Rich Lowry captures the essence of Wesley Clark with one line — “Howard Dean with medals.” And why not? Dean’s shtick was working better than anyone else’s by the time Clark entered the race. What should he have become, Joe Lieberman with medals?
There is a certain genius about the way Clark uses his stature as a general and his lack of prior Democratic affiliation (two attributes I thought would be fatal in the primaries) as cover for making statements that are every bit as wacky and as leftist as Howard Dean’s. There seems to be a group of Democratic voters who have the irresitible urge to attack President Bush on Iraq as irresponsibly as Howard Dean has done, but who have concluded that nominating Dean will bring electoral disaster. Clark has emerged as the perfect solution for these folks. Indeed, his attacks on President Bush’s patriotism must warm their hearts as much as, if not more than, any of Dean’s crowd-pleasing barbs. When you add that bloc of voters to those who don’t follow things very closely and still buy the image of Clark as a dignified centist hero, you apparently get to about 20 percent of the Democrats. And that’s enough to make Clark a bona fide contender in this particular race.
The race that matters, though, is the one in November. I assume that, if he participates in that race, Clark will cease making Dean-like pronouncements and attempt to reinforce whatever is left of his dignified centrist hero image. This shell game doesn’t sound very promising to me but what do I know? Clark is already doing better than I expected he would.
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