I wondered the other day why Wes Clark has disappeared from the transition and from any role in the administration, even advisory.
Several readers have suggested that it stemmed from Clark’s interview in early July, which supposedly showed him to be gaffe-prone. I don’t buy that one for a second. First, as I argued then, Clark simply made no gaffe: the right-wing noise machine invented it and it was picked up by incompetent enablers like Mark Helperin. Second, Obama then chose Joe Biden as VP and Larry Summers as his chief economic advisor; compared to them, Clark might as well be a deaf mute.
But then one reader sent in this explanation, which rings true to me:
I suspect the diss is part of a perception within Obama’s circle that Clark is a pariah among active military brass, and the incoming administration is determined to win over the military support that normally goes unquestioned to the Reps.
My father was a career officer in the Air Force, so I’ve witnessed first hand the lifelong training to never question one’s commanding officer. Clark’s public opposition to the judgment of other generals prior to and after his appointment as Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO seems to have earned him an undying enmity from a few fellow generals. My father considers Clark a traitor, someone who put his own advancement ahead of his obligation to follow orders — an unforgivable sin. (Like Sweeney Todd, my father never forgives and never forgets.) . . . I’ve always sensed that Clark’s real crime in my father’s eyes and those of his military colleagues was speaking out at all.
Like the Warren selection for the inaugural invocation, presumably a calculated decision to shore up the evangelical base in support of Obama’s forthcoming actions to attack global warming, Obama’s (more than) oversight of Clark probably feeds into a strategy to gain the respect of active military leaders to implement plans that they might otherwise oppose in a knee-jerk way.
Obama is doubling, tripling, quadrupling down on getting military backing: keeping Gates on, hiring James Jones as NSA, appointing Shinseki at Veterans’ Affairs. If Clark is indeed such a pariah, then that would explain things.
What it would not do is say anything edifying about the military brass. This is a group that went into practically open revolt against Bill Clinton over don’t ask don’t tell, and consistently leaked stories negative about Clinton to the press. If my correspondent’s thoughtful speculations are true, apparently among the brass, loyalty only runs one way.
And if that’s true, Obama had better watch his back very carefully.