Two Conservative Views on Wesley Clark

For some reason, I have an unusual number of conservative friends for someone of my political views. Two of them, each with an Ivy League PhD, each of them substantially smarter than the average holder of an Ivy League PhD, and neither of whom has ever voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate, reacted in very different ways to my endorsement of Clark.

One gives what is probably a good preview of the RNC’s attack talking points. The other is more than inclined to give him a try. Their unedited comments are below.

I’m almost tempted to contribute. Clark would be almost as juicy an

opponent for Bush as Dean. This is the guy who advocated and engineered the

phony air war against Serbia. Quotes from Clark during this period versus

on-ground reality will make amusing campaign reading. As will quotes from

other NATO commanders (British and others) who claim that if they had not

restrained Clark’s attempted bullying of Russian commanders at the end of

this campaign Clark was well on the way to starting WW III. Then, of course,

there is party affiliation: Republican one year, independent the next, then

Democrat. Poor Wesley can’t seem to make up his mind, except when it is

expedient to assist a grab at power.

It will be amusing to watch the media repudiate their original takes on

Clark during the Kosovo campaign if he becomes the Democrat candidate: Just

as it was amusing to watch the various spins on Dean play out in the media.

First, when they were trying to get a viable Democrat candidate elected,

Dean was portrayed as a wild-eyed left-wing radical, to whom any other

Democrat candidate should be preferred. Then, when it was so clear that

Dean had so energized the extreme left, attack-Bush-at-any-price wing of the

party, that it began to seem inevitable he would be the Democrat nominee,

the media suddenly began portraying Dean as a moderate populist. Now that

Clark provides the media with a potentially viable Democrat candidate, I’m

sure they’ll start comparing him to some combination of the best of

Washington, Jackson, Polk, Grant, and Eisenhower. Of course, these generals

achieved victories and Clark failed miserably in his most famous campaign,

but what the hell.

The opposing view:

For a change we may end up supporting the same candidate.

I’m forever dreaming of politicians who are intelligent and reflective;

disciplined in thought and action; cognizant of the complexity of public

policy, particularly the law of unintended consequences; inclined toward

activism abroad and deregulation at home; supportive of federally-led

social insurance and (market-oriented) environmental protection, but

(like Bob Rubin and Jack Lew) skeptical that the federal government does

more good than harm in other capacities; strongly opposed to the moral

agenda of right, yet equally opposed to the identity politics of the

left; outraged by the tax code and the tort system.

My guess is that Clark comes closer to fitting this description than any

other candidate, including, of course, President Bush.

A third friend, comparable to the other two in brilliance and voting history, says of Clark, “My vote is his to lose, and I’m really hoping he shines.”

Update Several readers have written to criticize one or the other of the views above. I didn’t, and don’t, think it appropriate to counterpunch in a forum I control.

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: