WESLEY CLARK ROUNDUP….Wes Clark seems to have gotten his campaign woes more or less under control and has been getting a bunch of press lately. In addition to appearances on Letterman and 60 Minutes II, there have been lots and lots of profiles and interviews recently, many of them actually interesting! Here’s a personal roundup:
In the New York Times, N.R. Kleinfeld writes, “In judging him, people tend to diverge on his ambition: to what extent is it fired by altruism and to what extent by self-aggrandizement? Is he all about ‘duty,’ as he says, or is he all about ‘Wes,’ as some detractors say? Or some of both?”
Kleinfeld seems unable to make up his mind, but if you’re interested in the “walking contradiction” school of Clark biography, this is the piece to read.
Over at Open Source Politics, UCLA political theorist Andy Sabl has made up his mind: Clark is a pre-sixties Democrat, “a throwback, a Rip Van Winkle, a pluralistic, optimistic, Greatest Generation-style politician lost, like Howard the Duck, in a world he never made. He’s further outside the mainstream political culture than can possibly be imagined. This is what makes him so striking, so hard to parse, and so clearly the best candidate.”
At Beliefnet, Steven Waldman talks to Clark about his religion: “I’m spiritual. I’m religious. I’m a strong Christian and I’m a Catholic but I go to Presbyterian Church.” Parse that, baby!
GQ, apparently hoping that the General appeals to their target demographic, has a profile of Clark this month that one reader writes to tell me is the best article she’s read about Clark. An excerpt: “I’ll tell you what I think. He’s running for president, and he is not used to losing. And if he gets the nomination, he’ll go up and down this country and beat on President Bush like a drum. He’ll do 2,000 yards of swimming every morning; he’ll rappel down any cliff he needs to; he will shake off any small-arms fire as if it were a swarm of gnats. And he’ll get better at the game each and every day. He hates to lose. And he doesn’t run from fights. And even if he’s never played the game, he’s never a beginner at anything.”
And for those of you who want some Clark bashing, check out Matt Taibbi’s hatchet job in The Nation, in which he finds a few low-level Clark staffers and makes fun of them. Taibbi seems uninterested in trying to make sense of Clark’s complexity and unwilling to countenance any foreign policy views deeper than “killing people is wrong.”
(And honestly, isn’t carping about the fact that Clark once said some nice things about the Bush administration getting a little old? Hell, even I occasionally say some nice things about the Bush administration. I hope that doesn’t mean I have to revoke my Democratic party registration.)
If you’re interested in Clark, read ’em all. The consistent theme, which I agree with, is that Clark is a hard guy to make sense of. But if you’re willing to take the time to look at him without too much cynicism, there’s a lot to like. Yeah, he’s personally ambitious and even a bit arrogant ? attributes shared by virtually all presidential candidates, I think ? but he’s also broadly and honestly liberal, he bridges the culture war gap, he genuinely believes in America’s capability to do good, he understands at a gut level that multilateralism is hard but absolutely necessary if we’re going to win the war on terrorism, and he’s much more sincere in his beliefs than your average politician. What’s more, he’s got the vision and the drive to get things done and the coattails to help elect other candidates besides himself.
I’m glad he’s on our side. He’d make a good president.