January 14, 2004
POLITICS/WAR: Wesley Off The Walls
The more I hear from Wesley Clark, the more I agree with people like Andrew Sullivan, Jay Nordlinger and James Taranto that he's a paranoid crackpot masquerading as a serious grownup. Clark's increasingly unhinged statements of late show a man who doesn't know when to stop pandering to the fringe (even by Democrat standards); and I suspect that a big part of the problem is that he's a novice at politics. Novice politicians sometimes fall into this trap: they aren't used to meeting big, diverse crowds of people, and when they meet those people and they all seem to agree with the candidate, the candidate starts to think that what goes over well with the people who attend his events is the same as what goes over well with the kinds voters who don't attend Wesley Clark events in Iowa and New Hampshire in the middle of winter.
Frank Gaffney, writing on NRO, tears into Clark for these remarks:
In a meeting last Thursday with the editorial board of New Hampshire's Concord Monitor, the would-be president made statements that no one staking a serious claim on the office, let alone anyone who claimed to be an expert about national security, could make. Referring to the murderous 9/11 attacks, he declared: "If I'm president of the United States, I'm going to take care of the American people. We are not going to have one of these incidents."
According to the Monitor, Clark, when asked to clarify his position in a follow-up interview that night, reaffirmed his belief that taking appropriate measures would keep America safe. "I think [9/11] could have been prevented...I think it can be prevented again if we have the right leadership. That's me. I will protect America."
If Clark thinks that a head of state can guarantee against terrorism (I'm waiting to hear him say the same about recession and war), it should sure be news to the men and women who have run Israel these last several decades . . . this is adolescent bravado; it's really not the stuff of a responsible adult, and is particularly surprising coming from a guy with Clark's long and distinguished record of military service. (Kevin Drum tries to defend Clark's statements, but he has to whitewash their actual text to do so and doesn't touch this one).
Taking the cake, of course, is Clark's support from wacko fictional-documentary maker Michael Moore; Drudge reported yesterday that Moore is endorsing Clark:
FLASH: Michael Moore to endorse Wesley Clark... Moore: 'He's an honest and decent man. I would like to see the General debate the deserter'...
Leaving aside the "AWOL Bush" crap, Moore isn't some campaign outsider; he's the guy who introduced Clark to Madonna two months ago, and the Washington Times describes him as "an early supporter of Mr. Clark."
I'm surprised Moore isn't backing Dean.
Yeah, the last thing we want is a nominee that pledges to prevent terrorist attacks. What a loose cannon!
Seriously, I don't see anything in Clark's remarks that is all that crazy. I'd much rather have someone who says that he'll do whatever he can to prevent terrorism than someone saying "well, there's really no way to stop it from happening, heck just look at Israel." I also don't think it's outragous to say that 9/11 could have been prevented. I think you and the writers you cited are looking at Clark's statements through ideoligical blinders.
What's outrageous is his saying there won't be ANY terrorism, a guarantee no one can make it.
In Clark's defense, I'm sure he knows that and probably misspoke to some degree. ("Puffing" is, I believe, the legal term). Thus, I think this falls more under "Statements Bush Would Really Be Getting Mocked About If He Had Said" rather than ""Statements Which Actually Show You Shouldn't Be President."
He never says "there won't be ANY terrorism." He says "We are not going to have one of these incidents." At worst that is a slight overstatement that more likely refers to the severity and surprise of 9/11. There is no doubt in my mind that Wesley Clark was not trying to say that there will never be a terrorist incident under his administration.
Would you agree with me that it is totally insane to argue that his comment shows that he is "he's a paranoid crackpot masquerading as a serious grownup" as your co-blogger seems to think?
I think that’s essentially the same thing – “these incidents” are terrorism. I don’t want to parse the statement too much but the quote here doesn’t talk about size and scale. And saying there ABSOLUTELY won’t be a 9/11-size attack, which is certainly what’s being suggested, isn’t much less irresponsible than saying there won’t be any attack at all. Homeland security is about presenting the best defense possible – sadly, there are no absolutes and the President has distressingly little ability to personally ensure the prevention of attacks.
As for the other things (and then I’ll shut up on this):
1) I don’t think saying that the 9/11/01 attacks could’ve been prevented is necessarily irresponsible, but you (i.e. the candidate) better be prepared to give a good, intelligent answer as to “how.”
2) That’s not how I would personally describe Clark, but the Crank (who is not, as far as I know, insane) can speak for himself.
Moore isn't supporting Dean because, even though Moore says he's not anti-gun, he clearly is. Dean is pro-gun.
The Washington Times, no surpirse, mischaracterized Moore's remarks. I am on his mailing list. Months ago we got a message from Moore alerting us of some of Clark's views. Moore specifically said, however, that he wasn't endorsing anyone at that time.
Zach - Fair enough. I wondered about how the Times' statement gibed with Moore only now rolling out an endorsement.
Jerry B - I don't necessarily agree with Gaffney that this one statement is a disqualifier, but when you combine it with a broad pattern of similar statements they show a guy who willfully distorts or misunderstands (probably the former) the nature of national security issues. He promises no big terror attacks, as if this can be guaranteed. He repeatedly makes conspiratorial assertions he can't back up. He repeatedly calls the president "unpatriotic." He suggests that Bush isn't even interested in catching bin Laden, which is loopy even on purely political terms. He makes blanket assertions (Iraq had no WMD and no ties to Al Qaeda) that are at best impossible to prove and that contradict his own prior statements. At nearly every turn, he imputes the darkest possible motives to everyone in the national security apparatus all the way up to the president -- including many people he knows personally and has spoken highly of in the past -- and he speaks, over and over again, without qualifiers or any sense that our leaders face difficult choices. The entire approach is calculated to feul the paranoia of people who oppose the exertion of US power at any turn. It's not the work of a man who's serious about the task ahead.
How childish is it for these candidates to respond to the meme that they're constantly being called unpatriotic with "Oh yeah? Well... YOU'RE unpatriotic!"