General, investment banker, and candidate for President of the United States of America in 2004.

He was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on December 23, 1944. After he graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1966, he spent two years working on a master's degree at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He then attended the National War College, trained as both Ranger and Airborne, and completed the advanced Armor Officer course. He jumped from job to job across the broad spectrum of Army command positions, including:

The awards he racked up during this period include: In July of 1997, General Clark became SACEUR, the highest officer in NATO's European command structure and the head of the United States European Command. His crowning achievement during this time was Operation Allied Force, the liberation of Kosovo from Slobodan Milosevic.

In May of 2000, Clark retired from the Army, went to work as an investment banker at Stephens, Inc., and started his own defense consulting firm.

After months of speculation about whether or not he would enter the 2004 U.S. presidential election, Clark officially declared his candidacy as the tenth Democratic contender on September 17, 2003. He was a much more left-wing candidate than his military resume would indicate, favoring affirmative action, open immigration, lower class sizes in public schools, abortion rights, prison reform, gun control ("people who like assault weapons should join the United States Army, we have them"), etc., etc.

Although the buzz surrounding Clark's entry was pronounced in 2003, it fizzled out in 2004, and Clark dropped out in February after winning just one state (Oklahoma).

Just to add to a bit to sekicho’s fine w/u, why don’t we go straight to the horse’s mouth and see what Mr. Clark has to say on some of the issues facing the United States and the world today. (To me, it’s hard to believe these are the words of a former general.)

Foreign policy

"The United States is a 225-year rolling revolution. ... We are the embodiment of the Enlightenment. If we're true to those principles, then it's a foreign policy of generosity, humility, engagement, and of course force where it is needed. But as a last resort."

“What I learned during my time in Europe was that the strongest force in the world is an Idea whose time has come. In Europe, and in much of the rest of the world, freedom, human rights, international law, and the opportunity to 'be all you can be' are those ideas today. For the most part, these are our own American values. And they are ideas whose formulation and dissemination owe much to American example and leadership in the past. Because we live and extol these values, the United States enjoys a solid ethical basis for its power, a supportive community of like-minded nations and international institutions, and a moral force that extends our influence. Preserving these ideas and projecting our values should therefore be ranked among the most important American interests."

"We must still recognize and respect the strong convictions of others, especially when they disagree with us. No doubt, our ideas will appear challenging or even dangerous to some. We have to balance our pride in our heritage with humility in our rhetoric. Living up to our values will cost resources that could always be used elsewhere. We can't do everything. But doing what we can will likely mean that we occasionally send our men and women abroad, into ambiguous, dangerous situations. But these are the burdens we must carry, if we expect to maintain the benefits we currently enjoy. They provide hope for others, and a purpose beyond our own prosperity. "

"Shared risks, shared burdens, shared benefits -- it's not only a good motto for NATO, it's also a good prescription for America's role in the world."

"Achieving success will be easier the more that American actions can be drawn from the legitimacy of the United Nations and American direction ratified by other states and multinational authorities."

"The United States has the opportunity to use the power of the international institutions it established to triumph over terrorists who threaten not just the United States, but the world. What a tragedy it will be if we walk away from our own efforts, and from 60 years of post-World War II experience, to tackle the problem of terror without using fully the instruments of international law and persuasion that we ourselves created."

"With regards to Iraq, rather than presenting the international community with a problem and asking its assistance in helping to resolve it, the United States government effectively presented the solution and asked for countries to agree with its views."

"This is an administration which really hasn't respected our allies. If you really want allies, you've got to listen to their opinions, you've got to take them seriously, you've got to work with their issues."

Homeland Security

"Terrorism is a multilateral problem. You cannot defeat it in one nation. You need international police work, teamwork, international harmonization of laws against terror, a whole series of things. You act unilaterally; you lose the commitment of your allies to make it work. That's the one thing that will kill you in the war on terrorism."

"Much of the terrorist network draws support and resources from within countries friendly or allied with us. And here there are very real limitations to the use of American military force. What we really need are closer alignments... Through greater legal, judicial, and police harmonization, we need to make the international environment more seamless for us than it is for the international terrorists we seek."

"For better or worse, however, the war against terror appears to be under exclusive American control. And every twinge of American decision-making that smacks others as U.S. unilateralism undercuts our friends abroad, the very people who must align their laws and procedures with our own if we are to win."

"The issue to me has been that we have known for a long time that Osama bin Laden is a problem. The difficulty was always to mobilize the American people and bring enough comprehensive pressure to bear to do something against terrorism. Well, 9-11 did that. But the administration has squandered a lot of the international goodwilll that came our way after the attacks and is now squandering our domestic energy by forcing us into Iraq."

The Bush administration's mistake in Iraq, says Clark, is one of priorities. "They picked war over law. They picked a unilateralist approach over a multilateral approach. They picked conventional forces over special-operations forces. And they picked Saddam Hussein as a target over Osama bin Laden."

Protecting civil liberties and reexamining the PATRIOT Act

"One of the things about the war on terror that I am disturbed about is that we've essentially suspended habeas corpus, which is something that's only been done once in American history and then only for a very brief period. When I go back and think about the atmosphere in which the PATRIOT Act was passed, it begs for a reconsideration and review. And it should be done. Law enforcement agencies will always chafe at any restriction whatsoever when they're in the business of trying to get their job done. But in practice we've always balanced the need for law enforcement with our own protection of our constitutional rights and that's a balance that will need to be reviewed."

"I think one of the risks you have in this operation is that you’re giving up some of the essentials of what it is in America to have justice, liberty and the rule of law. I think you’ve got to be very, very careful when you abridge those rights to prosecute the war on terrorists. So I think that needs to be carefully looked at."

Affirmative Action

"From my childhood in Arkansas, I saw first hand the racial prejudice, the civil disobedience, the intolerance. I've often gone back to that experience. It's something I've related to."

“I’m in favor of the principle of affirmative action. Whether the University of Michigan’s affirmative action plan is the right plan or not, and whether that should be 10 points, not 20 points, whether it should be, let’s say, an income level cutoff there at which you don’t get the points if you’re above a certain income, you can tool with the plan. But what you can’t have is you can’t have a society in which we’re not acknowledging that there is a problem in this society with racial discrimination. There is, there has been and the reason so many of us filed an amicus brief in support of the University of Michigan’s affirmative action plan is we saw the benefits of affirmative action in the United States armed forces. It was essential in restoring the integrity and the effectiveness of the armed forces."


“100 years out, the only things we leave behind that will matter are the environment and constitutional legitimacy.”

“I am not one of those people who will rule out nuclear energy as a contributor to dealing with the energy problem. We’ve just got lots of things we need to do on energy conservation and energy generation, and especially renewable energy resources. The means are out there to take a much greater percentage of our energy needs from the sun, from solar, and from wind, and even from wave action. And I would hope that we would move ahead in those areas much more rapidly than we have been.”

"Human beings do affect the environment and all you have to do is fly along the Andes and look at the disappearing glaciers down there and you recognize that there is something called global warming and it's just getting started as China and India modernize."

"In general, I am inclined not to support drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. I’ve looked at the issue, but the gains in terms of U.S. energy independence are relatively marginal. It’s an important redline in terms of trying to protect a pristine area in the environment.”

The Bush Tax Cuts

"I would not have supported the tax cuts. They were not efficient in terms of stimulating the kind of demand we need to move the economy back into a recovery mode, a strong recovery and a recovery that provides jobs. There are more effective ways of using the resources. Secondly, the tax cuts weren’t fair. I mean, the people that need the money and deserve the money are the people who are paying less, not the people who are paying more. I thought this country was founded on a principle of progressive taxation. In other words, it’s not only that the more you make, the more you give, but proportionately more because when you don’t have very much money, you need to spend it on the necessities of life. When you have more money, you have room for the luxuries and you should—one of the luxuries and one of the privileges we enjoy is living in this great country. So I think that the tax cuts were unfair. And, finally, I mean, you look at the long-run health of the country and the size of the deficit that we’ve incurred and a substantial part of that deficit is result of the tax cuts. You have to ask: ‘Is this wise, long-run policy?’ I think the answer is no."

"You’ve got to put the country back on a fiscally sound basis, whether that is in suspending parts of the tax cuts that haven’t been implemented or rescinding parts, that’d have to be looked at... Taxes are something that you want to have as little of as possible, but you need as much revenue as necessary to meet people’s needs for services. The American people on the one hand don’t like taxes. None of us do, but on the other hand, we expect the government to do certain things for us."

Personally, I share many of Mr. Clark’s views and convictions and hope to hear more, a lot more, from him in the very near future. In the current field of 10 Democrats running for office, I believe him to be the Republicans worst nightmare come 2004. Update 2/10/04: Looks like good general found out that politics is harder than he thought. To date, he's won only one primary (Oklahoma) and has had disappointing results in the others. He's expected to withdraw from the race today.
If Karl Rove would have returned my phone calls I very well have could have been running as a Republican
- Wesley Clark

Unless things go badly wrong for the Republican Party in 2004, we'll have forgotten about Wesley Clark's relatively late entry into the Democratic Presidential Candidate race by 2005. Which is a shame, because if you examine his campaign and the circumstances it has come about in, it provides quite an insight into the dynamics of the politics of the 2004 election.

First off, I'd like to say that I think Wesley Clark is bit of a pawn or an opportunist (I can't work out which). He's about as qualified to be President of the United States of America as Wesley Snipes, and his campaign didn't start encouragingly. I shan't engage in the sort of character assassination that seeks to look back over his life and criticise him insanely for every decision he's ever made - I'll leave that sort of thing to the Democratic Party Presidential candidate contenders (yes, the Republicans were just as bad to Clinton). But what I can do is a highlight a few things Clark has said recently that suggest a certain quixotic quality of character which is not, in my opinion, wholly appropriate to someone who wants to be the POTUS.

First off, there's the quote I started this write-up with. I hate it when people take quotes out of context and extrapolate insane conclusions from them (who can forget the feeding frenzy started by Vanity Fair over Paul Wolfowitz's comments to them?), so I'll do what many pundits fail to do and give sources (the historian in me deigns they be footnotes). Clark told Colorado Governor Bill Owens and Marc Holtzman, now President of the University of Denver, that he would have been a Republican if "Karl Rove had returned my phone calls"1. Clark had been keen to join the team to fight the global war on terror, something he believed himself qualified for - after all, he knew all about constructing military coalitions from his experiences at NATO. Apparently Rove blocked the idea. It actually transpires that Clark never called Rove directly2, but that he was dead serious about how he wanted to join the Bush team. Holtzman said he "went into detail about his grievances" with Rove. And now, spurned by the GOP administration, he's running as Democrat. Whether this makes Clark a man of principle or someone trying to get their hands on power in the quickest way possible is an exercise best left to the reader.

Then there's the matter of the war on Iraq. You don't have to be Karl Rove to realise this is the issue that is very likely to make or break Bush in 2004. Pundits of all stripes have in fact realised that the fate of contenders like Clark and Howard Dean (whose anti-war stance has been unwavering) depends on the news from Iraq. Clark had been rumoured to be considering the run for the White House for quite a while, and while he was doing so he appeared as an analyst on CNN during Operation Iraqi Freedom. His comments weren't as gloomy as what I was hearing over in Great Britain on BBC News 24, but he did raise some issues that turned out to be irrelevent. This sort of doom and gloom armchair generalship of course strikes chords with "the Democratic section of the Democratic Party" (they still believe the war was an abject failure as a natural collorary to their primary belief that it was immoral), but it might not strike a chord with anyone who was a bit, well, fed up with the media's gloomy attitude (which continues). Then there's the issue of whether Clark actually supported the war at all.

On June 15th, Clark spoke to Tim Russert on "Meet the Press"3. He said that although there had been a "selective reading of the intelligence in the sense of sort of building a case" (see esp. footnote 3), Operation Desert Fox (bombing of Iraq in 1998) wasn't "the end of the problem" of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. So far uncontroversial. Since then the views he's voiced have been all over the shop, ranging from support for the war to opposition. Articles which he's written in the London Times have been particularly pro-war, with Clark saying that Tony Blair and George W. Bush "should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt" (he now suggests this resolve was, rather, a shameful violation of the wills of America's allies - presumably not a point of pride!). In a later article he waxed lyrical about "liberation", which in his opinion is "the powerful balm that justifies painful sacrifice, erases lingering doubt and reinforces bold actions"4. He called for victory parades and spoke of "those who questioned the necessity or wisdom of the operation" as if they were a group that didn't include himself. Since he decided to run, he told a group of reporters that he would "probably" have voted for the Liberation of the Iraqi People Resolution had he sat in Congress for it5. His aides evidently felt damage control was necessary, because the next day they said that this isn't what Clark had meant. He only would have voted to apply more pressure to Hussein and galvanise the U.N. into action (action by whom I wonder - perhaps the French military!).6 This, of course, was obviously not what the Liberation of the Iraqi People Resolution gave the President the authority to do - it was a strategic blank cheque to invade.

Clark has also been adamant over the existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. In January this year he told CNN that Saddam "does have weapons of mass destruction", and in February he said of the weapons that "I think they will be found. There's so much intelligence on this." 7 On the strength of all this it's a bit surprising for Clark to be painted as an anti-war candidate. But the whole strength - in fact the very reason for the existence of - his campaign is that he's a sort of Howard Dean with a war record. That's probably why he was adamant in telling the Associated Press "I would never have voted for this war" and that "I've got a very consistent record on this" after the initial mishap8. But he hasn't. Compare this to Bush's consistent, clear, honest rhetoric over Iraq and the Middle East and you have problems with a public that still overwhelmingly believes the invasion was a good idea and so is the occupation. Bush said what he was going to do and he did it. Krugman can moan all he wants - no-one lied to the American public about Bush's intentions in Iraq apart from the people who expressed surprise after-the-fact (Krugman has rather belatedly realised today that America is engaged in nation building in Iraq9).

If things start going wrong in Iraq or there's another terrorist strike on U.S. shores10, then maybe Clark has a chance. Maybe he can be attached to the Dean ticket to make it look like Dean has some credibility on national security. What the Democratic Party needs is a kick in the ass. I don't like the shift leftwards its taking (anyone who thinks Howard Dean actually reflects the mood of the American people at the moment isn't living in the World I am, and one party going nuts in a two-party system can spell trouble) and I don't like how they're scrambling to make a big deal out of things that aren't a big deal. I'm not an American, and I'm a man without a Party. What I do know is that I don't like opportunist politicians with flexible principles, and I get nervous when I think disasters might propel them into power. So far the Bush strategy has played out in a way that was plainly developing while the dust of the Towers was settling. If Bush stays the course, and barring significant setbacks in Iraq, Iran or North Korea, I see little hope for Clark in 2004. But then, who can know what will occur? October 31st, and destiny, await.

Update (17/12/03), just because it's so stupendous - Clark claimed that President Bush is "more concerned about the success of Halliburton than having a success strategy in Iraq." This amounts to a charge of treason. It amazes me how candidates can spew this sort of crap and then just carry right on as if they did nothing.

Update (21/01/04) (just after SOTU). Clark said: "We're going to go to the Saudis and the Pakistanis and we're going to end the hatred, the invective, the funding, the madrassas, and help change those regimes in the Middle East." This is a more hawkish position than the President's. What. The. Fuck?



3. The transcript is here: . This transcript has come under particular scrutiny recently because it has been alleged that Clark accuses White House officials of asking him to lie on CNN for them on 9/11. The Weekly Standard maintains that in it Clark implies that he was called, by the White House, on 9/11, and told to say on CNN that Saddam Hussein and 9/11 were connected. I believe a reading of the transcript shows otherwise, but the story has gained credibility because it took Clark a while to put the story straight and because Paul Krugman (ultraliberal New York Times columnist) bought it and used it as an example of White House "corruption". Clark corrected Krugman's story in a letter to the Times which was belatedly published, adding to the problems. An article in TIME gave greater credulity to the issue. Spinsanity clears it up nicely -

4. The article was published on 4/10/03. The Wesley Clark Weblog provides the story of the development of Clark's war position -


6. . I was reminded by The Weekly Standard of the Clintonism over the use-of-force vote for the Gulf War, "I guess I would have voted with the majority if it was a close vote. But I agree with the arguments the minority made."


8. "The General Jumps In", TIME Europe, September 29, 2003.


10. Ironically, the only real chance the Democrats have in 2004 is being stronger on national security than the Republicans. Because they've opposed the war in Iraq, they have to do this by saying its a separate issue to the war on terror, and prove they'll deal with that problem better. This is credible to people who don't see the two as connected (which, by common sense, they ostensibly are), but to everyone else seems dishonest. Any credible strategy for dealing with the terrorism threat which goes beyond Chirac and Annan's idealistic "help the poor" is increasingly having to be predicated on American force - after all, what message did the U.N. send when they pulled out of Iraq following attacks on their personnel? Black Hawk Down eat your heart out.

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