My candidate for the Presidency in 2008: Gen. Wesley K. Clark
George W. Bush's biggest accomplishment has been to make all his Presidential predecessors look great and heroic by comparison. It will take a new President in 2008 with extraordinary skills to undue the domestic and foreign-policy damage that he has caused.
Of all the Republican aspirants to succeed him, Nebraska's Sen. Chuck Hagel is the only one for whom I would consider voting. But he is highly unlikely to get his party's nomination. The very factors that attract me are just what would undoubtedly prevent him from becoming the Republican candidate--i.e., his opposition to the Iraq war and his relatively liberal economic and social views.
Of the other leading Republican candidates, I once highly admired Arizona's Sen. John McCain. But I have lost my respect for him. His recommendation, for example, to send more troops to Iraq is extremely unrealistic. The integrity that had always impressed me now seems less genuine. I'm saddened by his pathetic effort to sell himself to the right-wing extremists who destroyed him during the 2004 Republican Presidential primaries.
Another avowed candidate for the Republican nomination is Virginia's George Allen. I consider him a political clown because of his attempt, as a born-and-bred Californian, to project himself as a genuine Southern redneck. Apparently it works, for he's been elected governor and Senator. His clumsy reaction to the recent disclosure of his mother's Jewish origins reinforced my negative view of him.
I doubt whether Rudy Guiliani, who is touted as another potential Republican candidate, could get his party's nomination. His relatively liberal positions on key social issues clashes with his party's establishment forces. And I'm not convinced that the American electorate--particularly in the South--is ready for a President lacking a WASP surname.
As for the Democrats, Hillary Rodham Clinton obviously leads in the race for her party's nomination. But I don't believe that she could win a Presidential election. She is not exactly a flaming leftist. But for reasons that I have never understood, she angers so many people that it's hard to imagine her being elected. Actually, I find her political views quite moderate. Her staunch support for the Iraq war and her sudden concern for such marginal issues as flag-burning strike me as being a pathetic effort to establish centrist credentials.
Al Gore is belatedly behaving like a dynamic national leader, an image he failed to project in 2000. But I doubt whether he is willing to endure another Presidential election campaign. John Kerry does appear ready for another run at the White House. However, I think he bears the stigma of being a loser, largely because of his failure to defend himself more aggressively against the sleazy Swift-Boaters who, I am convinced, were largely responsible for his defeat in 2004.
That year I was impressed by Gen. Wesley K. Clark when he threw his hat into the Democratic primary race. Here was an intellectually talented war hero like Kerry who was a fresh personality untainted by a background as a politician. As a military professional, he was well positioned to demolish the Republicans' nonsensical and traditional claim that the Democrats are "weak on defense." More important, his positions on vital economic and social issues showed that he obviously did not regard liberal as a dirty word. He was also skeptical about the wisdom of invading Iraq and later criticized what he regarded as the war's mismanagement.
Unfortunately, he proved to be an inept political campaigner and never gained any momentum. More recently, however, I have followed his frequent speeches on C-Span and his increasing appearances on TV talk shows. He is coming across as a more mature and dynamic type of national leader that this nation desperately needs, while expanding on his views on such issues as abortion rights, gun control and the economy. His argument that the Iraq war is hampering the war on terrorism also demonstrates a realism that has yet to sink in at the White House.
As the NATO commander during the wars in the former Yugoslavia and as a participant in the Dayton peace talks, he gained important diplomatic experience. He is a brilliant, intellectually curious man, wholly unlike George Bush.
Clark, who will be 62 in December, graduated at the top of his class at West Point, was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, and was briefly a professor of economics and politics at the military academicy. He is fluent in four languages. He is unlikely to have been visibly annoyed, as Bush was, when an American reporter questioned France's leader in French at a press conference in which the President was in attendance.
In the past, Clark usually voted as a Republican before he became a Democrat. He apparently decided that traditional Democratic positions were more ideologically compatible with his own. He has yet to formally declare his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the next Presidential election. But an active political action committee, WesPAC, exists as a remnant from his unsuccessful 2004 campaign.
Clark says he is waiting for the outcome of this year's Congressional elections before declaring his candidacy for the Presidency in 2008. The outlook for a Democratic takeover of Congress seems to be favorable in the face of the Republicans' recent bonanza of bad news. The likelihood of Clark running for President thus seems quite strong. For what it's worth, he has the support of this aged, cranky citizen who wants our nation to be restored to its former glory and to regain the world's respect.