket support for the resolution to invade Iraq.

I thought Clark’s position was that he didn’t support going into Iraq before the war: that it was a mistake that took us away from the most important battle which was with Al Qaeda, and that the Bush administration’s unilateralist approach was just plain wrong-headed. Perhaps triggercut or one of our other local Clark experts can clarify.[/quote]

Here’s where Clark’s handlers need to school the General, and quickly. He’s a brilliant mind, a complete policy wonk not unlike President Clinton. One of the long-running Clinton criticisms during the 1980’s was Mr. Clinton’s inability to stay “on message”. He had an active mind, and spoke as he thought process developed, and was all over the map (Witness his keynote speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention…just dreadful stuff, that). Finally he learned to shut up until he’d formed his thoughts completely, and became a brilliant and effective communicator by doing some self-editing.

Clark hasn’t learned to do that just yet. His comments on “I guess I’d have supported” the resolution in Iraq are the product of him stating that, given the case that was given in September of 2002, now largely shot full of holes, for action in Iraq, he’d have supported us going back to the UN to get a resolution. That’s what the vote was for. He’s walking a very careful tightrope, in that he’s been very supportive of the troops and military leadership in the invasion, while being very skeptical of whether there was any invocation of the Powell Doctrine in our actual decision to go to war.

Right now I think of General Clark in baseball terms. He’s like a great-looking rookie with a tremendous swing you just called up from Triple A. His first couple of times at-bat haven’t been terrific…but you can see flashes of brilliance. Time will tell if he’s Albert Pujols or Hensley Meulens.
(Where have you gone, Bam-Bam? Our nation turns it’s lonely eyes to you…) :wink:

When did this happen? I like Clinton and all, and Bush makes him look like the best orator ever, but did he ever clock a State of the Union at under 2hours +? ;-)

Bush appears to demonstrate that you can have brain damage and still be elected president.

Bush is proof that connections will get you farther than intelligence ever will.

Hey XPav, when I started reading your David Rubenstein quote, I thought the quote was about Wesley Clark (given the overall topic title of this thread), and I was thinking this is not sounding very good. Then I hit the last paragraph. Ouch, that is quite a story. Very sad, but I’m glad it wasn’t about Clark, I’m starting to lean toward supporting him.

Sorry, I’m a Known Thread Derailer.

As for Clark, I want to see how rounded of a candidate he is. After all, I do reserve the right to change my vote for any candidate right up until, oh, the election.

That’s a hilarious quote.

Not so much for the Bush factor as for how board members get chosen.

Well, here’s why I’m spending less time in the politics section these days - there seems to be such a one-sided bias that it’s kind of like tuning in to a liberal equivilant of Rush Limbaugh here. I’m frankly hoping that Clark turns out to be a strong, viable candidate. But am I the only one who’s a little concerned by a guy who stands up one day and strongly declares “I would have voted in support of the Iraq war!” and then the next day stands up and says “Let me make this perfectly clear: I would have NEVER voted in support of this war!”? Is there no “Hmmmm…” going on in anyone’s mind about his bizzare claims to Tim Russert that the White House called him on 9/11 and insisted that he must tie Sadaam to the attack, now proven to just be a blatant lie?

I’m sure people will jump down my throat for even wondering if these are signs of something that make me uneasy about Clark. I’d love for him to be great. I like what I hear about how brilliant he is, I’m a bit uneasy about some of those same people saying he is so competitive and hard-headed that he will come up with a bizarre solution to a problem and then insist on sticking with, ignoring any criticism.

(Oh - OK, just to save the inevitable: “Yeah, but Bush lies every morning before he wakes up! And it’s got to be better than Rumsfeld the Nazi!”. I’m more interested in trying to understand Clark than playing the partisan shit games.)


First off, his seeming contradictorary statements on how he’d have voted for the use of force in Iraq are unfortunate, and clearly show that running for president isn’t easy. He gaffed. Pulled a rock. Utterly and completely, no doubt about it.

But let’s talk about that “blatant lie” as you put it, regarding Clark’s Meet The Press" assertions to Tim Russert. From, dated September 3:

[i]The story of who called retired general Wesley Clark on September 11, 2001 won’t seem to die, with pundits left and right continually getting their facts wrong. Clark’s story, while ambiguously phrased at first, has actually been quite consistent.

In an interview with Tim Russert on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on June 15, Clark, who is widely believed to be considering a run for president as a Democrat, asserted that some in the White House tried to connect Iraq to the attacks of September 11 and also that he had received a call that day urging him to make that connection:

GEN. CLARK: I think it was an effort to convince the American people to do something, and I think there was an immediate determination right after 9/11 that Saddam Hussein was one of the keys to winning the war on terror. Whether it was the need just to strike out or whether he was a linchpin in this, there was a concerted effort during the fall of 2001 starting immediately after 9/11 to pin 9/11 and the terrorism problem on Saddam Hussein.
MR. RUSSERT: By who? Who did that?
GEN. CLARK: Well, it came from the White House, it came from people around the White House. It came from all over. I got a call on 9/11. I was on CNN, and I got a call at my home saying, “You got to say this is connected. This is state-sponsored terrorism. This has to be connected to Saddam Hussein.” I said, “But–I’m willing to say it but what’s your evidence?” And I never got any evidence. And these were people who had–Middle East think tanks and people like this and it was a lot of pressure to connect this and there were a lot of assumptions made. But I never personally saw the evidence and didn’t talk to anybody who had the evidence to make that connection.
A careful reading shows Clark never said the White House had anything to do with the call he received. Instead, he describes the call in reference to his statement that pressure also came from “all over,” which is why he mentions “Middle East think tanks and people like this.” But because he referred to the two so closely together, some viewers reached a hasty conclusion that Clark said the White House made the call.

The first critic to pick up on Clark’s statements was at the liberal media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). In a media advisory several days after his “Meet the Press” appearance, the group didn’t say Clark’s accusations against the Bush administration and the call were related, but failed to differentiate them either, making the lack of a connection even more hazy for readers: “Former General Wesley Clark told anchor Tim Russert that Bush administration officials had engaged in a campaign to implicate Saddam Hussein in the September 11 attacks-- starting that very day. Clark said that he’d been called on September 11 and urged to link Baghdad to the terror attacks, but declined to do so because of a lack of evidence.”

A week later, syndicated columnist Gene Lyons was the first to assert that Clark had said it was the White House that called to pressure him to connect Iraq to the terrorist attacks. Lyons explicitly referred to the unclear FAIR release while doing so. “Now in a rational world, the media watchdogs at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting pointed out, this would be newsworthy,” he wrote. “The former NATO Supreme Commander says the Bush White House pressured him to blame 9/11 on Iraq even as the World Trade Center Towers were still smoking. Perhaps because Clark’s own political ambitions remain unclear, however, little has been made of the allegation.”

Lyons helped his case by selectively quoting from Clark’s “Meet the Press” appearance. In response to Russert’s question “Who did that?” he quotes Clark as saying:

“Well, it came from the White House,” Clark said. “It came from people around the White House. . . I got a call on 9/11. I was on CNN, and I got a call at my home saying, ‘You got to say this is connected. This is state-sponsored terrorism. This has to be connected to Saddam Hussein.’ I said, ‘But-I’m willing to say it but what’s your evidence?’ And I never got any evidence. . . It was a lot of pressure to connect this and there were a lot of assumptions made. But I never personally saw the evidence and didn’t talk to anybody who had the evidence to make that connection.”
Notice how the quotes Lyons leaves in ellipses are the two that make it more clear Clark wasn’t referring to the White House - the phrase “it came from all over” and the reference to “Middle East think tanks and people like this.”

The reference to Middle East think tanks become more important in a July 1 appearance by Clark on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity and Colmes.” When co-host Sean Hannity asked him to specify who in the White House hyped the connection between Iraq and the September 11 attacks. Clark refused to say whom but, in a non sequitur, replied that, “I personally got a call from a fellow in Canada who is part of a Middle Eastern think tank who gets inside intelligence information. He called me on 9/11.”

In a July 15 column in the New York Times, columnist Paul Krugman repeated Lyons’ assertion, stating, “Wesley Clark says that he received calls on Sept. 11 from ‘people around the White House’ urging him to link that assault to Saddam Hussein.” Krugman misrepresented Clark’s statement, alleging that the phrase in quotes referred to the call when it came before Clark even brought up the call. Clark actually mentioned “people around the White House” in response to Russert’s question about who was attempting to connect Saddam Hussein to September 11.

Clark may not have seen Lyons’ column, but he clearly saw Krugman’s, as he wrote a letter (reprinted in its entirety here) to the Times correcting the columnist:

I received a call from a Middle East think tank outside the country, asking me to link 9/11 to Saddam Hussein. No one from the White House asked me to link Saddam Hussein to Sept. 11. Subsequently, I learned that there was much discussion inside the administration in the days immediately after Sept. 11 trying to use 9/11 to go after Saddam Hussein.
In other words, there were many people, inside and outside the government, who tried to link Saddam Hussein to Sept. 11.
For unknown reasons, although Clark’s letter was dated July 18, it wasn’t published until August 13, nearly a month after Krugman’s column. The month-long delay and the failure to correct the misquotation, which could easily have been checked in the Nexis news database, speaks very poorly for the paper.

In an item in its “Scrapbook” in the August 25 issue, the Weekly Standard quoted excerpts from these appearances and the letter, purporting to show that “Clark has now provided three versions of this story.” But while Clark did add details about the Middle East think tank in Canada on “Hannity” and in the Times, none of these statements contradict any others, if one properly understands Clark’s two separate statement about White House pressure and the phone call.

The Standard also says, “If you read version three [the letter to the Times] carefully, you will see that Clark has now exonerated the White House of his most serious accusation. Much as he wants to put a sinister spin on the matter, all Clark is saying is that the White House was more sensitive to the Iraqi threat after 9/11.” But Clark’s letter to the Times squares with his original accusation against the White House in the “Meet The Press” appearance - that the Bush administration tried to link Saddam Hussein to September 11.

In the next issue of the Standard, dated September 1, an article about Clark makes a new accusation - that he couldn’t have received the call on September 11 as he describes it because, “There isn’t really a ‘Middle East think tank’ in Canada” according to an expert who was interviewed. But as a post on the weblog The Clark Sphere noted, the Standard’s accusation may not be accurate. It links to two think tanks with offices in Canada that study the Middle East: the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research. Clark continues to stand behind the charge, saying in an August 25 appearance on “Buchanan and Press” that the call came from, “A man from a – of a Middle East think tank in Canada, the man who’s the brother of a very close friend of mine in Belgium. He’s very well connected to Israeli intelligence and he follows Middle Eastern events very closely.”

Finally, in an August 31 column in the Washington Post, George Will changed the order of Clark’s quotes from the “Meet the Press” appearance to make it appear that he originally said the phone call came from the White House. Will then selectively quotes from Clark’s “Hannity” and “Buchanan” appearances, along with the Times letter, to repeatedly conflate the phone call and accusations about the White House connecting 9/11 and Iraq, making it look like he contradicted his supposed original story:

As Clark crisscrosses the country listening for a clamor for him (“I expect to have my decision made by Sept. 19,” when he visits Iowa – feel the suspense), he compounds the confusion that began when he said on June 15 that on 9/11 “I got a call at my home” saying that when he was to appear on CNN, “You’ve got to say this is connected” to Iraq. “It came from the White House, it came from people around the White House. It came from all over.” But who exactly called Clark?
July 1: “A fellow in Canada who is part of a Middle Eastern think tank.” There is no such Canadian institution. Anyway, who “from the White House”? “I’m not going to go into those sources … People told me things in confidence that I don’t have any right to betray.”
(Hannity was not asking who “from the White House” made the call, but who made an effort to connect Saddam Hussein to September 11.)

July 18: “No one from the White House asked me to link Saddam Hussein to Sept. 11.”
(Note that Will ignores Clark’s mention of a call from “a Middle East think tank outside the country” in that same letter.)

Aug. 25: It came from “a Middle East think tank in Canada, the man who’s the brother of a very close friend of mine in Belgium. He’s very well connected to Israeli intelligence… I haven’t changed my position. There’s no waffling on it. It’s just as clear as could be.”
The question of who called Wesley Clark continues to be a mystery. But pundits on both the left and right just won’t stop spinning a clearly false story that he alleged that he received a phone call from the White House on September 11 asking him to connect Iraq and the terrorist attacks. They need to stop the distortions and do some basic fact checking.

Update 9/5 8:57 AM EST: In a column a week after the one discussed in this piece, Gene Lyons wrote that Clark had called him to correct the record:

Contrary to last week’s column, Gen. Wesley Clark says the Bush White House did not urge him on 9/11 to blame the terrorist attacks upon Saddam Hussein. Clarifying his June 15 remarks on “Meet the Press,” Clark phoned to emphasize that he’d gotten calls from persons he knew to be familiar with White House thinking, but no direct contact nor overt pressure. He remains firm, however, in his view that the administration has shown no persuasive evidence that a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda ever existed.
We regret the omission of this detail.


Hmm. That’s interesting. I heard the actual interview, and I sure seemed to remember him at least strongly implying it was the White House who called him, as Russert was following up. I remember thinking, as the interview was occurring, “this is a guy who really wants people to know how important he is.” I need to find the actual full transcript. And I remember him, at different times, kind of dancing around the issue. But that’s just my memory. The guy who did make the call said he absolutely did not call him on 9/11, it was some time after. Clark did say that he believed there were still WMDs in Iraq.

He also publically claimed that the White House pressured CNN to fire him, which has apparently been discredited (and as if the White House and CNN have some clubby relationship. ;) )

I hope he is a strong candidate. I suppose it’s dissapointing that he is clearly being “run” by his handlers, with flip flop comments such as where he stands on the Iraq war - it’s clear he said one thing, and his handlers told him “wrong! You have to say this!” - down in Broward County he refused to give his opinions on most issues, saying he “needed to listen to the people” before he states his positions. Sigh. I’d just like to see a candidate come out and speak his strongly held positions and opinions, rather than have people in the back rooms form them for him. Perhaps we’re at a point in politics where a candidate just can’t do that. But I had hoped Clark would.

I still have hopes for Clark, and reservations.

Hey Jeff, I think every liberal here agrees with you on Clark. We really like the thought of a strong military guy running for president on a democratic ticket, but he is a blank slate on everything else, and he’s never done this before. He’s already made a few gaffes, but it is still early, so lets see how quickly he can get up to speed with the rest of the folks.