Monday, September 22, 2003

Post Hurricane-Isabel Post: So, now the presidential election begins. Wesley Clark has become the 10th Democrat to announce his candidacy for president (or at the very least, announce that he's going to announce, as some known candidates tend to officially announce after months of campaigning).

Everybody is cooing over Clark's four stars, predicting that his military experience will make up for his soft-on-war policies. I don't see how being a former general would give anyone an advantage as president. It's widely known that Bush greatly admires the generals on staff and defers to their judgement on executing military affairs. He just lets them know which direction he wants to take the fight.

I don't think electing another ego to butt heads with the other generals would accomplish anything. Plus, Clark is lacking experience on all those domestic political issues. He's used to giving out orders instead of working within a governmental framework.

Slate has been running this story about how all the generals who were elected president, from Washington to Eisenhower, ran on a pacifist platform. My one rebuttal is that none of those guys were elected during a war.

So the question is whether Americans are really going to treat this war on terrorism like a real war. During World War II, the war effort was ubiquitous -- most of the young men were fighting overseas, women were working in factories that were converted to military plants, and everybody was rationing everything from gasoline to chocolate for the boys.

This war, except for the pretty terror alert colors that change more often than traffic lights, really hasn't been felt widespread since 9/11. So I'm afraid people will become complacent and will settle for someone who doesn't want to fight this war.

But that doesn't automatically translate into votes for General Clark. Since he has come into the picture late, he's getting a rushed treatment. Apparently his honeymoon with the press is already over. He's being accused of flip-flopping on the war in Iraq and of fibbing during his criticism about the White House. But he also appears to have jumped ahead of Howard Dean in the polls. However, no Democrat has a clear advantage, so it will still be a long and dirty campaign.

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