Wes Clark’s Disappearance: The Gay Angle

Really. Maybe this is a stretch, but maybe it is connecting the dots.

The chatter has now made it to Newsweek that Obama is considering appointing William White, chief operating officer of Manhattan’s Intrepid Museum Foundation, as the next Secretary of the Navy. White is openly gay, so placing him in the Navy Secretary’s job would be an enormous symbolic statement and substantive move. (Sec Navy is a civilian job, so don’t ask/don’t tell doesn’t apply.).

White has strong support among many former military leaders, most prominently retired Gen. Hugh Shelton, the Joint COS Chair from 1997 to 2001. Shelton has said that White “would be phenomenal,” and has praised White’s work as “legendary.”

White’s qualifications for the job include his work at the Intrepid, where he has accumulated extensive contacts in the armed forces, and his years as fundraiser for the Intrepid Museum Foundation. In 1996, he was awarded the Meritorious Public Service Award for his work with the Navy.

You’d have to figure that if Obama appoints White, having Shelton’s strong and public backing would be critical.

Shelton despises Clark, a point he made very clear in the New Yorker’s 2003 profile, which was rightfully denounced as an anti-Clark hit job:

Shelton has recently and famously said, in a public forum, that Clark’s firing “had to do with integrity and character issues,” adding that, for that reason, “Wes won’t get my vote.”

Now, Shelton has never spelled out what he meant by that, which probably means that there is nothing there at all: it’s an old-fashioned personality conflict (which Clark, to his credit, has never engaged in.).

So connecting the dots might yield: Obama appoints White, Shelton runs interference, and Clark is left out in the cold. As Mark is fond of saying: politics ain’t beanbag.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.