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September 27, 2003

Wesley: the perfect concept candidate

Wesley Clark's lighting transformation from "not sure if he's a Democrat and not sure if he's running" to front-runner and media darling in two weeks flat is a symptom of Democratic dissatisfaction with the current crop of presidential candidates, not a ringing endorsement of Clark.   With Bush's popularity flagging in the polls, as a weak economy and the lengthy, bloody and expensive occupation of Iraq take their toll, Democrats see a glimmer of hope that Bush can be defeated in '04.   Unfortunately for the Dems, none of the likely nominees (Dean, Kerry, Lieberman) were setting the world on fire, and Dean, the candidate with the most enthusiastic supporters and momentum, was widely seen as unelectable, a 21st Century version of George McGovern.

Into this bleak landscape comes manna from heaven in the form of our telegenic, moderate retired four star general Wesley Clark.   With his military background as inoculation against the public's lack of confidence in the Democratic party on defense and security issues, Clark was an answer to a maiden's prayer.

It is interesting to look at where Clark drew his new-found support.   Several polls seemed to show that Lieberman, Kerry and Gephart lost support when Clark announced, while Dean's support declined the least or held steady.   This would support the view that Clark supporters see him as an electable moderate (the main appeal of Lieberman, Kerry or Gephart).   Dean's supporters, on the other hand, seem committed to either the man or his consistent anti-war message, rather than looking for any electable alternative to Bush.

I think Clark represents the triumph of hope over conviction on the part of the desperate Dems.   For example, just last week, at a pot-luck supper at my daughters' school, one nice, typically left-wing mom asked me what I thought about Clark.   Knowing that I was one of that rare breed, a Manhattan Republican and a reformed Democrat, she was hoping that Clark's military credentials would lure me back from the dark side.   Needless to say, she was disappointed in my response that I thought he was just another opportunistic pol, who didn't seem to have a straight answer as to what his views were on the war in Iraq (or much else for that matter, including party affiliation).

Though I missed the debate last week and therefore can't comment on his apparently strong performance, I suspect that he is not quite ready for prime time.   We shall see...

September 27, 2003 at 06:55 PM | Permalink


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