By Mickey Isikoff
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I was firmly in the Anybody-But-Bush camp, and in fact I
could be happy - or at least live with - many of the candidates,
including Kerry, Lieberman, Gephardt, and Edwards. Even maybe
Dean, although his personality grates on me. He reminds me
of too many of the doctors I know who are so arrogant and
sure of themselves that they become stubborn and refuse to
admit when they are wrong. But the reason I decided to support
Wes Clark and not one of the others is that I believe they
are unelectable, and Clark is George Bush and Karl Rove's
worst nightmare. Why do I believe that?
Because I believe the election this year, unlike in most
years, will not be decided on domestic issues but on foreign
policy: the war on terror, Iraq, our relationship with our
allies (or lack thereof). The economy is turning around and
although it is not clear yet where the job market will be
in a year, it seems clear to me that at best the economy will
be a wash as a key election issue. That leaves foreign affairs
as probably the pivotal issue in the next election so let's
look more closely at that.
Foreign affairs, especially in a time of war, has always
been a Republican issue. True or not the Dems have always
been painted as weak on defense and the military; and this
year especially, because of 9/11 and the war on terror, Iraq
etc., Republicans have been literally foaming at the mouth
to use this as an election issue. So much for not politicizing
9/11. The reality is both parties are going to politicize
the hell out of it and the one that does the better job will
win the presidency.
The Republican strategy, which we can already see, is to
paint anyone who disagrees with the president as a traitor.
This will work when it's reinforced by 200 million dollars
of advertising. I'm afraid I have a rather low opinion of
a large part of the electorate to believe that. Just remember
what Bush and Rove did to McCain in South Carolina and what
they did to Max Cleland in Georgia more recently. Yes, if
you say it enough you can make some people believe that black
is white. So the Democrats need a Teflon candidate when it
comes to this issue. Three candidates, maybe four, have tried
to meet this qualification; most notably Lieberman and Kerry,
but also Gephardt and of course Clark (who can do it without
trying - that's what four stars on your collar gives you).
Lieberman is a sweet guy, everyone's favorite grandfather
and I think he would make a good President even if he is a
little more conservative on some domestic issues than many
Democrats. But does anybody really believe he's going to win
the nomination? Not a chance! Maybe Vice President, but not
President. Let's be realistic: he's unelectable and those
that support him are wasting their time and money on a lost
Well what about Kerry? He has been positioning himself as
the logical candidate to run in a time of war because of his
military experience, as well as his 18 years in the Senate
and his experience with foreign affairs. I think he would
make a good President, maybe a great one. But his campaign
has gone nowhere! I'm not sure why, and neither is he, or
he would have corrected it. And the other consideration is
- if he somehow got the nomination - could he win the election?
Could a liberal from Massachusetts win the election? Let's
see, I do believe that we tried that once before without much
success. Kerry is no Dukakis, but the result would be the
same. The Republicans would paint him as another northern
liberal and that would be that.
Gephardt is another issue. I think his chances of getting
nominated are remote, and his chances of getting elected even
more remote. I don't know how his pro-labor anti-trade stance
would play in the general election, but even with his somewhat
nuanced stand on Iraq he would be painted as a traitor and
it would stick.
So who are we left with? Who can stand up to a 200 million
dollar media smear that seeks to portray him as a traitor
to his country for opposing Bush's foreign policy?
We are left with Wes Clark, the four-star general, the winner
of the Kosovo war, the Rhodes Scholar. Rhodes Scholar? Wasn't
there a previous president who was a Rhodes scholar? How did
he do? Let's forget the zipper problems for a minute - I don't
think they teach that at Oxford. I seem to remember that the
country did rather well during his terms: some prosperity,
a little budget surplus, a few jobs created. Not bad, and
he could actually read. He didn't have to rely on his aides
for the morning news. And he could speak English. What a refreshing
change that would be. So Rhodes Scholar may be a pretty good
thing to have on your resume if you are running for president.
Certainly better than being a C student who drank his way
Can the Republicans try to paint Clark as a traitor? Absolutely
they can and they will. They also will try to portray him
as arrogant, intellectually dishonest, hot-headed, ambitious,
back-stabbing and probably a child molester. In fact they
have already started, just look at some of the right-wing
web sites. Can they make any of this stick? Well, they have
200 million dollars with which to try - that gives them a
whole lot of mud to throw. It might ultimately work if the
Democrats let it. But the facts remain: four-star general,
Rhodes scholar, winner of the war in Kosovo, and besides all
of that he has become a good campaigner and he looks presidential.
That's a pretty good combination.
These are the reasons that I came to the conclusion that
I had to get involved in this election and support Wes Clark.
This is a critical election and other like-minded people need
to think long and hard about what's at stake and get involved
Can he beat Bush? Maybe. If the war or wars are the key issue
as I think they will be, then he has a very good chance. In
time of war who would you want for president?
So Wes Clark it is - at least for me - and, I hope, other
Democrats, thinking Republicans, and Independents.