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Wesley Clark: Mending our torn country into a nation again
January 19, 2004
By Jerseycoa

Editor's Note: To mark the beginning of the primary season, the editors of Democratic Underground solicited articles from our members in support of the eight Democratic presidential primary candidates. Publication of these articles does not imply endorsement of any candidate by the editors of Democratic Underground.

Wes Clark is a courtly fellow, an odd mix of liberal ideas and conservative values, worldliness and earthiness, a Rhodes scholar and an unabashed patriot, an old fashioned type who views his run for the presidency as a call to service. He has had to struggle to distill his complex thoughts into sound bite size, but his policy speeches are all of good sense and down home clarity.

Clark senses that "what makes us special as America is being lost in the world. We've always been a country that inspires others not just through the force of our arms, but through the force of our example." He talks about Peace Corps volunteers finding portraits of John F. Kennedy on the bare walls of rural huts and South Africans waiting in line to vote after apartheid fell, carrying worn copies of the U.S. Constitution.

"We don't want to be the kind of country where grandmothers need to travel to Canada to afford the medicine they need to stay alive. We don't want to be the kind of country where school budgets get cut to pay for tax breaks so millionaires can have more leisure time. And we certainly don't want to be the kind of country where our own President implies that we're unpatriotic if we question the very policies that got us into this mess in the first place."

Clark has said, "There really is one big issue you face in this party and in this country. What is the nature of the government we want?"

The retired four-star general hoping to take the White House is a pro-choice, half-Jewish, Baptist convert to Catholicism, who is a practicing Presbyterian and believes in the separation of church and state. He voted for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore. And he doesn't mind saying so. He has a dry wit and a sharp mouth. He can ably impersonate the voices of Charlie Rangel, Slobodan Milosevic, George H.W. Bush, and Bill O'Reilly.

The so-called "anti-war general" favors a constitutional ban on desecration of the American flag and is critical of the Patriot Act. He is a Southerner who advocates affirmative action, because it was successfully applied to the military. He opposes the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for military gays and supports civil unions. He is a champion of human rights and principled dissent, a clean environment and protected fisheries, economic fairness and jobs creation, corporate responsibility and deficit reduction.

He is not afraid to say that the traditional deathbed choice in childbirth belongs to the woman, her family and her physician, and not to any right wing legislative agenda. He says Eisenhower was correct to "beware the military-industrial complex," and would reduce the defense budget by one quarter. He is an internationalist humanitarian who believes diplomacy leveraged with military strength is the best national defense. Like any good commander of force, he views it as the very last resort.

As a candidate for political office, he has been a quick study. Senator Bob Graham of Florida, after withdrawing his own candidacy, said of Clark, "Within the first couple of weeks of Wes' announcement, he had given five or six major speeches on different issues. He didn't just scribble those on the back of an envelope. He was well-prepared - better prepared than we were." And it has only gotten better and better and better.

Bill Clinton says, "He's got a sack full of guts." Theodore Sorensen says, "He does not need to dress up as a fly boy to be called 'commander in chief.'" When he drinks a Sam Adams with the guys down at the VFW Hall in New Hampshire, they toast Wes Clark as "The best general in the world!"

Most voters want somebody, anybody, who will seam our torn country into a nation again, return us to a sense of honor in the world and safety at home. He is tough on terrorism and not afraid to issue a challenge: "It's not enough for Saudi Arabia to pursue terrorists within its own borders. The Saudis need to join us in a worldwide campaign, and especially in that harsh region on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan."

"As president, I will employ every weapon in the U.S. arsenal to beat back the forces of terrorism," Clark says. "But the weapons of our country must not be limited to our awesome military capabilities. They must involve the web of international relationships we have built over generations."

Yale intellectual Harold Bloom announced his endorsement in the Wall Street Journal: "I am not suggesting that all our future presidents must be generals. Yet the time and the person have come together in Gen. Clark. There is potential greatness in him: realism and hope intricately fuse in his character. As a lifelong Democrat speaking to other Democrats, I urge his nomination. To Republicans and independents, I put the question: Weigh Gen. Clark's qualifications against President Bush's performance, and who seems likelier to lead us effectively in the years of trouble ahead of us?"

Is Wes Clark, as Howard Dean, Joe Lieberman and the Republican National Committee insist, a Republican? Not according to Democratic icon George McGovern. "There are a lot of good Democrats in this race, but Wes Clark is the best Democrat," said McGovern, who is also a veteran and war hero. "He is a true progressive. He's the Democrat's Democrat. I've been around the political block--and I can tell you, I know a true progressive when I see one. And that's why he has my vote."

Speaking as a Democrat of 38 years standing who proudly voted for George McGovern, the peace candidate of 1972, Wes Clark is my candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States of America.

For more information about Wesley Clark, please visit

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