Still not a lot of free time (not helped by the fact that Blogger ate the first version of this post -- and then mangled the second -- and I had to recompose most of it from memory), but I was working on a roundup of liberal blogger reaction to the Clark announcement, only to be surprised that some of the more illustrious libloggers (Kos, Gilliard and Marshall, for instance) haven't posted anything about it, yet.
The ever-reasonable (if recently quasi-radicalized) Kevin Drum has some comments based on Clark's book, Waging Modern War (which still awaits my attention on the bookshelf):
On the positive side, Clark demonstrates in Waging Modern War an obvious appreciation of the fact that since the United States can't do everything by itself, it's imperative to work well with other nations even though it's a real pain in the ass to do so. You can practically feel the frustration oozing out of his pores when he describes the convoluted command structure of NATO and the difficulty of holding the alliance together in the face of domestic political considerations coming from a dozen countries. Despite that, he takes the grownup attitude that since there's really no other alternative, we'd better accept multinational campaigns as the future of warfare and figure out the best way of dealing with them.
On the negative side, he describes continual conflicts with his boss, the Secretary of Defense, and with his peers and superiors in the Army. He is frequently uninvited to meetings he thinks he should be at, and even though the book gives only his side of the story it's pretty obvious that there's a reason for this. We don't know what it is, of course, but it clearly involves something more than just disagreements over military strategy. The lesson Clark seems to have taken from this is that since he obviously knew more than anyone else, he should have had more autonomy and access to the White House, a conclusion that I'm not sure I find comforting.
Finally, on the both the positive and negative side, Clark seems have been surprised about how difficult it was to deal with the press in a high profile situation like a war. This surprise is a little inexplicable, but on the other hand, having learned this lesson under fire it's likely that he's now successfully absorbed it and will work well with the press during his campaign. Time will tell on this.
TAPPED features two entries on the beginning of the right-wing attack on Clark and this article by Michael Tomasky:
Fighting in the jungles of 'Nam, heading the Supreme Allied Command of Europe and winning a war against a genocidal thug are all much to be admired, and they all surely teach a person many lessons. But do they teach a person how to be a good political candidate?
As candidate, declared and undeclared, Clark has done a lot of things right so far. He dropped his hints and chose his media interventions adroitly, letting the story of his candidacy build what seemed like its own momentum to those who weren't watching closely. He is not, conventional wisdom aside, announcing too late. Bill Clinton announced his candidacy in October 1991, and, though the electoral calendar has been pushed forward since then, it's still fine because regular voters aren't paying attention yet. As for the "lateness" being a factor in Clark's ability to raise money, forget it. He's doing it through the Web, and he'll have plenty. And he's assembled a veteran campaign team, even if it looks (suspiciously, to some people) heavily drawn from the former Clinton-Al Gore axis.
But the question isn't whether Clark's handlers are good at politics; it's whether he is. The maiden speech certainly came up well short of inspiring. He seemed, like many such rookie candidates, a bit flabbergasted to be up there. Spare and cautious, his rhetoric sounded only half-developed -- I kept thinking sentences were going to go on for another phrase or two when, splat, they just ended -- and he seemed far more intent on touching the bases his consultants told him to touch rather than expressing a theme, vision or rationale for his candidacy. Yes, it's troubling, as some of the TV commentators noted, that there weren't any specifics in the speech. But far more troubling was the fact that there wasn't any music in it.
Fine, it's just one speech. But this brings up another problem for Clark, a situation that, among all the candidates I've watched over the years, has only ever been faced in quite this way by Hillary Clinton in her New York Senate bid: Clark will have to do all his learning, and make all his mistakes, under a media spotlight so intense that every errant syllable will be analyzed and exaggerated.
And, thanks to my friend Shirley, I read Hesiod's breakdown of what the right-wing attacks against Clark are likely to be:
Among the attacks that will be launched on Clark are:
1) He's just a front for Hillary and Bill Clinton. Mostly, he will be portrayed [sub rosa, and especially on talk radio] as Hillary's Presidential stalking horse. There will be rumors flying that he would entertain asking her to join the ticket as his VP.
2) He's an unstable hothead who "almost started World War III." This line of attack has already been raised, ironically, by Katrina Vanden Heuvel on the pages of The Nation. That incident was less aggressive and hotheaded than it seemed.
3) He was involved in the Waco disaster. Clark commanded the 1st Cavalry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas at the time of the Waco siege. Gun nuts and militia wackos will go bananas over this allegation.
4) They will repeat the smear perpetuated by George Will and the Weekly Standard that Wesley Clark lied about being contacted by the White House to hype the Iraq-9/11 connection.
5) They will try and downgrade his military service, which will be hard to do.
6) They will, probably in the "confederate" South bring up his Jewish ancestry.
7) He did not get along with his colleagues in the military. This is an effort to portray him as arrogant and aloof. Unable to work with people, etc. In other words, they will portray him as another Douglas MacArthur. Of course, to rightwingers, MacArthur was a hero.
Read the entire post, and several others as well which continue these thoughts.
As for me, I'm pretty much in wait-and-see mode about Clark. Of course, like most liberal Democrats, there's a certain amount of salivating about the value to us of having a General who's one of ours and not one of theirs, so I'm more than aware of the iconic value which Clark represents, but I really don't think it's sufficient (especially considering his low name-recognition among the general public) to justify claims that Clark is now going to sweep his way to nomination, or knock Dean out of the running, or whatever. His entry certainly changes the dynamic, but he's not, in truth, the entirely perfect candidate.
In terms of qualifications, we can begin with the fact that he's so much more qualified than George W. Bush that the comparison is laughable (Bush probably thinks a "Rhodes Scholar" is someone who studies highways), but that criteria holds for a significant percentage of the American population as well, so it can't be the final determiner of whether Clark's the best person for the job. I remain skeptical of both his executive and political skills, and I was not reassured by his either his lackluster speech today or by the reports on Kos, Gulliard, Tapped and Billmon (use the links at the right) about the quality of people he's recruited to run his campaign. ("Assholes" would seem to sum them up.)
And, as Gillard and Kos have been saying pretty consistently for a while now, he's joined the fray in a logistically difficult situation by entering so comparatively late in the process, and it's not at all obvious to me that he's going to be able to overcome those hurdles. (Comparisons to Clinton's announcement in October are not apt, since back then all the major Democratis who were the presumed candidates had opted not to run against Bush pere because they thought his lift from Gulf War I made him invulnerable. The lack of strong established candidates left the field open for a dark horse like Clinton to make his run -- and that's certainly not the situation today for Clark.)
I do continue to hold onto the nagging possibility that Clark's entry may actually help Dean by taking a little of the pressure off him as the putative front-runner, allowing him to return just a bit for a while to stealth-mode, where he's done very well for himself. Also, all eyes are on Clark, just when the media would be expected to start running skeptical and critical pieces on Dean, because that is what they do to front runners, especially Democrats. Thus Dean's "honeymoon" may be interrupted, but it also won't be followed by post-matrimonial let down.
Nor do I agree that any possibility of Dean/Clark (or the much less likely Clark/Dean) is now out the window. It really depends on how negative things get, and I suspect, despite the apparently low quality of some of Clark's new people, that it will not descend into the depths because both Dean and Clark are too smart for that.
One final note, since I can no longer remember what other points I made in the original version of this: on TV, as a military analyst for CNN, Clark came across as trustworthy, smart, intelligent and reliable, but, physically, he seemed a little delicate, thin and somewhat frail. That was certainly not the physical impression I got from seeing him on C-SPAN today, but it's something to be aware of.
Oh, and I agree, his speech was pretty mediocre, as was his delivery of it. He needs a lot of work on that. Fortunately for him, while Dean is good on the stump, he's not so good on TV, and it appears to be just the opposite for Clark.
Update: In American Politics Journal, Scoobie Davis has a refutation of the right-wing anti-Clark smears.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.