In last Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate, hosted by CNN, three of the leading candidates for the Democratic nomination went after the newest candidate — and immediate frontrunner — retired General Wesley Clark.
It appears that these Democrats so desire to be in power that they will attack anyone who might pose a threat to that acquisition of power. They’ve done it to President Bush, many of the them have attacked former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, and now they, including Dean, have moved on to Gen. Clark.
Instead of presenting their ideas as their best weapon in an election, Democrats go for blood by attacking even their own party members. Here are a few examples from the CNN debate.
- The last poll I saw showed that there are five of us up here that are going to beat George Bush. So the question is not whether we’re going to beat George Bush, but what kind of a president do you want. . . .
General Clark, a year ago today, advised [then-House candidate] Katrina Swett to support the [Iraq war] resolution.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Conn.):
- This is a very important discussion because each of the nine of us want to be the commander in chief of the United States military and protect the security of this country. That requires a clarity of judgment and the courage to stick by the judgment you’ve made. . . .
I must say that I’ve been very disappointed, since Wes Clark came into this race, about the various positions he has taken on the war against Saddam Hussein. Howard Dean is right. Last fall, a few days before the vote in Congress, he said he would have — he would — he recommended and would have supported the resolution. After the war, he wrote a piece in The Times of London praising President Bush and Tony Blair for their resolve. When he became a candidate, he said he probably would have voted for the resolution. There was an uproar. Then he said, “I never would have voted for the resolution.”
The American people have lost confidence in George Bush because he hasn’t leveled with them. We need a candidate who will meet the test of reaching a conclusion and having the courage to stick with it. . . .
Sen. John Kerry (Mass.):
- People are trying to decide who can lead the United States of America. And the positions we take are critical to their capacity to make that decision.
The fact is that last year General Clark did say he would vote for the resolution that was in the Congress. In addition to that, at the time in May when he said that the right people were in charge, referring to Bush and to Cheney and Rumsfeld, at that time it was just a few days before Jim Jeffords switched and became an independent because of what they were doing to this country.
They had already started to drill in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. They had already passed a tax cut that was reckless. They had already unfunded children across this country and neglected them.
And at that moment, the general was prepared to say they are the right people. At that moment, those of us who were fighting for democratic principles, and have been for 35 years or more, were fighting against what they were doing to this country, and we had no lack of clarity about what compassionate conservative meant to this nation.
Yes, these Democrats are vicious, everyone knows that — they go after their own. But do the Democrats who are attacking Clark have a point? Maybe their attacks are justified. Consider this excerpt from a recent report by our David Freddoso:
- Although the results may be less serious, Clark also showed poor judgment when he entered the presidential race on a pro-war, then an anti-war platform, in the space of two days.
“At the time, I probably would have voted for [the Iraq war resolution],” he said on September 18. This came as a huge surprise, since Clark was supposedly an anti-war candidate. He then backtracked: “But that’s too simple a question. . . . I don’t know if I would have or not. . . . On balance, I probably would have voted for it.”
The following day, he said just the opposite: “Let’s make one thing real clear: I would never have voted for this war. I’ve gotten a very consistent record on this.”
But his pro-war remarks could not be written off as a careless slip of the tongue. Last October, while campaigning on behalf of Katrina Swett in her unsuccessful race against Rep. Charlie Bass (R.-N.H.), Clark told reporters that he would counsel Swett to vote in favor of war.
And after Saddam’s statue was pulled down in Baghdad by gleeful Iraqis, Clark wrote in a column for the London Times, “Can anything be more moving than the joyous throngs swarming the streets of Baghdad? . . . President Bush and Tony Blair should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt.”
Reporters, smelling blood, pressed Clark on his constantly shifting position, prompting his aide, Mary Jacoby, to try to massage the inconsistency and explain to a confused Clark his own position on the war.
“You said you would have voted for the resolution as leverage for a UN-based solution,” she said, to which Clark responded, “Right.”
But in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on Sept. 26, 2002, Clark sang a very different tune, basically parroting Bush’s position of regime change with or without UN approval.
“The President’s clear determination to act if the United Nations can’t provides strong leverage for under-girding ongoing diplomatic efforts,” he said. “If the efforts to resolve the problem by using the United Nations fail, either initially or ultimately, then we need to form the broadest possible coalition including our NATO allies and the North Atlantic Council if we’re going to have to bring forces to bear.”
As long as liberals are willing to attack fellow liberals and discredit each other, especially whoever happens to be the frontrunner, conservatives have less work to do.
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