Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 19, 2003
POLITICS: Scent of Failure
Man, you can just smell the desperation in the comments by Democrats lining up to support Wesley Clark for president:
It's very bad for me as a Democrat to be tagged as somebody who doesn't support the military," said Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind. "He takes that issue back for us." Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., a decorated veteran of the Korean War who is backing Clark, said the former NATO supreme commander "is Teflon to the question of being a patriot." Democrats "need someone who'll stand up with Bush and doesn't have to say, 'I'm as patriotic as you are, now let's debate the issues,'" Rangel said.
Translation: "we don't care if he can win, at least he won't make us look like America-hating, stuck-in-the-Sixties, tie-dye and Birkenstock-wearing peacenik wusses in the process." Of course, it's a ridiculous canard that Republicans question the patriotism of anyone with dangerously bad judgment in foreign policy, but then a good chunk of Howard Dean's support comes from people who really are unpatriotic, in the sense that they can't or won't agree with James Lileks' simple mantra about Iraq: I hope we win.
Tennessee Rep. John Tanner, a member of the Blue Dog coalition, said many in the group like Clark's emphasis on fiscal discipline as well as his military background. Tanner said Clark brings a perspective that needs to be heard in the presidential race. When asked if he would support Clark, Tanner said he already pledged to support Gephardt early in the race.
Translation: there's nobody in the race like that now.
South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, whose support is being sought by several presidential candidates, said Clark called him Tuesday night to let him know he was entering the race. Clyburn said he will consider endorsing Clark.
"I think having Wesley Clark demonstrates very forcefully that we are soldiers, we are patriots, we are lovers of this country," Clyburn said.
Translation: you couldn't get that from the other Democrats in the race. Note that Clyburn all but comes out and says that Clark is really just there to cast a warm protective glow of military experience around a party that has been more than a little cool towards the military.
[Long Island Democrat Steve] Israel said no other candidate in the race can confront Bush so effectively on national security.
"When the president is debating Wesley Clark and has to call him 'General,' it becomes highly problematic for the president," Israel said.
In other words, nobody else even causes a ripple in the president's support on national security. Of course, what's more relevant experience: being a general or being the Commander-in-Chief?
The problem for the Democrats is the down-ticket issue: if Bob Graham and John Breaux don't run for re-election, the Dems could wind up defending open Senate seats in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana, plus an incumbent in Arkansas. Who wants to be a "Howard Dean Democrat" in those races?
Finally, the quote of the week, from Mickey Kaus, on the other celebrated military veteran in the race:
Watching [John] Kerry thrash, flip-flop, and nuance his way to humiliating primary defeat will be one of the few pleasures of the upcoming presidential campaign.
There hasn't been a train wreck that was this much fun to watch since Mark Green.