Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Thank You, Wesley Clark

Out of physically felt disappointment in the mainstream media, the Obama campaign, and even the McCain campaign, I just sent the following letter to General Wesley Clark through his website.

Dear General Clark,

In the midst of this week's controversy, I’d like to take a moment and thank you for your comments about John McCain's presidential qualifications. It truly saddens me that your analysis has sparked a scandal, as I found your experienced insights to be some of the most sane and refreshingly honest commentary available so far this year. It should be clear to anyone who listened that you never impugned McCain’s service, and that you are more than qualified to make the judgments you did. The treatment your words have endured serves as a sad reminder of the shameful state of the American political media, and I can only hope that such thorough analyses will one day have a true place in our national discourse. In that spirit, I’m glad to see that you’ve continued to appear on national television, and that you have shown the courage to eloquently defend your statement rather than go back on your words and ideas.

I am also glad to see that your vocal and public endorsement of Senator Obama is untarnished by his campaign’s denunciation of your comments. Disappointed though I have been by some of his recent actions, it would be a shame if we let his mistakes cost him the election.

For the record, I would never have questioned the relevance of McCain’s Navy career had it not been your June appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” which I forwarded widely and discussed at length with friends and acquaintances. Rest assured that there are some of us out here who are honored to listen to what you have to say.

Thanks again.



Let's be clear:

Clark's mid-June MSNBC "Morning Joe" interview (which follows) and subsequent appearances along the same lines are literally the only actual analysis from someone talking honestly and directly about his area of expertise that I've seen from anyone connected with the mainstream media this entire year. I was truly excited that someone managed to get on television and give an eloquent and powerful analysis that didn't fit into what everyone "knows" about one of the major candidates. Clark happens to absolutely right, too: what, exactly, about flying a fighter plane teaches you a thing about national security on an international level?

The handling of this issue horrifies me, as I can't help but feel that this is retribution for successfully breaking out of the established narrative. If comments as benign and well intentioned as Clark's are too extreme for national discourse, what exactly are we supposed to talk about during election season?

Anyway, here are some of the relevant videos. MSNBC's "Morning Joe":

The Schaffer "Face the Nation" interview on CBS that sparked the debate:

Here's Clark's totally reasonable response to the scandal from earlier today (June 30th). Perhaps predictably, he's handling this better than anyone:

And interestingly, McCain's personal response to Clark is fairly tame, and it almost seems as though he was directly and personally affected by Clark's critique. As well he should be.

1 comment:

  1. This thinking alike is getting scary nick, a great letter and the fact that this has become a "controversy" is just beyond belief.

    And as far as smart campaign moves go, throwing your arguably your best foreign policy surrogate under the bus is freaking brilliant. Also for the context of what he got got him reprimanded, let's get the full quote, in context:

    SCHIEFFER: Well, you -- you went so far as to say that you thought John McCain was, quote -- and these are your words -- "untested and untried." And I must say, I had to read that twice, because you're talking about somebody who was a prisoner of war. He was a squadron commander of the largest squadron in the Navy. He's been on the Senate Armed Services Committee for lo these many years -- how can you say that John McCain is untested and untried, General?

    CLARK: Because in the matters of national security policy-making, it's a matter of understanding risk. It's a matter of gauging your opponents, and it's a matter of being held accountable. John McCain's never done any of that in his official positions. I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands of millions of others in the Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Air -- in the Navy that he commanded, it wasn't a wartime squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, "I don't know whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not. Do you want to take the risk? What about your reputation? How do we handle it" --

    SCHIEFFER: Well --

    CLARK: -- "publicly?" He hasn't made those calls, Bob.

    SCHIEFFER: Well -- well, General, maybe he --

    CLARK: So --

    SCHIEFFER: Could I just interrupt you? If --

    CLARK: Sure.

    SCHIEFFER: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean --

    CLARK: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.

    SCHIEFFER: Really?

    CLARK: But Barack is not -- he is not running on the fact that he has made these national security pronouncements. He's running on his other strengths. He's running on the strengths of character, on the strengths of his communication skills, on the strengths of his judgment -- and those are qualities that we seek in our national leadership.

    The words he is being slammed for are Shieffer's - Clarke's. This attack is something that (as you point out) has been said for weeks. Nothing on the campaign trail gets repeated over and over by a surrogate like Clarke unless it gets approved at the top. For him to condemn him for this is completely insane, and a huge loss to his campaign.