Readers respond to "The Wes Wing?" by Eric Boehlert; "The Not-So-Great Debate," by Joan Walsh; and "All Together Now," by Julia Goldberg.

By Salon Staff

Published September 9, 2003 9:45PM (EDT)

[Read "The Wes Wing?" by Eric Boehlert.]

How about Howard Dean and Wesley Clark? An unbeatable team, I think -- principles, charisma, concern for We the People, intellectual appeal, combined excellent real-world experience, and testosterone! Like a bad attitude, Republicans are only as powerful as we allow them to be.

I hear it over and over again: "Anyone but Bush." But Dean and Clark together would be an inspiration.

-- Gaia Guirl

To understand why General Wesley Clark is such an attractive presidential candidate to so many Americans, you have to know something about baboons.

All land-living primates share elements of social organization based on divisions of dominant males, females and babies, and subordinate males. The pattern is easiest to see in baboons who tend to live in open savanna. Being the dominant, alpha, baboon is a good job. You get to eat first, have sex with the females as they come into heat, and enjoy all the amenities of baboon life. The downside comes when the leopard shows up. It is the job of the alpha male to get between the leopard and the troop. I have never read of an alpha baboon failing to do his job, but if it were to happen, he would surely no longer be the alpha male.

I am convinced that humans still carry this model of leadership in our genes. Primates have been doing things this way a lot longer than humans have existed. We expect our leaders to put themselves at risk to protect the rest of us. A leader who will not do this is a cheater.

I am also convinced that this is why most of us distrust our political leaders. We sense that most of them are cheaters. Would you really trust either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush to get between you and the leopard? Not if you wanted to live and pass your genes on.

Wesley Clark is the one guy among the present cast of presidential candidates who you know you could trust to get between you and the leopard. This is the guy who lost his job because he could not sit still with an army at his command and watch a bunch of thugs commit genocide.

While I am not sure he can do the warm and fuzzy that seems to be required of presidential candidates, and while being the real deal, alpha male, is no guarantee that his ideas would be best, I will vote for Clark if I get the chance. Being the real deal is a pretty good guarantee that your values are right. You will think about the whole troop and not just your family and rich friends as the Bushes have done for four generations.

Please note: past military heroics is no guarantee of future performance. George H.W. Bush performed well in his war, and then sold his soul to become vice president in 1980. John Kerry performed with great bravery in Vietnam, but has clearly gone weasel in trying to run for president. Also, given the incomplete dimorphism of the human species, I see no reason to think a woman might not be a better alpha male than a lot of men.

-- Roger Webb

I know it is early in the game, but to my mind the real dream ticket for Democrats in 2004 would be a Dean/Clark ticket. I know vice presidents don't win elections, but with Dean and Clark on the same team you cover every base -- both are antiwar, both are progressive; one is from the north, the other from the south; one has the military knowledge, the other has the fiscal responsibility cred.

The late date is irrelevant and both can fundraise for the same cause. I would also love to see Clark take Cheney down and to task; after the love-fest last time around it's long overdue.

-- Kevin Hill

I'm amazed that Salon would take so dim and dismal a view of the possibility of a Clark candidacy. There are many of us who are supporting Dean, or other Democratic candidates, with little or no enthusiasm. We currently stack up as Dean voters, but would immediately become Clark voters if Clark runs.

Boehlert makes no mention of the Zogby poll, referenced in great detail on www.draftwesleyclark.com, which showed not only that Clark would perform well against Bush, but also that Clark would perform well vs. all of the current Democratic candidates among likely primary voters; that likely primary voters (nearly 85 percent of them) would welcome another candidate; and that support for all of the current Democratic candidates is relatively soft.

Your commentators are right that we are mad as hell at Bush and are determined to see him gone in 2004. That means, as I see it, that we are determined to vote for a candidate who will win. I'm not surprised that Grover Norquist is downplaying the possibility of a Clark candidacy (and praying that the nominee is Dean) -- Norquist and his pals have no desire to face Clark, because Clark can win.

If Clark runs, he's got my vote. I'd rather switch and fight, than stick with Dean and lose.

-- Mary Anne Mayo

Eric Boehlert perpetuates a mistaken assumption concerning Howard Dean supporters. As one of those supporters, it has been a frustration to hear the constant drumbeat that Dean's support comes from angry antiwar activists. Although I would agree that much of Dean's initial supporters were of this type, I think it is a mistake to assume that the continuous stream of people joining his campaign are all antiwar types.

I myself am a middle-class Chicago Democrat who supported the war out of a (now foolishly trusting) belief that the American president, whether or not I voted for him, should be trusted to make such an important decision, given his access to information that others didn't have. In reaction to Bush's mishandling of international relations and apparent misleading of the American public, I was attracted to Dean because I felt his willingness to oppose the war, when so many others quietly went along, said something about his character and trustworthiness. At Dean campaign events, I have met many others who's main reason for supporting Dean has nothing at all to do with the Iraq war.

Boehlert falls into the trap of assuming a singular issue is behind Dean's success. This may have been true in April or May, but can you really assume that the person who decided to support the Dean campaign in July or August is one more angry antiwar protestor who just realized Dean's existence? In the context of Wesley Clark's potential campaign, I am not sure if this means he really can convert Dean supporters, or if Dean's campaign has become too mature for Clark to have an impact.

-- Edward Bryant

[Read "The Not-So-Great Debate," by Joan Walsh.]

Like everyone else, I appreciate consistency from my politicians. But like most Americans, I also appreciate nuance and thoughtfulness.

John Kerry and others were not irresponsible when they voted for the war resolution last year, and they are not inconsistent when they criticize the president's actions since.

In an emergency you might give the car keys to your teenage son so he could run down to the drugstore and pick up some supplies. And when you found out that son lied to the police, ran stoplights unnecessarily causing a few fatal accidents, and stole Valium for his friends, you should criticize!

Hillary Clinton gave a measured explanation of her concerns and finally her motivations to vote for the resolution. It is unfortunate that her worst fears about President Bush were realized, but it was not unreasonable to expect the president to not lie.

In this time of national emergency it was not completely unreasonable to believe that the president of the United States would behave in an honest, responsible manner. And we must recognize that it was poor judgment to trust President Bush. But a "pro-war" vote followed by current criticism can not be accurately called a flip-flop.

It was poor judgment to trust President Bush, and that is a valid criticism of these representatives. But this is not a case of trying to have it both ways.

-- Matt Rose

[Read "All Together Now," by Julia Goldberg.]

I don't know whether to laugh or snarl at Julia Goldberg's report on the Democratic candidates' debate. I admit I'm disappointed it didn't more directly deal with some of the issues facing Hispanic voters, but she seems to have missed a rather large boat sailing in a good direction.

Goldberg seems extraordinarily disappointed that the candidates, instead of wasting time and energy forming a circular firing squad, actually correctly identified and attacked the real enemy -- of Democrats, of the American people, of the environment and the Constitution -- namely, George W. Bush.

Richard Gephardt, not a person I admire very much, tagged Bush as a "miserable failure," which is probably the most concise summation of the Reign of Shrub I have yet heard. Good for him, and good for the Democrats for attacking what needs to be attacked instead of each other.

-- K. Wiley

Salon Staff

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