Question and answer time: the Wes Clark thing.

Some Snide that Got Fed Ex'ed?

By Moe Lane Posted in | | | | Comments (50) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

Q. OK, so what's going on?
A. Senator Obama has lost control over how his campaign will reference Senator McCain's military service.

Q. Lost control, or gave it up?
A. Hah! I have a cynical questioner this time. No, this was taken away from him; he didn't and doesn't want to go there.

Q. Why?
A. Because Senator Obama doesn't make a habit of urinating on electric fences.

Read on.

Q. Err... right. Can we rewind and start from the beginning?
A. Sure. This entire thing started when Wesley Clark - a retired general, brief Presidential candidate in 2004, and netroots darling - made negative comments about the relevance of McCain's military service in reference to this election.

Q. Translation?
A. Wes Clark said that being shot down and being tortured for half a decade is no primary qualification for being President.

Q. Is it?
A. Not particularly, but then again, nobody said that it was. As ABC notes in the article above, that includes McCain: "Yes, his military service is part of his stock campaign biography, but McCain is not running on that record nearly as much as he’s running on his service in Congress."

Q. But it's still a compelling part of his biography, right?
A. Yes, which is why McCain talks about it: the man is running for President, after all. The difficulty for the Obama campaign is that they cannot afford to look like they're going after McCain's military service at all.

Q. How come?
A. Because there are two great stereotypes in American political discourse. Republicans have to prove that they're not racists; and Democrats have to prove that they're patriotic. This is an incredibly frustrating, usually unfair, and generally unchanging fact of life... and wise political campaigns on either side do not try to fight the tide. Which is why the Obama campaign responded thusly:

Obama’s speech Monday in Independence, Mo., included an implicit repudiation of Clark’s sentiments: “Let me say at this at outset of my remarks. I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign. And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine.”

“Let me also add that no one should ever devalue [military] service, especially for the sake of a political campaign, and that goes for supporters on both sides,” Obama added, later in the speech. “We must always express our profound gratitude for the service of our men and women in uniform. Period -- full stop.”

Obama spokesman Bill Burton goes further: “As he's said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain's service, and of course he rejects yesterday's statement by General Clark.”

Q. So. Problem solved, then?
A. Nope. And before you ask "Why?" I'll tell you: it's because Wes Clark doesn't feel like following the script. Up to this point, Obama's had some control over the people speaking in his name: they want things from him, or there's a personal relationship, or perhaps they could just take a hint. But Clark wasn't going to be prominent anyway in any hypothetical Obama administration, and he must know that; the guy's a former Clinton supporter; and he's also an aforementioned darling of the netroots, which means that he couldn't take a hint if you pounded one in with a ball-peen hammer. So he declined to stand down.

Q. Isn't doing that... counter-productive?
A. That's only because you're missing the subtext. The netroots actually want to take this line of attack further; from their point of view, Clark's comments were perfectly reasonable. The fact that they also consider the statement "John McCain is a war criminal" perfectly reasonable, while the public does not, hasn't seemed to fully percolate through their reasoning process yet. So they don't want Clark to get hit for this.

Q. So why does Senator Obama even care?
A. Money, of course. These people make up a nontrivial percentage of his contributors, and he's already ticked them off with both his caving on FISA, and his recent distancing from Moveon over the "General Betrayus" ad, to give just two examples. The owner of Daily Kos has announced that he wasn't going to give Obama a dime until Obama became a better progressive*, and his public decision mirrors that of what may be many private ones. Depending on what June's numbers are, Obama may need those people less unhappy at him. Soon.

Q. So how is Senator Obama handling it?
A. Not so well. After Monday's speech, the Obama campaign tried to walkback:

Per ABC's Sunlen Miller, Sen. Barack Obama said the following at a press availability in Zanesville, Ohio this afternoon: “I think in at least one publication [it] was reported that my comments yesterday about Senator McCain were in a response to General Clark. I think my staff will confirm that that was in a draft of that speech that I had written two months ago.”

That’s an interesting response -- one that might have surprised members of Obama’s own press staff. When reporters (this one included) contacted the Obama campaign Monday morning to ask about his response to Wesley Clark’s comments, they were told to watch the speech.

Q. Oops?
A. Oops. Not the largest oops in the world, but oops. Mind you, Barack Obama's in a bit of a pickle with this one. He can't control Clark, let alone the people who want Clark's comments mainstreamed so that they can try to get war criminal allegations placed in the fray; but at the same time he may kind of need their money right now. So he's trying to distance while not rejecting, and that's something that requires more skill than I think the Obama campaign possesses. Put another way: if I had to pick which one of Erick's cruel and mean alternatives (note: I did not say "inaccurate") was correct, I'd go with "too weak to control his campaign." But that's not Obama's worst problem in all of this.

Q. It's not? What's Obama's worst problem in all of this, then?
A. "Inartful" may not actually be a word. Don't laugh: you never know if this sort of dispute might escape the blogosphere.

Moe Lane

*I should note for the record that this is actually the correct strategy for progressives to take. The Democratic establishment routinely takes their money and gives them nothing substantial in return: and while that's great for the country, it's not what you'd call polite.

*Mister* Delahunt responds.Comments (7) »
Question and answer time: the Wes Clark thing. 50 Comments (0 topical, 50 editorial, 0 hidden) Post a comment »

I seem to recall Clark made similar remarks about Kerry in 2004. The good general has a rather high opinion of himself and a fairly low opinion of anybody who wasn't a flag officer.

Wesley Clark on John Kerry:

John Kerry has heard the thump of enemy mortars. He's seen the flash of the tracers. He's lived the values of service and sacrifice. In the Navy, as a prosecutor, as a senator, he proved his physical courage under fire. And he's proved his moral courage too.

John Kerry fought a war, and I respect him for that. And he came home to fight a peace. And I respect him for that, too. John Kerry's combination of physical courage and moral values is my definition of what we need as Americans in our commander in chief.

John Kerry is a man who in time of war can lead us as a warrior, but in times of peace, he will heed the call of scripture to lead us in beating swords into plowshares.

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He, uh, did run AGAINST him before he endorsed him. You may remember that.

If I misremember him saying it, that's fine. I apologize. It wasn't a dishonest thing on my part. I'll see if I can find a quote from the primaries to back up my recollection.

Found one through LexisNexis:

"It's one thing to be a hero as a junior officer. He's done that and I respect him for that, and he's a good senator," Clark said. "But I've had the military leadership at the top as well as at the bottom."

From: Kerry, Clark court veterans with vengeance The Philadelphia Inquirer JANUARY 23, 2004

I'm sure there's more, but this quote demonstrates that General Clark has a higher opinion of the relevance of service for those who have achieved high rank. I am not saying I agree with that, but it's not as though his more recent remarks are cut of entirely new cloth.

Well, that may or may not be true, but my point stands. Clark has made this sort of argument before. I don't think anybody other than Clark planned for him to make that kind of remark.

Seems to be his headspace, is all I'm saying.

Is that what your point was? That Clark isn't acting as someone else's mouthpiece?


The point is that your Prophet Obama can't be bothered to disagree with him, and the fact that you won't even try to refute that, but instead change the subject, shows a great degree of desperation on your part.

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First off I'm voting for a politician, not a personal Jesus. I know that, and I'd appreciate it if you'd treat me like an intelligent adult, not some cult-kiddie.

I ain't changing the subject. I'm putting the subject into context. This is something that Clark has done before and this pattern evidences a disdain for lower officers and enlisted men as relates to executive experience. He thinks he's awesome because he attained flag rank.

You wanna make this about Obama. I'm sorry, but it's about Clark. You wanna go after me as opposed to my point, that's your call to make. It doesn't make you any more persuasive frankly.

Wesley Clark is a well-credentialed veteran who thinks very, very well of himself and his "equals." I think he looks down, in a paternalistic sort of way, on the rest of the folks in the service. Is that something I agree with or approve of? Heck no! While I've got officers in my family, I can assure you that nobody made it above bird colonel. I respect those folks and the experiences they got along the way. In this respect I think Clark's being a hack.

But that's the point, and that's the appropriate context as far as I'm concerned. For someone so respecting of John Kerry (per your 2004 general election quote) he was willing to "go there" against Kerry in the primary. It's obvious that Clark values certain kinds of military service above others and isn't afraid to say that, whether its about a Republican or a fellow Democrat.

The idea that this is all contrive and coordinated is, while possible, not the most likely explanation. Which do you think happened? Obama's folks decided to urinate on the electric fence or Wes Clark decided to be Wes Clark?

That's my damned point. Keep the implied personal insults out of it. I am neither mentally deficient (as evidenced by following a messiah as opposed to supporting a candidate with whom I largely agree), nor am I "desperate."

Interesting that you seem to be the only Obamoron who actually can acknowledge he is a typical POLITICIAN.

But I thought he was "above partisan politics"?! No?

He really is just a typical liberal hack is your point- and therefore bears no responsibility for WHAT HIS OWN SUPPORTERS SAY on public television after they have been trotted out on the Sunday talk shows?!!

You expect any grown adult to buy that garbage?!!

"Small town folks get bitter after which they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy to people who aren't like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment"- Barack Carter Obama

Be an adult or bugger yourself. "Obamoron" is an insult that serves no purpose in a reasoned debate. I'm here honestly. You wanna make fun of random people you don't know? Be my guest. I hope it makes you feel superior. Whatever.

But you've got a lot of nerve throwing crap like that around just for the heck of it. Grow up.

As to your point? He is no more responsible for what Clark said than McCain is responsible for what a half-cocked prominent supporter of his might say:

More than zero, less than fully.

Any chance you might respond to the substance of what I write? Or is this a complete and utter waste of time?

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

Pardon me? I don't cotton to childish insults that blow past the substance of my argument. Do you enjoy being spoken to as if a child?

Just why do you support Obama ?

It was a pretty simple question. I may have been a bit over the top in the manner of asking but the material I used was both factual and pertinent. So far there has been no response.

While not exactly an answer, above you reveal a little about what you don't care about in Obama.

Honor and Personal integrity seem not to matter.

Further you responded quite angrily when someone called you on that.

So yes it is nice to see a little of what motivates someone who masks their intentions.

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

I don't accept your premise, but I will consider giving a detailed answer on why I support Senator Obama. Understand that I fully expect to get dogpiled en masse for posting such a thing. My reluctance is not obfuscation or dissembling.

I will say this: I have no interest in rewarding the party that not only says government is incompetent but tries like heck to prove it. I have no interest in ratcheting up the bellicosity, vis a vis our foreign policy. I have no interest in using the state to marginalize homosexual citizens. I have no interest in regressive tax cuts.

I am not trying to persuade any of you as to the rightness of my convictions. That was a response to a question asked of me.

I just have no interest in putting someone who isn't up to the job in that oval office.

Aside your obvious hate for my party., that is what the first two sentences comprise. What makes you conclude McCain a man who has dedicated his life to reconciliation and has forgiven the people who did far more harm to him than you could conceive of let alone endure will ratchet up the bellicosity ??

So I and the rest of my party are gay bashers ?

When there is a sizable mass of the population not paying taxes at all just how can you consider a tax cut regressive.

Always nice to have the cards on the table.

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

No, your entire party does not hate gay people. However, your party has sought, and continues to seek, legislation that marginalizes those folks quite a bit. I don't accept that the place of government is to determine what family units deserve recognition and others don't. Frankly I'd prefer that all the government actually codified is civil unions. Leave the religious aspects, if any (depending on the couple), to whatever church/synagogue/mosque/etc the couple prefers (and assuming it will have them).

To your broader point? I think it's fair to say I pretty nearly hate the Republican party, yes. I don't hate most Republicans, though. If I hated you folks individually I wouldn't spend any time here.

I try to see to it that the better angels of my nature win out. That's part of why I participate here. I am trying to learn from the other side, and I'm trying to put a human face on the Republican camp. I have Republican friends in real life, but it's hard to dig deep into the policy differences, as with some of my friends these conversations run hot.

I try to keep an open mind. For the record, disliking what the Republicans stand for on policy is not an automatic endorsement of everything the Democrats do, have done, or would do. You aren't in lockstep with the Republican platform (almost nobody is in 100% agreement with anybody else 100% of the time). Please don't assume I'm that much of a mirror of the Democratic platform.

There is no point in talking to people about their emotional attachments.

I was only concerned about the points that were decidable as matters of fact.

Taxes and McCain being bellicose.

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

Tell ya what. I will post a constructive blog on my positions and rationale if you agree to participate in it in a constructive fashion. I would also ask that if anybody goes into mockery or insults for the heck of it you ask them to respond as constructively as the blog will have been written.

Any time I try to explain myself I get dogpiled. I can live with that, but it limits my willingness to debate policy. I've been thinking about limiting it to a single issue to narrow the debate.


It really doesn't matter if you get dog piled then.

And of course, I look forward to it.

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

No, that has nothing to do with anything here, I'm afraid. Don't project your caricature of an Obama supporter onto the reality that is me.

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

By the way, if you want me to rename your account to Han Hussein Pritcher, I'd be happy to. It'd be no trouble at all.

In your service,

Neil Stevens

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So the fact that I support him automatically means I can't constructively engage you? The fact that I support someone you loathe automatically means you can assume all manner of things about me?

You're not demonstrating a lot of intellectual depth here.

It's absurd that you can't come out and say "You know, that was pretty disgusting what Clark said. Obama should have just condemned it, given Clark's known track record of attacking the military service of anyone whom it is politically necessary to attack."

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I don't consider what he said to have been disgusting at all. The worst soundbite, the "I don't consider flying a fighter jet and getting shot down to be a requirement to be President" (or however exactly it was worded) was a regurgitation of the question Bob Schieffer asked him, in the same words in which it was asked.

Was it stupid? Yes. Was it condescending? Yes. Was it pure Wes Clark? You betcha. Was it "disgusting"? Not as I see it. Wes Clark was being Wes Clark - an intelligent and cultured, yet remarkably arrogant and smug SOB.

"barack-carter-obama" nice one, keep'em conin

and the commentariat, then? This is coordinated. Perhaps Obama didn't devise the strategy, but it is organized and obviously is intended to help him.

In fact, I think it may be part of an orchestrated plan by Obama to get the question of his patriotism off the table.

Think of his words: "I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign. And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine.”

That says it all. It is part of the equivocation game: Thus, Clark's comments are just as invalid as any references to the unpatriotic folks that Obama seems to have hung with.

Create equivocation and confusion on those issues where one is at a disadvantage. In this case, the character issue.

BTW, whos ass did Clark kiss to get to be General? Or was his service honorable and he has just entered preliminary dementia?

That or just Clark being a moron.

Any discussion about McCain's military service, time as a POW, getting his plane shot down, and the general discussion of qualifications in general is an automatic win for McCain. Every. Single. Time.

I cannot see the Obama campaign bringing this up intentionally. It accomplishes nothing.

Clark's comments said nothing about patriotism, yet Obama somehow gets to patriotism in chiding Clark. I think it is not a mistake, but a coordinated effort to try to take patriotism off the table. Why? The Michelle Obama problem.

People who end up flag officers do so because they are 1., intelligent and accomplished, and 2., politically connected. People who think the military is apolitical are out of touch.

Clark kissed a lot of butt - like Patraeus. The difference is that Clark sees himself as a great and historic leader, while Patraeus sees himself as a servant and defender of the republic. Big difference.
Wyoming people deserve the truth!
Just another Bitter white-boy clinging to guns and God!

"The difference is that Clark sees himself as a great and historic leader, while Patraeus sees himself as a servant and defender of the republic."

Petraeus has long been rumored to have presidential ambitions. While I don't know that he has as big a head as Clark does, I also think he's much more discerning about his words. Clark, on the other hand, isn't going to run for President again and has no advantage in keeping his mouth shut.
Out with the Oak King.

It appeared in at least one of the papers I read I regularly read WSJ/APP/Boston Globe. It also came up in some things I got via RSS. If you want I'll check my history for the bylines. But I remember reading it often enough.
Out with the Oak King.

Katie Couric said this after she came back from Iraq. She asked him about public office at some point and he declined on camera to answer. He told her privately (evidently the concept of "off the record" is lost to her) he hoped to enter public service as a Republican after his retirement, but didn't want to say so on camera because he felt saying so publicly would damage his clout with Congress about the war effort as well as give anti-war people a wedge issue.
Out with the Oak King.

When was Petraeus's testimony to Congress again? I had to take my old computer behind the woodshed last Christmas so I don't have records for (approx) earlier than the first of this year. I'll see if Google News turns anything up.
Out with the Oak King.

The Independent (UK) ran a piece on it last Fall. Patrick Cockburn I believe has been the Middle East desk chief for various services for the better part of 30 years. He has direct quotes from a few members of the Iraqi government to make the claim. Not to mention a salient point:

"General Petraeus has a reputation in the US Army for being a man of great ambition. If he succeeds in reversing America's apparent failure in Iraq, he would be a natural candidate for the White House in the presidential election in 2012.

His able defence of the "surge" in US troop numbers in Iraq as a success before Congress this week has made him the best-known soldier in America. An articulate, intelligent and energetic man, he has always shown skill in managing the media."

If you want me to find other sources let me know. I'm sure I read this more than once.
Out with the Oak King.

Today he made the comment he doesn't think what Wes Clarke said about McCain was apropos but he didn't think it's something keeping Americans (Ohioans) up at night. My interpretation is Obama means that he doesn't have to apologize for comments made by people who aren't on the campaign. I can't say I disagree.

If some Republican commentator goes off the deep end and says something insane like Obama wants put former members of the black panthers in charge of the FBI, why should McCain apologize? Each candidate needs to be where the buck stops for everything that happens in their campaign, like Obama addressing the removal of Muslims from photo ops. But are the candidates beholden for everything said by everyone on their side of the aisle?
Out with the Oak King.

5 by mbauer

You're Q/A Blogs are my absolute favorite

campaign, but I think it opens a new front on what Bush Sr once inartfully referred to as "the vision thing" as well. Obama has campaigned heavily on the themes of Hope, Change, and being the leader who can not only bring them about, but also bring unity to the country as well. Now, hypothetically accepting those as true, and given that he is now the titular head of the Democrat party in the same way John McCain is the Republicans, what does Obama's inability to quiet or calm unjustified criticisms of John McCain say about his abilities to lead, to change, and to unify. If there is anywhere that he ought to hold sufficient influence to change at least public actions if not private opinions, it ought to be within the party he leads, particularly as they relate to his ability to win the votes of the coveted middle ground voters? Or to put it in the common man's vernacular: If he can't even change the behavior of people who are allegedly trying to elect him, how the heck* is he going to change the country?

*okay, the vernacular wouldn't day 'heck' but this is a family friendly site.

McCain isn't basing his claim to be the best Commander in Chief on being shot down in Vietnam. He's basing his claim on having advocated for the surge in Iraq when it was unpopular and opposed by almost every politician everywhere. Bush implemented it only after protracted argument, in what to all appearances was a "well, we've run out of other ideas, I guess we'll try McCain's" attempt to get Iraq off the front page. Now that the surge has been implemented, violence in Iraq is down, a civil politics is growing, the economy is growing and the people seem to be happy. In short, what McCain did was the hard job of convincing the CinC to implement his strategic plan when he wasn't even in the military chain of command, and most importantly, chose strategy that works. Which to my mind, means McCain has done more than Clark EVER did.

The compare and contrast with Obama's strategic position is left as an exercise for the student.

Last night on O'Reilly, I saw Rick Santorum state that, when he campaigned for Bush in 2004, he never would have said anything on a Sunday talk show that wasn't coordinated with the campaign.

Besides, I've seen Obama rely on a plethora of slimy surrogates during the Democratic primary, like Keith Olbermann, Eugene Robinson, Jim Clyburn, Donna Brazille, The Daily Kos, and John Avarosis. I don't put anything past him now. Besides, to quote Keith Ellison when he complained about not being allowed to campaign for Obama in a mosque, the Obama campaign has "a very tightly wrapped message". I, personally, don't think that any Obama surrogate would ever say anything without Axelrod's blessing first.

Clark seems too hung up on qualifications for the office when indeed, there is a simple test to verify who is eligible.

US Constitution, Article II, Section 1

No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.

This makes me qualified to hold the office too. But should the nation select me, meh, probably not.


It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

someone (named Moe) should do an entry on how many times Obama has thrown "inartful" under the bus. I know he did it with an "inartful" advisor on the gun ban ruling in DC who told reporters that Obama supported the gun ban- before of course the SCOTUS overruled it.

He also used the "inartful" excuse on at least one other occassion- I think perhaps our favorite "guns and bitter" episode..

"Small town folks get bitter after which they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy to people who aren't like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment"- Barack Carter Obama

good job on that Carter reference. keep'em comin

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