Thursday, February 09, 2006



First a little disclaimer: I only met Wes Clark once and I only heard him speak in person once. Maybe it was a bad night. And I do want to say that anyone with as charming and gracious a wife as Gert, can't be all bad. In fact, the general himself seemed like a nice enough fella-- and not stupid at all. If I was a betting man and I had to bet who could find Iraq and Afghanistan faster on a map, Clark or any sitting U.S. Senator, I wouldn't hesitate to put my nickel down on Clark. And I have no reason to believe he's anything but a top-notch military man.

A couple nights ago I met Ned Lamont under very similar circumstances to the circumstances in which I had met the general-- I had been invited to the home of a supporter, along with a few other people, to meet and greet and listen to a stump speech. Lamont's was inspiring, fresh and powerful and made me hope he wins his Connecticut senate race against the odious Joe Lieberman. I didn't just revel in Lamont's progressive policies and his over-all vision for our country-- which you can easily read on a website or in a newspaper interview-- but I was knocked over by his energy, his enthusiasm, his open-mindedness, his life-experience, the gestalt I detected in the man in terms of how he looks at a problem and attempts to deal with it. Parenthetically, there was a throw-away line in the story I did about Lamont: "He went right to Jack Murtha and showed me immediately that not only does he support a plan for withdrawal but that he has a far better grasp of what the war is all about than old-line Democratic 'thinkers' like Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Wes Clark (all of whom are still babbling nonsense about 'winning,' an absurd concept to begin with)."

Well... who'da thunk the general and his little troopers would have even noticed, let alone get in such a snit? But when I woke up at 5AM I noticed an inordinately large amount of traffic here at DWT. "Wow," I thought, people actually are reading that long-drawn out schpiel I wrote last night about Bush's reverse Robin Hood Budget." I was impressed. But I immediately realized I was wrong. (Actually a couple people did read it-- and even left comments, but the surging traffic was because of the great plug the Lamont piece got on firelakedog, one of my favorite on-line hang-outs.)

Later in the morning, I found a very different kind of plug. The general's non-campaign campaign site put out an alert to all the general's little troopers (with 4 exclamation points, no less; I don't think I've even used that many in anything I've posted, not even about the deprecations of Cheney and Bush!): "Needs response!!!!" directing the Clarkies to respond to my disparagement and "disservice" done by yours truly to their beloved strong man, the general. So there they were rooting around on my site and on firelakedog. The first comment I saw was by someone I know, like and respect, Steve from the SteveAudio Blog. I met Steve at, of all places, a Clark rally. His comment was "Howie had no interest in attending our little meeting with Gen. Clark last Saturday, and I think he might have been surprised, since Clark actually talked about 'getting out.' It was really a 'between the lines' kind of thing, but still, it was better than the last time I spoke with him, when it was full on 'stay the course.'" Poor SteveAudio doesn't realize that by having accused the general of having said what he said at the rally-- the he believes in staying the course-- he could be subjecting himself to endless pestering by the general's silly little fanatics. His is the most party-line-only (one could almost say Stalinist) campaign I have ever seen (from a Democrat) in my life. These are very thin-skinned people. Anyway, although I didn't feel I would be welcome at the second Clark event, it wasn't that I had "no interest;" I had a little bit of interest, just not enough to start up the car and stuff. But it's true--I had just found Clark to not be worth paying much attention to as a presidential or vice presidential candidate. Remember what I said about Lamont's gestalt a couple paragraphs up? Would that I could say something so kind about the general's.

My impression of Clark-- from my one short meeting-- was of a nice guy, a sincere guy, a pretty smart guy. And I know some VERY smart people who say Clark's even smarter than they are. I don't mean to get his relatives', friends' and little troopers' panties all in a bunch, but-- like his supporter SteveAudio-- I absolutely heard him advocate staying the course. He laid out a policy at a rally attended by quite a few people (apparently mostly his supporters from his former race for the presidency) that was perhaps subtly different from Bush's-- but only subtly. Like Jack Murtha does comprehend but, alas, something the general apparently cannot, the U.S. cannot and will not win a war of national liberation inside an Arab country. The Iraqis want us out of there-- as we would want invaders out of here. That's how it will play out. Lamont gets it. Feingold gets it. Pelosi gets it. Dean gets it. Murtha gets it. Biden doesn't. Hillary doesn't. And when I met Clark, he didn't. Now SteveAudio says the general is making some tiny baby steps ("between the lines") in the direction of foreign policy sanity.

Clark will never be president (of the United States) so why does it matter? Well, for one thing, he is a smart and principled guy and he is admired and respected by a lot of people-- Democrats, independents and even Republicans. And, unlike most Democratic senators, Clark opposed Bush's unwarranted, dishonest attack on Iraq from day one-- and for the right reasons. There is a huge schism in the Democratic Party right now between idealists, who are behind Murtha, and possibly well-meaning but definitely ill-advised "pragmatists" who are afraid to join the majority of the American people-- let alone (god forbid) lead them-- in opposing Bush's war. Many of the so-called pragmatists' arguments for their position go no further than "Well, Wes Clark supports this and he's so smart and so experienced and he must be right."

One of Clark's little troopers left a comment on firelakedog that is more indicative of those who attach themselves to the political fortunes of a militaristically-minded strongman than the more interesting and worthwhile and thought-provoking one left by SteveAudio. A Clarkie only willing to identify himself as "W." (suspicious in itself) had this to say "Howie is a stupid motherfucker to conflate HRC, Biden and Clark. How can we trust him on Lamont if he can't be bothered enough to state the truth about Clark? And even if he is right about HRC and Biden, he could have avoided subjective language deliberately chosen to ridicule their positions. Jesus God. We are so doomed with supporters like Klein."

Thanks for the plug on your website, general, and, again, welcome all you Clarkies to DWT. The art department whipped something up especially for you. Oh, one more thing: last time I disagreed with the general about something I was bombarded with e-mails accusing me of hating the military. That's the kind of "argument" I've come to expect from Clarkies. Many members of my immediate family proudly served in the military and not only did I contribute to Paul Hackett's congressional campaign very early on, I also convinced a large organization I'm on the Board of to endorse him, someone who they hadn't even heard of previously. I honor and appreciate Clark's service in the military. He was correct about Bush making a catastrophic blunder by attacking Iraq. He's been wrong on the issue since. If he's changing... AWESOME. I'll be happy to welcome him into the majority.



At 5:44 PM, Blogger SteveAudio said...

Hey Howie,

Actually I'm pretty agnostic about the General. At the event where we heard him, I was just there to see what his deal was. Some of his answers I thought were good, others, well, not so much.

At the event last Saturday, we (bloggers in attendance) had longer to chat with him, which was good. I started the ball rolling by asking about Iraq, which is when he gave his standard C- vs. F results meme. I said that the last time, he had said basically "stay the course, until some undefined thing/goal has been met". He took issue with that, and said that he's never said 'stay the course', which while true is still parsing pretty finely. He did say that if it really went into the crapper, then we would have to pull out, and deal with the results. A few of us wondered out loud how much further into the crapper it would have to be for it to pass his test.

The thing is, he has some really well thought out ideas about the whole middle east, and some of the stuff he said really made sense in that context. The Iranian & Syrian connections, as well as the Kurdish issue, all depend on events still unfolding in Iraq. And he certainly has a grasp of the players involved, and their agendas.

Kevin Drum, someone I have respect for, asked him some tough questions, and Arianna disagreed with him to his face, which he took in a gentlemanly manner.

Still, several of the folks there, who were also there when we heard him last fall, clearly have already jumped fully onto the bandwagon, as is their right, and like all zealots, might take issue with any explicit or even implicit criticism of His Generalness.

His son Wes Jr. was there, I had a nice chat with him, got his email, and Leah is inviting him the the Blogger Social next week, so you can talk with him.

On a side note, I leave Saturday for Houston to finish the installation of a new recording studio down there. A long time friend built the place from the ground up, I did all the technical design, and I'll be connecting and testing stuff all next week. So I guess I'll see what the music scene is like down there.

At 7:01 PM, Blogger ThatSinger said...

I must say, as I Clarkie, I certainly FEEL welcome...

I too was at the Clark event Saturday evening... in fact I sang there...

I'm neither one of his "little troopers" nor a fantatic... I have however found in Wes Clark an honesty, sincerity and intellect that quite frankly I've not encountered in my many years as an observer of all things poitical, to the extent that for the first time in my life I'm showing up at events such as this and becoming active in checking out other "candidates" as well... how that's to be construed as a bad thing is beyond me...

As for you being "attacked"by fanatical Clarkies, I think you've forgotten what it's like to truly have an angry mob turn on you when you dare to criticize their "leader"... President Rainman for example... perhaps you should try redeploying your barbs in his direction and refresh your memory as to what real "little troopers" and "fanactics" are like...

Anyway, nice blog, Howie... hopefully it fares better than Wire Train... best of luck...

At 10:32 AM, Blogger catherineD said...

Hi, Howie. I'm one of the people who's obsessed with Clark (think he could be the greatest president ever). I didn't get the email? you mention but I go on technorati most days looking for what was said about Clark. Like I said, obsessed.

There are quite a number of us, but I do think that we're generally a little more civilized than many of the Dean supporters were, for instance, in the last election. Being a fan of the general is kind of like being a liberal --- you just can't understand why everybody doesn't get it.

In any case, you sound quite reasonable, just in disagreement about what to do at the moment in Iraq. I tend to assume that Clark's incredible strategic abilities, past experience leading Nato, and time on the ground (he's been in the region recently), makes him better qualified than perhaps anyone in assessing the right course of action. Certainly better qualified than someone like me. From what I understand of his position, Clark thinks that we still have several months in which to try to use diplomatic pressure to get their constitution changed so that the minority won't be treated unfairly. If the minority continues to be treated unfairly, he believes there will be a civil war. We all know how Clark feels about genocide, which may seem like a weakness to some, but I'd rather stay in and prevent it, than race out of Iraq, leaving a country in turmoil as our news coverage turns to other things.

Clark is also always looking down the road. If you check out his website, he's had a 100-year plan up, since the last election. He asks himself the question, what will happen in the region if we leave without getting a fair constitution in place? His projection is that civil war will happen, with Iraq's neighbors getting involved, and in addition to causing a lot of death and destruction to the people who live there, this will also likely lead to greater power on the part of the extremists in the region, imperiling the security of other nations, like our own. If we screw this up and leave, we could find ourselves back there in another decade or so, under even worse conditions. (He's never said we might end up returning, that's just me reading between the lines.)

Anyways, I hope you'll continue to keep an eye on Clark --- he's got an awful lot to offer.

At 4:02 AM, Blogger hekebolos said...


This is Dante Atkins--I was at both the blogger meetings with Clark, where I also met Steve and Pam, Mark Kleiman and the rest of the L.A. blogger contingent.

Clark's position on the war may not find favor with the democrats who follow Murtha, and I understand that. But I think it's important to note that Clark is progressive on every single other issue you could name, and really doesn't deserve the "Republicrat" label that you've given him.

At 7:40 AM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Thanks for posting Dante and thanks for reminding me about that Republicrat thing. I know you're new to DWT so you're probably unaware of all the problems I have with the Art Department. They get drunk every day and get art in days late and all they ever want to do is do depictions of that unfortunate-looking woman from Ohio who ran against Paul Hackett last summer (I can't remember her name... Piece of...) Anyway, the Art Department invented that Republicrat logo and has been dying to use it but instead of using it where it belongs-- on Lieberman or that awful country-club Republican (Mahoney) that Rahm Emanuel recruited in the Art Department's own backyard to challenge Dave Lutrin for the right to take on Mark Foley in FL-16-- they went and stuck it on the poor general and his ideological compadres in the Democratic Party Establishment.

It doesn't belong there and I will appeal to the Art Department to remove it. The Art Department isn't always subtle and just assumes that everyone who is "bad" who isn't a Republican is automatically a "Republicrat." And I agree with you that the general isn't. He's a Democrat. (He does seem to see every single thing through a military prism-- which scared the shit out of me when I first met him [and you]-- but at least it's a Democratish military prism.)

I should have caught this and chastized the Art Department earlier, but, to be honest, I was just so pissed off at having had to remove over 100 really filthy spams-- racist, homophobic, xenophobic... I mean really essentially Republican type spams from the blog that the general's website was directing his supporters to go comment on-- that I was sick and tired of generals and the kinds of people who are attacted to them politically. I have no problems leaving up reasonable arguments that disagree with me and, in fact, I encourage the general's forces to do just that, but all that smut... I never saw anything like it. And as soon as I'd take 10 down, the same 10 would re-appear. I had to institute this silly "moderated comments" thing. God I hope none of these people will get staff positions if Hillary or Biden or some other Establishment Dem gets to be president and appoints the general to something!

At 12:30 PM, Anonymous I Think Therefore I Don't Support Clark said...

Clark is a progressive.

But then, so was Adolph Hitler.

It's all about perspective.

What's a few murders among friends.

And great propoganda machines for the people who are too lazy to actually do their research.

Check out his financials he disclosed in his 2004 presidential run. The guy is as corporatist and far right as they come. Of course, continue to delude yourself he is a progressive. He certainly couldn't be much worse than Clinton as a candidate and if they are both on the ticket we can kiss the party good by once and for all.


Post a Comment

<< Home