Monday, October 20, 2003

Roasted Waffles: General Wesley Clark is getting hammered by the media and rival Democrats for quotes like: "I tremendously admire, and I think we all should, the great work done by our commander-in-chief, our president, George Bush." That one was from Jan. 22, 2002, when Clark was commenting on Bush's handling of the war in Afghanistan.

Critics are accusing Clark of flip-flopping and are saying that he can't be considered a credible Democrat if he supported the Bush administration in Afghanistan and opposed it in Iraq.

That's not true. Giving Bush compliments in the past makes Clark more credible. It shows that he's neither a party sheep nor a knee-jerk anti-war nut.

There are so many liberals who have opposed Bush every step of the way. When Bush originally wanted to invade Afghanistan, critics decried the rush to war. When the fighting lasted more than a couple weeks, people were murmuring "quagmire". When the operation in Afghanistan became a remarkable success, the opponents didn't concede, they just became strangely quiet.

When war was getting underway in Iraq, the exact same criticisms popped up by the same naysayers. Now those critics are clinging to every bit of bad news in hopes that they'll be proven right. Even though the war is largely successful, opponents point to the small guerilla skirmishes and assert that this is another Vietnam. And because Bush is (gasp) adjusting his plans given the new circumstances, critics are ripping him to pieces.

Clark considered Afghanistan to be a worthy fight and Iraq to be a mistake. I disagree with him on the latter, but I'm not going to criticize him for forming a complex opinion instead of just reflexively disagreeing with whatever the sitting president does.

The news media should thoroughly analyze all candidates past positions. But they shouldn't overreact to something like this. Politicians ought to be able to adjust their policy positions as circumstances see fit. They might even have to be human and (double-gasp) change their minds from time to time.

Nobody wants a flip-flopping, test-the-winds type candidate. Resolve, perseverance, and consistency are important characteristics in a leader. But politics, especially foreign policy, is much too nuanced to fit in a cookie cutter. That's why, for example, Bush found it feasible to attack Iraq and negotiate with North Korea. Now Clark is delineating the differences between Afghanistan and Iraq. And that's what he'd do if he were president. If you agree with him, give him your vote. If you don't, don't.


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