MrSpkr's random thoughts . . .
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Dick Morris (of toe sucking fame) thinks that Wesley Clark will fail, and badly. I agree with his conclusions, but for different reasons.
Morris believes the Clark nomination, controlled by the Clintons and propelled into the headlines by the media (who would much rather cover an exciting Democratic primary season than a dull one), will fall because Clark lacks political experience and instincts. He makes too many gaffes (such as yelling "Mary! Help!" to call upon a staffer's help in answering a question during a recent press conference or some apparent lies about being snubbed by the Republicans). Morris believes teh Clintons have chosen to support Clark because they know Clark cannot win, but believe that he can damage Howard Dean's early poll numbers, preventing a Dean win which would almost certainly spell the end of the Clinton's control over the Democratic party. Morris compares the Clinton's selection of Clark to Britain's 18th and 19th century foreign policies of supporting a coalition of weaker states to oppose rising powers, thus maintaining British ascendancy.
A more accurate comparison, however, would be between Clark the candidate and another famous candidate who came on strong during a time the sitting Republican administration's poll numbers were weak. This candidate was dubbed the golden boy of democratic politics, yet within a few months of his candidacy, was all but finished in national politics. His name?
In early 1987, the press dubbed Hart as the clear frontrunner for the 1988 Democratic Presidential nomination. However, questions about extramarital affairs dogged Hart. Frustrated, Hart challenged the press to tail him. A Miami Herald reporter did just that, and uncovered damaging evidence that Hart was having an affair with 29-year-old model Donna Rice (this a decade before the Clinton-Lewinski story, so it appears that sex still mattered). The paper even got a photograph of Rice sitting on Hart's lap on a yacht appropriately named "Monkey Business". On May 8, 1987, Hart dropped out of the race.
How does this apply to Clark? Simple. Like Hart, Clark is charismatic and riding a wave of media support. Clark shares one other feature with Hart: a bad temper. Subordinate officers referred to Clark as a prima donna's prima donna; rumors of his mistrust of subordinates and explosive temper still float around in the military three years after his departure. Clark will begin to understand that being a presidential candidate is more than just showing up for the cameras, making a few speeches, and kissing a few babies. The entire process places a candidate's life under a microscope 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Reporters searching for a story will take any statement or action and use it to infer the candidate's support or opposition to various issues. Innocent activities will be portrayed as sinister actions. Everything is fair game.
Before I began practicing law, I worked on a few political campaigns. I managed a state legislative race in law school. Those candidates told me that the pressure they faced is tremendous. That's for a state house campaign.
Think of how high the pressure gets in a campaign for the most powerful position in the world.
Clark has benefited from having several former Clinton campaign staffers working on his team. He has had a short honeymoon with the press.
Now, the wolves will close in. And Clark simply does not have the personality or political skills to fend them off.
So, why would the Clintons (who are, if nothing else, astute politicians) support Clark? Two reasons. First (and foremost), because if Clark can undermine Dean enough to prevent Dean from winning the election, then Hillary can run for President in 2008 against an open seat. If Dean (or any other Democrat, for that matter) wins, then Hillary could not run until 2012. By then, she will be 65 years old, have been out of the media spotlight for over a decade (notice that coverage of her as a senator has been slowly dwindling), and many of her husband's political team will be dead, retired from politics, or supporting other candidates. Hillary's best chance is to run in 2008 against that open seat.
Second, the Clintons realize that, if Dean wins, Clinton pal and DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe will be ousted, along with other supporters the Clintons have throughout the Democratic party establishment. By all rights, McAuliffe should have been gone after the election debacle of 2002 when the Republicans, against all historic odds, gained seats in both the House and Senate. The fact McAuliffe remains in control is a testament not to his abilities, but to the Clinton's desires. If McAuliffe goes, Bill and Hillary lose an important ally in the Democratic establishment.