Gen. Wesley Clark has released 200 pages of documents from his Army personnel file. There’s no doubt that he had his share of intramural fights as a four-star general, but on the way up he seems to have impressed everyone he worked for.
James Lynn, OMB Director in the Ford Administration for whom Clark worked as a White House Fellow, called him “the most able White House Fellow I have known during my seven years in Washington.” Lynn added, “He brought to his work a brilliant mind and rare common sense. He has initiative, style, imagination, moral courage, and integrity, each in extraordinary degree. He has a rare sensitivity to others and a remarkable ability to motivate and lead them.”
A military superior in his next assignment called him “the most brilliant and gifted officer I’ve known.” Another said, “He is unquestionably one in a million. A professional whose perceptions are correct, whose plans are thorough and complete, whose executions are artistic, and whose success is inevitable. I have never been more impressed with an officer’s talent and dedication. He should rank with men like Douglas MacArthur, Maxwell Taylor, Creighton Abrams.” A third called him “the most outstanding Major I have ever seen… brilliant, innovative, hardworking, and extremely enthusiastic, professional in every respect.”
When he was a Lieutenant Colonel, his commanding colonel said “Clark exhibits the best balance of professional ethics of any officer I know. Particularly noteworthy is his demonstrated selfless dedication to his men, his unit, and the Army. He exhibits absolute integrity of word, deed… he establishes and observes scrupulous ethical and moral standards.”
Colin Powell was equally enthusiastic. “Wes Clark has been a superb battalion commander and will be a superb brigade commander. He is an officer of the rarest potential and will clearly rise to senior general officer rank. He will be one of the Army’s leaders in the 1990’s.” Another superior said, “Wes Clark has the character and depth to be another Marshall or Eisenhower in time of war.” A third called him the “best leader-thinker in the Army… a great leader who takes care of soldiers and families… He has it all and has done it better than anyone else.”
Everyone knows that the army has carried grade inflation to a point only dreamed of in the university, and that Hollywood has its press agents study efficiency ratings to learn hyperbole. But the language used about Clark by the commanders he worked for is completely off the charts. Comparisons to Marshall and MacArthur aren’t made lightly by any soldier who wants to keep the respect of his peers.
Clark’s release of the documents should have been a great public relations coup, but a Google search suggests it didn’t make much of a splash. (The CNN story leans over backwards to find a way to be “balanced.”)
Still, this ought to do something to tone down the attempt to paint Clark as having been something less than a superb officer, and it makes a nice contrast with another likely candidate for 2004, who has yet to release the discharge papers that might clarify the circumstances of his early departure from the Texas Air National Guard.