Joe Conason's Journal

Some of the Democratic Party's biggest donors have withheld support from the current field, waiting to see what happens. Former NATO commander Wesley Clark could be it.

By Salon Staff

Published August 29, 2003 8:37PM (EDT)

Waiting for Wesley Despite my best intentions, a bicycle accident stopped me from posting yesterday. When I should have been writing, I was in the E.R. No serious damage done, but my right arm is in a sling and my left hand is bandaged -- so the typing tends to go slowly. (Just before the crash, I thought I glimpsed a tall, pasty-looking man in a Fox News baseball cap throwing sand on the bike path, but that could just have been wishful thinking.)

So please bear with me: Between the sling and the rigors of book promotion, I am trying to post as often as possible. And speaking of Big Lies, check out the article adapted from Chapter 9 ("Faith, Compassion and the Mayberry Machiavellis") on the Nation magazine's superb Web site.

Like everyone else, I'm fascinated by the possibility that former NATO commander Wesley Clark will enter the Democratic presidential race. At a party on Wednesday evening, I ran into a major Democratic fundraiser whose credentials as a party insider date back to the Carter administration. His view is that it is simply too late for Clark to become competitive financially, particularly with Howard Dean looking so prosperous.

Yet Amy Sullivan effectively rebuts that and other pessimistic assumptions in this excellent Washington Monthly analysis. As Sullivan recalls, "John McCain raised $3.7 million in three weeks from online donations alone." Of course Howard Dean has also achieved remarkable success with online fundraising this year. And Sullivan says that many of the party's biggest donors have withheld support from the current field, waiting to see what happens.

Clark could be what happens, because he possesses some of the most attractive qualities of both Dean and John Kerry without their problems. He has an exemplary military record. He has executive experience. He doesn't have to explain a vote in favor of the Iraq war. And he would enter the race with enviable name recognition. He has also displayed a willingness to tangle with the worst thugs in the GOP, namely Tom DeLay. They will send any such chicken hawks to rough up Clark at their own peril.

For some additional perspective on the former general's political and social views, listen to yesterday's interview with him on "McMullen & Johnson," a news and current affairs program on Sirius Satellite Radio's Sirius OutQ, America's first national gay and lesbian talk radio broadcaster. The hosts grill him on "don't ask, don't tell" and other topics -- and while Clark may have played coy about his party affiliation, there's not much doubt about his liberal political inclinations. As an Arkansan who grew up during the segregation struggle, Clark says his favorite Supreme Court justice is Thurgood Marshall. He also says:

"What we've got is a government that's taken us to war under false pretenses. It's failed to plan adequately for the aftermath of that conflict. It's continuing to call for more fighting in the Middle East and that in turn is detracting from the war on terrorism. That's not part of the war on terrorism. We made it a fight over there and it's not helping make us any safer."

It will be up to Clark to make this race and win. The Democrats will be fortunate if he decides to try.
[1:30 p.m. PDT, Aug. 29, 2003]

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