Clark: Holding his own

The media chatter over the past couple of weeks hasn’t been kind to Gen. Wesley Clark, and there’s been some … rearrangement … at his campaign headquarters. But he seems to be doing reasonably well nonetheless.

There’s a new poll out, and Clark is pretty much holding his own, still ahead of the pack, despite the pounding he’s been taking. (That’s Kos’s reading [*], and he’s not especially a Clark booster.)

Tom Edsall says Clark’s fund-raising seems to be going well. [*]

The fact that the other candidates in the debate took turns pounding on him in the debate seems to suggest that they think he’s doing well, too.

On the question of the war, I’ve been unable to detect the “flip-flop” the press and his rivals keep talking about. Clark said the first time, and said again in today’s debate, that he would have voted for the use of force resolution to give the President the leverage to assemble an international coalition to force Saddam Hussein to disarm, but that he would not have voted to go to war had he been asked to vote on that question (which, in fact, no one was), because he thought then that going to war would leave us more rather than less vulnerable. That seems to me like a coherent position.

And here’s a question: When the other candidates are attacking one another, and Clark, and Clark is attacking George W. Bush, just which one is acting as a loyal Democrat?

Update Matt Yglesias [*] spells out the basic point for Michael Kinsley:

Clearly, in an election where national security is going to play an important role, a few stars on your shoulder isn’t going to hurt. But the reason national security is going to be important in 2004 is that right now national security is important, and the reason high-ranking generals have a lot of foreign-policy credibility is that high-ranking generals know a lot about foreign policy. In particular, people like me who liked the liberal interventionism of the later Clinton years and now find themselves sympathetic to the ostensible goals of the Bush foreign policy but are disgusted by the gross dishonesty, shallow opportunism, rank hypocrisy, utter recklessness and general incompetence with which it’s been carried out have good reason to think that Clark could be the best man to guide America on the international scene.

Second Update A reader, sympathetic to Clark, objects to the dismissal above of the “flip-flop” charge as too simple. It seems that Clark said that he would have voted for a use-of-force resolution authorizing the President to gather international support for the use of force, but not for the resolution actually voted on, which gave him more or less open-ended authority, nor for a resolution (never asked for) authorizing the invasion when it happened. That’s a position harder to express in a sound-bite, and perhaps harder to defend politically, but it’s still, to my eyes, both internally consistent and coherent in policy terms.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: