Freshly minted Democratic heartthrob Wesley Clark has stumbled badly during his first days as a declared presidential candidate; in fact, for a fellow who’s allegedly sharp as a tack, he comes across as a spouter of shopworn cliches when speaking on message – and downright incoherent when talking off the cuff.
So unimpressive has the retired general been early on in his quest for the presidential grail that Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for Reasononline.com, was compelled to compare him with the mentally retarded hedge cutter made famous by Peter Sellers in the 1979 film “Being There,” based on the Jerzy Kosinski novel of the same name.
In both the movie and the book, writes Bailey, “vacuous statements made by a retarded gardener called Chauncey Gardiner get taken as profound insights by the rich and powerful around him. Is Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark the Chauncey Gardiner of 2004?
“Consider this Chauncey Gardiner-like vacuity uttered by Clark at last week’s debate among Democratic presidential candidates: “I am pro-choice, I am pro- affirmative action, I am pro-environment, pro-health. I believe the United States should engage with allies. We should be a good player in the international community. And we should use force only as a last resort.”
“Ambiguous blather! As if anyone is pro-disease or anti-environment. What about the hard voter-losing questions? What about notification of parents of minors seeking abortions? What about minority quotas in college admissions or company hiring? Does he favor oil exploration in Alaska? Does he want to socialize medical care in America? What does engaging with allies mean? Who’s against engaging with allies anyway and who wants to use force as a first resort?
“Clark utters meaningless bromides and gets a boost in his poll numbers. Why? Like Chauncey Gardiner, Clark is an empty vessel and as such Democrats can project any of their fantasies and hopes onto him. I am not saying that Clark is retarded; he is a very accomplished man. However, Clark evidently believes like almost all other professional politicians and their spinmeisters that the only way to get elected in 21st century America is to act like Chauncey
Gardiner and make a lot of pretty noises, but say nothing. I fear that they could be right.”
An insightful bit of analysis on Bailey’s part to be sure, and now comes word that Chauncey, er, Wesley, may have attended one Star Trek convention too many. Brian McWilliams filed the following little eye-opener earlier this week on Wired.com:
“During a whirlwind campaign swing Saturday through New Hampshire, Clark…gave supporters one of the first glimpses into his views on technology. ‘We need a vision of how we’re going to move humanity ahead, and then we need to harness science to do it,’ Clark told a group of about 50 people in Newcastle attending a house party – a tradition in New Hampshire presidential politics that enables well-connected voters to get an up-close look at candidates.
“Then, the 58-year-old Arkansas native…dropped something of a bombshell on the gathering. ‘I still believe in e=mc2, but I can’t believe that in all of human history, we’ll never ever be able to go beyond the speed of light to reach where we want to go,’ said Clark. ‘I happen to believe that mankind can do it…I’ve argued with physicists about it, I’ve argued with best friends about it. I just have to believe it. It’s my only faith-based initiative…’
“Gary Melnick, a senior astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said Clark’s faith in the possibility of time travel was “probably based more on his imagination than on physics.”
“While Clark’s belief may stem from his knowledge of sophisticated military projects, there’s no evidence to suggest that humans can exceed the speed of light, said Melnick. In fact, considerable evidence posits that time travel is impossible, he said.
” ‘Even if Clark becomes president, I doubt it would be within his powers to repeal the powers of physics,’ said Melnick…”
And to think that many of the same liberals now swooning for Clark used to mock Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative as ‘Star Wars’ and worse.
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org