Last week’s column on Wesley Clark drew letters of protest from several Clark boosters, one of whom castigated the Monitor for “an ad hominem attack with no substance on a distinguished general.” All right, if it’s substance you want, it’s substance you’ll get – though certainly not from candidate Clark, who thus far has shown very little of it.
Here is Clark speaking on CNN last February: “The credibility of the United States is on the line, and Saddam Hussein has these weapons and so, you know, we’re going to go ahead and do this and the rest of the world’s got to get with us – the UN has got to come in and belly up to the bar on this. But the president of the United States has put his credibility on the line, too. And so this is the time that these nations around the world, and the United Nations, are going to have to look at this evidence and decide who they line up with.”
And here is the same man just seven months later, referring to President Bush during a Democratic presidential debate: “We got a man who recklessly took us into war with Iraq.”
At least Democrats like Howard Dean and Al Sharpton, for all their wrong-headedness about American foreign policy in general and Iraq in particular, have remained consistent in their views. It tells you something about Clark that, next to him, Sharpton looks like a paragon of consistency and integrity.
(Speaking of Dean, he’s uttered arguably the two dumbest remarks on the Middle East by a Democratic candidate so far in this campaign. This was his response to a question from a concerned supporter of Israel: “I’m not going to let anything happen to Israel. My wife is Jewish.” And this was his rejoinder to Sen. Joe Lieberman, who criticized an earlier statement by Dean that the U.S. should not take sides in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict: “It doesn’t help to demagogue this issue. We’re all Democrats. We need to beat George Bush so we can have peace in the Middle East.”)
But there’s more to Clark’s duplicitousness on Iraq, as James Kirchick points out in a concise and convincing article in the Yale Daily News. Utilizing material compiled by, ironically enough, the left-wing media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), Kirchick paints a portrait of a man who either has no idea of what he’s talking about or is simply willing to say whatever is politically expedient (hey, no wonder the Clintons like the guy!).
“In a Jan. 18 CNN interview,” writes Kirchick, “Clark said that Saddam ‘does have weapons of mass destruction.'” Same network, same issue, three months later, he said, “I think they will be found. There’s so much intelligence on this.” Only a few days later, in a column for the Times of London, Clark wrote that British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush – the man whom he just last week derided as ‘reckless’ – “should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt….Let’s have those parades on the Mall and down Constitution Avenue.” ”
But, Kirchick continues, Clark of late has been “whistling an entirely different tune. On Sept. 19, Clark told the Associated Press, “Let’s make one thing real clear: I would never have voted for this war.” This unilateral declaration came only a day after Clark said he ‘probably’ would have supported the resolution authorizing President Bush to declare war.”
Kirchick is far from the only observer to have nailed Clark on his schizoid politics, but the Monitor chooses to cite him because he’s not some jaded professional pundit – and because he’s a self-described Democrat who says that while he likes the retired general and wishes he could support him, “Clark is not the white knight that Democrats are making him out to be, but rather an opportunist.”
To Larry in Great Neck, Hilda in Forest Hills, Roz in Paramus, Bonnie in Teaneck and Morris in Coconut Grove, Florida: If you still need more “substance,” the Monitor will provide it via personal e-mail. Two columns on Wesley the Weasel are, no doubt, about all that most readers will politely bear.