Friday, October 28, 2005



I just got home from a somewhat rousing patriotic get-together in Cheviot Hills, a part of L.A. I had never heard of until Mark Kleiman invited me to join him and 3 or 4 other L.A. bloggers at a meeting with Wes Clark. Mark's one of the smartest guys I've met from Blogostan so I was happy to join him. And because it turned out he was so enthusiastic about Clark, I really tried to get into Clark's message with no preconceptions. (And without Dean in the race, I'd like to find someone worth supporting.)

When I tell my pal Jimmy that someone is a "good guy," he heads for the hills. I don't really mean it as a negative and I'm not sure if he even thinks I do. But he sure takes it as one! I'm not trying to say anything bad about Clark when I tell you he really seemed like a good guy. And I totally dug his wife Gert. But the private little session with "the bloggers" was kind of quasi-pointless and his speech to about 150-200 supporters afterwards just depressed me. His ideas about Iraq (except that he opposed it before it started) were almost identical-- sickeningly so-- to BushCo's (or Hillary's). The more this good guy spoke, the more depressed I got. He definitely made some points about Democrats and I'm glad he has seen the light since the days when he thought people with names like Nixon, Reagan and Bush were worthy of support. (My pal Casey, an Edwards loyalist-- see, and I bet you figured I didn't even know anyone who wasn't a Howard Dean supporter-- asked me to ask Clark if he is actually a Democrat. I didn't have to. He is. It's a big tent. And it should be.)

Clark is probably more a Democrat Party man than I am at this point. He defines his adherence very articulately but in a way that equates military service with patriotism (although he's probably been criticized on this enough so that he mumbles something about the Peace Corp and volunteering at hospitals and stuff). He talks about the importance of abandoning support for "gun control." And he downplays almost all the specific reasons I see the Democratic Party as a progressive alternative to corporate Republicans. I'm sure I'd vote for him over a Giuliani or McCain or Hegel, let alone over someone from the neanderthal wing of the GOP. He seems way too much the militarist for my comfort but at least he seems genuine and refreshingly honest (unlike Biden, Lieberman or Hillary). Mark thinks they'll love him in rural Ohio. Yeah, why not?


At 11:31 PM, Blogger Jai said...


If you think Clark's position on Iraq is "almost identical" to BushCo's, then you really have no understanding of Iraq or the Middle East.

At 11:44 PM, Blogger enigma4ever said...

Great post and I loved the Blogastan part..and yes, Wes would be great....

At 12:00 AM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Well, Mr Jai, I probably have a different understanding of Iraq (where I have never been) and the Middle East (where I have spent a couple of years, particularly in Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and Egypt) than you do. But I'm certain that my interpretation of General Clark's views on how to solve the Iraq problem being "almost identical" to Bush's and Hillary's is not mine alone. Three people within my earshot-- only one of whom I had ever seen before-- started moaning that his position is IDENTICAL with Bush's (which is further than I was willing to go). I don't want to start attacking Clark; I think he's OK. However, he's a hard-power, in-the-box thinker who would probably be a great Defense Secretary or presidential advisor but not, in my opinion, the big picture guy with the overall vision. Better than Bush? A billion percent. The guy to solve our Iraq problems? Alas, not that I was able to discern (so far).

At 1:58 PM, Blogger Jai said...

Well, dtw, if you claim to know anything about the Middle East as a region, maybe you could tell me what BushCo is doing that is anything like what Clark has proposed.

It really doesn't matter whether three or three thousand clueless people standing in the crowd agree with you; doesn't make you right, or even particularly perceptive.

You think Clark is an "in the box thinker" with no "vision" on how to solve our Iraq problems?

Level with me, dwt. You had already prggrf Clark as an "in the box thinker," hadn't you? Just like all those military guys, right?

The exact opposite of what he was known for while in the military. Do you really believe he held 19 NATO nations together to win a war, with half the Pentagon and all the Repub on the Hill against him, with "in the box" thinking? Clinton, Perry, and most Democratic defense policy experts don't seem to share your opinion. Fortunately, neither do Reid and Pelosi, since he's become their "go to guy" for foreign policy strategy.

And funny you should use the "vision" word.

From Roll Call, Sept 22:
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a member of the Out of Iraq Caucus and leading voice among Democrats urging a troop withdrawal, said Clark... plays an important role in the effort because of "his background and his experience, he has a clear vision of how we got into this and how to get out."

And from the same article:
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who formed the Out of Iraq Caucus, said Clark gave the group “good recommendations” about how to move forward in talking about bringing an end to the war and developing a strategy to bring home U.S. forces.

So apparently key members of the Out of Iraq Caucus don't think Clark's strategy is "almost identical" to Bush's--something they could hardly endorse, could they? Maybe they're listening with a less prejudiced ear.

What you seem to have missed, dwt, is that Clark's plan has as much to do with putting Democrats in a position where they can actually effect Iraq policy as it does finding a solution to the quagmire.

Not that he doesn't believe what he says about how the Bush administration should change their policy. But he harbors no illusions that they will take his advice.

Unless and until Democrats retake at least one house of Congress, whatever we say about Iraq will remain irrelevant. And we don't stand a chance of retaking Congress as long as the Repubs can portray us as weak-on-defense whiners with no plan but "cut and run" who will force the US to lose Iraq the way we lost Vietnam.

Seems to me you're the one whose focus is too narrow and whose thiking too "in the box."

Oh, and fwiw... by law Clark can't be SecDef until at least June 2010. So unless you're not interested in a Democratic win in '08, you might want to quit trying to stick him in that little box as well.

At 3:31 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

I have no negative feelings towards Clark whatsoever; quite the contrary. I certainly would never have gone to a function to meet Biden or Lieberman or someone I do feel negative about. Sorry to see you reacting like a Republican by making assumptions that because I don't agree with your (thus far unexplained) support for Clark, I approached this with ill-intent. That is just plain incorrect. I am eager to find a Democratic candidate to support and my mind was 100% open to find one last night. Clark didn't convince me. His outlook on everything he spoke about seemed inordinately military. I'm sure that will work for some people, but it won't work for me until he makes his case much, much better. You accuse me of being anti-military, although there is nothing I have said that would make anyone think so and, in fact it is just plain not true. I don't feel anyone is any better or any worse for having been part of the military. It's an honorable way to serve the community and, in fact, Clark's attempt to explain that, while not fully fleshed out, was one of the high-points of his speech last night. My father served in the military and I have two very close friends who served in Iraq.

I'm glad Democratic politicians are consulting him and I suggested that he would be an excellent presidential advisor. I didn't say that to put him down. I said it because I meant it. And I don't doubt he's a good military strategist. If, as the Barbara Lee quote you had handy suggests, he has a clear way to get us out of Iraq-- that differs from Bush's-- you haven't told us and neither did he. I listened carefully last night to hear some difference between Bush's "solution" and what Clark was proposing and I didn't hear any (except for the positive idea of bringing Syria and Iran into discussions). Perhaps you can enlighten us further?

At 4:19 PM, Blogger Timcanhear said...

Clark understands grass roots campaigning. He also understands military function and he understands that this country is far more diverse than the two party's constituency.
Put me down as a big fan. He also understands that it's the saudi regime that is at the crux of this nightmare insurgency.

At 8:09 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

I don't doubt Clark's sincerity or good intentions. But what he showed of his vision last night didn't move me in his direction at all. Quite the contrary in fact. Anna Quindlen, a NEWSWEEK columnist, captured my feelings and articulated the uneasiness I feel from the Democratic hawks. I know Clark says he initially opposed the invasion of Iraq, and I have no reason whatsoever to doubt him, but this whole notion of fighting 'til we win is insane. IT'S THEIR FUCKING COUNTRY. WE WILL NEVER WIN. The British imperialist occupiers were destined to be defeated by the American rebels defending their own country in the 1770s and the American imperialist occupiers are destined to be defeated by the Iraqis defending their own country now. Bush and the neo-Cons are wrong and Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Wesley Clark are equally wrong. (Gore and Dean have it right and I noticed that this week even Kerry and Feinstein have admitted they were wrong to support Bush and that we must start leaving Iraq.)

Quindlen write that "the Vietnam Memorial stands, in part, as a monument to blind incrementalism, to men who refused to stop, not because of wisdom but because of ego, because of the fear of looking weak. Not enough troops, not enough planning, no real understanding of the people or the power of the insurgency, dwindling public support. The war in Iraq is a disaster in the image and likeness of its predecessor." This describes Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld more than Clinton and Biden and Clark. But not more enough. The next paragraph is about Bush and has nothing to do with Clark at all:

"During each election cycle, we ponder the question of whether character matters. Of course it does. Does anyone doubt that the continued prosecution of this war has to do with the personality of the commander in chief, a man who is stubborn and calls it strength, who wears blinders and calls it vision? When he vowed to invade Iraq, the advisers he heeded were those who, like him, had never seen combat. The one who had was marginalized and is now gone. The investigation of who leaked what to whom, of what the reporter knew and how she knew it, may be about national security and journalistic ethics, but at its base it is about something more important: the Nixonian lengths to which these people will go to shore up a bankrupt policy and destroy those who cross them on it." I wish I was as sure that the next one had as little to do with the Democratic hawks.

"The most unattractive trait of the American empire is American arrogance, which the president embodies and which this war elevated. It is not simply that we have a good system. It is the system everyone else should have. It is the best system, and we are the best people. We can mend rivalries so ancient that they not only predate our nation but the birth of Christ. We will install the leaders we like in a country we scarcely understand, leaders who will either be seen as puppets by their people or who will eventually turn against us. We have been here before.

"'In Vietnam we didn't have the lessons of Vietnam to guide us,' says David Halberstam, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of that war. 'In Iraq we did have those lessons. The tragedy is that we didn't pay attention to them.' Or maybe only our leaders did not. The polls show the American people have turned on this war much more quickly than they did on the war in Vietnam. Of course, they are the ones who pay the price.

"Perhaps the leaders of the Democratic Party should take time off from their fund-raisers and visit the Vietnam Memorial, too. They should remember one of the most powerful men the party ever produced, Lyndon B. Johnson, and how he was destroyed by opposition to the war in Vietnam and bested by those brave enough to speak against it. [OK, that was one that had nothing to do with Bush, really, and everything to do with Clark and his fellow Democratic hawks.

"At least Johnson had the good sense to be heartbroken by the body bags. Bush appears merely peevish at being criticized. Someone with a trumpet should play taps outside the White House for the edification of a president who has not attended a single funeral for the Iraqi war dead. As I am writing this, the number of American soldiers killed is 1, 992. By the time you read it, it may have topped 2,000. Will I be writing these same things when the number is 3,000, 5,000, 10,000? If we are such a great nation, why are we utterly incapable of learning from our mistakes? America's sons and daughters are dying to protect the egos of those whose own children are safe at home. Again."

At 10:03 PM, Blogger Jane Hamsher said...

DWT -- I'm glad you had a good time. And yes, Mark Kleiman is awfully smart.

At 9:32 AM, Blogger Jai said...

I'll give you this, dtw. I may have incorrectly assumed you don't understand Clark's plan because you don't understand the Middle East, when the truth seems to be that you have no idea what Clark's plan for Iraq and the Middle East (because unlike Bush, he doesn't believe you can solve them separately) entails at all.

But my original point remains: If you knew what you were talking about, you could not say that Clark's plan is "almost identical" to Bush's. And you probably would not also avoid my question of what actions Bush has taken that are similar to any part of Clark's plan. Nor would you lump him in with the "Democratic hawks" who advocate "fighting 'til we win."

Ya know, since you made your original blog entry, a whole bunch of folks have blogged about Friday nite's event. Not one report that I've found says that Clark spoke about his plan. He only mentioned, in response to a question, that he doesn't believe a hard time-line for withdrawal is a good thing, that it must be event driven. That is not his plan, but rather an opinion on one idea some others have suggested.

Clark's purpose at last Friday's event was primarily to talk about how we as Democrats can articulate a winning message for 2006. I would assume that, since the gathering was organized by and for members of his hard-core base, he probably expected that most people there already know what his Iraq plan is. And from the feedback I've seen, most of 'em do.

I can't re-write his whole plan in one little blog reply--I tend to be too long-winded as it is (as I'm sure everyone here has noticed). Might I suggest you do a little research on your own? You could start at his WesPAC website, where there are a number of articles, as well as transcripts of speeches he has given and TV appearances he has made.

I will say, however, that the bottom line of Clark's position is that Bush's "stay the course" is a slogan, not a strategy, and doomed to failure. As he wrote in the last paragraph of his last WaPo op/ed (also available at the WesPAC website), if we don't CHANGE the course in Iraq, and soon, then the American people will be justified in demanding we bring the troops home.

One other thing. At Clark's website, there's also an audio file of the radio address he gave in response to Bush a couple weeks ago. Again, too short to give much of a plan, but significant that he was asked by Dean to give it precisely because the DNC wants Clark's position on Iraq to be presented as the party's. So like Waters and Lee, Dean seems to "get" what you do not.

At 3:05 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Thanks for leaving the website for anyone who wants to get into the fine points of Clark's plan. I can only go by what he said in his speech-- which sounded EXACTLY like what Bush says. If Dean and other progressives are hearing something truly worthwhile in what Clark has to say about Iraq, Clark needs to figure out a way of communicating that when he speaks in front of audiences. I don't doubt that most of the people there were hard-core Clark fans but I can tell you there were quite a few who were just open-minded voters like myself who were aghast at what he said.

I'm sure you'll disagree but it is almost universally acknowledged outside of his family and closest friends that he was an abysmal campaigner last time, which is way the initial boomlet for him dissipated so rapidly. HOWEVER, if he has genuinely good ideas-- and if Dean really thinks so, I don't doubt he does-- it is incumbent on his advisors and supporters to urge him to communicate them better. You can demonize me all you like but that doesn't change the reality: I went to his campaign event with an open mind, hoping to be inspired and, like several other people, was mostly-- though not totally-- turned off.

I only saw one blog on Friday and it was written by someone who introduced herself as the official campaign blogger. So her opinion doesn't real count for all that much. I've been looking for the point of view of the other people who had the private blog-session with Clark but I haven't seem anything yet.


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