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September 19, 2003

Yonder he comes

Posted by Phil on September 19, 2003 9:08 PM

Caught a bit of "Hannity and Colmes" this week, with Sean and Ann Coulter (who ping-pongs between Fox News and MSNBC like the Dr. Joyce Brothers of right-wing harridans) heckling some hapless "Democratic Pollster" about the sinister and undoubtedly Clinton-orchestrated mechanics behind Wes Clark's candidacy.

The party line, from the Fox Greek chorus to the WSJ op/ed page, is that Candidate Clark sprang whole from the Clinton asshole--or (sez Ann) was lured into running by Hillary, who hopes to drive all Dem frontrunners over the cliff of Bush's "certain" re-election in order to clear the field for her 2008 run--a run that nobody wants Hillary to make more than the right's lying heads. (God knows I don't want it to happen.)

Here's an open letter to the general from Michael Moore. Say what you will about his candidacy in three or six months--I'm sure withholding judgment for now--but Wesley Clark appears to be the creation of no one but himself, and I think the right-wing brain trust is nervous.

The power-grab they engineered in 2000 was always strapped to a shaky chassis--the quality of George W. Bush. He is their creation, and I suspect their goals for his administration were initially much more modest than they became after the historical plot-twist of 9/11 intoxicated them with the possibility of realizing dreams they'd cherished since before the man who'd have to shoulder them got sober.

Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz--these are not stupid men. You can be sure that long ago they took a clear-eyed measure of the man they "serve," and, once the opposing team collapsed in the first quarter of their tenure, it's easy to imagine them wishing they had a stronger quarterback.

Perhaps not, though: It's hard to believe how foolish they've been in allowing their effort to become so top-heavy, and as agonizing and infuriating as the rising costs of their folly are, it is also a pleasure to see the falsely mighty tumble back to earth. Having almost completely squandered the political capital that fell unearned into their laps, they are now where they were 14 months before the 2000 election: Trying to sell an empty suit with deep pockets, a famous name, and a folksy manner.

Except now we too have taken the full measure of George W. Bush, and he remains a dim, inarticulate man whose principles come to him on 4-by-6 cards.

Wesley Clark appears to be acting on principles that are his own. Bush has had a bad month, and events may further erode his foundation of sand, but for now the election is still probably his to lose. Clark didn't join the Democrats because they're the sure pony to bet on, and it's hard to believe he's a closet conservative so desperate to be president that he'd rather cloak as a Democrat than wait until the 2008 Republican primaries. I believe he's the real thing.

Aside from a few key platform points, I judge a politician almost entirely on his ability to make sense extemporaneously, and the sharp, intelligent Clark holds up there, as well. Then there's his resume: First in his class at West Point, a Rhodes Scholar, a Four-Star General--it's like if Colin Powell were to get his soul back. I feel strongly that there are many issues as important to our future as "security," but if--and I do mean if--that remains the key issue for Americans, then Clark certainly neutralizes the trump card Bush supposedly holds on it.

The right-wing trashers already look unseemly flinging their turds: This is not a man to whom it will stick the way it does to career politicians like Joe Lieberman, who should get out of the race--now--along with Bill Gephardt, Bob Graham, John Edwards, and Al Sharpton. The Democrat Party needs a lively, collegial primary campaign among Howard Dean, John Kerry, Carol Moseley Braun, Dennis Kucinich, and Wesley Clark: to clarify itself, illuminate key issues for the electorate, and show in high relief the corruption and ruinous incompetence of the present administration.

I suppose America has the political system it deserves, or at least the one it will have until reformers with guts surgically separate money from politics once and for all. (Which may not happen without something like a revolution.) This system humiliates, emasculates, and in many cases corrupts most people who last long in it, leaving us with prospective candidates we can hardly bring ourselves to respect. At the very least, familiarity breeds contempt.

As a result, we repeatedly find ourselves looking for a messiah. I don't know what General Clark or the rest of the field will look like after Iowa and New Hampshire, let alone at the end of the nominating convention, but I find the prospect of the American people judging George W. Bush next to a truly accomplished individual such as Wesley Clark very, very appealing.

Because the only thing that matters in 2004 is removing George W. Bush from office.