Readers respond to "Wesley Clark: The New Howard Dean?" by Eric Boehlert, and Salon's new roundup of conservative commentary, "Right Hook," by Mark Follman.

By Salon Staff

Published September 19, 2003 8:05PM (EDT)

[Read "Wesley Clark: The New Howard Dean?" by Eric Boehlert.]

The media, Salon writers included, constantly refer to Howard Dean's "foreign policy inexperience" as a huge vulnerability in a general election versus George W. Bush. How is it that so many journalists seem to have forgotten that just three years ago, one presidential candidate had exactly zero foreign policy experience while his opponent had scads of experience? And who won? The foreign relations novice.

I like Howard Dean. I like Wesley Clark. I think either will make an outstanding candidate and president. I do not, however, care for the Democratic National Committee (and the Democratic "Leadership" Council's) insistence that the only viable Democratic candidates are the sitting senators and representative that have endorsed President Bush's failed policies.

-- Chip Smith

I'm a white male, a small-business owner, and utterly outraged by the lack of outrage toward the dismantling of America by the Bush administration. I'm a registered Democrat but am not sure why. I just know I'm not a Republican. The unfortunate part of politics these days is that .01 percent of the population on both the left and the right have a 95 percent share of the voice. Call me part of the radical center. I'll vote for almost anyone who isn't George Bush. But the obligation of the '04 election is much more than that. Nothing short of the heart and soul of America, its values, Constitution and viability are at stake. Which is why this election is so critical.

I started out as a Kerry fan, having met him briefly during the Vietnam era and believing even then that he had the right stuff eventually to be president. Maybe it's me or Kerry's years of equivocating in the Senate, but he's adopted that doublespeak that all of us are so sick of hearing. What happened to the verve, the outrage?

I shifted to Dean, but have problems believing that he's more than a one-trick pony. He connects in a way that John Anderson and Gene McCarthy connected. It scares me.

I've seen a lot of Wesley Clark in the past few weeks and am incredibly impressed. I think in a mano a mano debate, without Rovespeak teleprompters, he will reveal Bush for the venal charlatan that he is. Clark is telegenic (unfortunately critical these days), straight-spoken, motivating and seemingly possessed of a real understanding of the incredibly complicated situation we're living in. I hope he runs.

More important, I hope he is most of the things he seems to be. More than party, more than ideology and spin, we face unprecedented challenges that need truly serious people to help solve them. We will not survive another round of faux leaders, either from the left or the right.

-- David Ellis

I was a little surprised at the one-sidedness of Boehlert's article in how it handicapped Howard Dean. Dean has hundreds of thousands of supporters across the country, he's raising big funds, and he leads in many polls. However, somehow, he's dismissed as "unelectable." Don't get me wrong: Former Gen. Clark would make a fine president. But realistically, he would make a better vice president for a President Dean.

Despite Bush's three-card-monte style of governing -- where he switches from searching for Osama bin Laden to attacking Iraq to disguising tax cuts as a way to get back the 3 million jobs lost on his watch -- domestic issues are the most important to U.S. voters today. And domestic issues are, as Dean's record proves, his forte. He has six gubernatorial terms to show he can balance a budget while providing social justice.

A Dean/Clark ticket would provide a perfect leadership balance between domestic and foreign policies to get our country back on track.

-- Sudeep Gupta

In championing Wesley Clark as the Next Best Thing, Boehlert doesn't really get Howard Dean, or why I and 400,000 or so other people are just the tip of an iceberg that will send Bush's ship of state to a watery grave.

Yes, we are numerous, and more educated than before. But we are also very, very pissed off. What is clear to us is that our nation is imperiled by special interests fueling a dogmatic propaganda machine that is antithetical to American dreams and values. We are in a spiral that we must pull out of now, or we'll take the rest of the world down with us. Howard Dean scares the DNC not because he is too far left: He never signed gay marriages into law; rather, he recognized the rights of domestic partners. That is a bigger problem for the DNC, because this is a guy who does the right thing even at great political risk. Since the beginning of the Iraq debacle, Dean is the one guy to tell the truth. If any of the DNC boys win, it's just a slower slide into the toilet than with Bush.

I've never given more than lip service to politics before. Now I'm out there on the streets, pushing for this guy, getting my friends all fired up, and giving as much time and money as my busy professional schedule (I'm an engineer in a biotech start-up) will allow. Why? Because I think Howard Dean is for real: He has a track record of successful governing, and he is tough enough to take Bush on and win. If we don't win we're all screwed, even the right-wingers and neocons who are so gleeful that our side of the boat is leaking.

Wesley Clark gets points for electablility, but so what? I've had my belly full of military "solutions" from Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld. In the end, it's America that needs tending to, budgets that need balancing, roads that need to be built, and bridges that need to be mended -- especially between Americans. Asking a general to lead that charge is like asking Colonel Sanders to chair PETA.

-- Brad Basler

[Read "Right Hook," by Mark Follman.]

Although a conservative, I'm a Salon Premium subscriber and have been a reader since the beginning. I might not always agree with your liberal slant, but at least it gives me things to think about.

You've had many conservative columnists over the years, although none seem to have stayed the course. I'm heartened to see your new "Right Hook" column, a collection of conservative commentary from other sites and media. When it seems as though most Web publications hew to a partisan line, it's encouraging to see Salon present occasional looks at the best of the "other side."

-- David Ramsey

Pat Buchanan's argument that granting driver's licenses to illegal aliens will raise the "toll of traffic dead" is based on the notion that a large proportion of illegal aliens are young, single males who, per past studies, are more likely to cause car accidents. This is silly reasoning -- instead, we need to address the issue of why so many illegal aliens fit this demographic in the first place: Is it because young Hispanic males are a commodity, a source of cheap labor we rely upon, without whom California's economy would suffer?

Young, single Hispanic males provide an ideal workforce for the state: they work hard, and -- especially if the Buchanans have their way -- are less likely to access state resources for education, healthcare, and social services to help raise children. The state is willing to ignore the workers' status as illegal aliens, not for the benefit of those workers, but for the benefit of the economy.

The exploitation of this unrecognized workforce must end. We must grant citizenship to those who have already been exploited, and we must prevent future exploitation by strictly enforcing the laws protecting workers' immigrant status, which California industry has been ignoring.

-- Sumedha Garud

The right wingers' largest accusation that the principal ideology of the left is "anti-Americanism" rings true to a certain degree -- to the extent one believes that it's the right wing that defines American patriotism, and all who are not right wing are "anti-American." The left plays into this point of view with knee-jerk criticism of anything the U.S. does abroad (à la Noam Chomsky), and tacit support, through an absence of any criticism whatsoever, for thugs like Saddam Hussein, because he's labeled a victim of American "imperialism."

By simplistically equating U.S. foreign policy with American "imperialism" and criticizing it so harshly, the left reinforces the right-wing claim of the right being the "true" Americans. But drop the nationalistic appellations: Any citizen of this country should be able to debate foreign policy. Was I "anti-American" when I marched against starting a war in Iraq earlier this year? Was I "anti-American" to oppose the Vietnam War? Or was I expressing my views on issues that affect all Americans and, for that matter, the peoples of the world?

Accusations about '"U.S. imperialism" from the left or "anti-Americanism" from the right obscure the real issues we should be discussing.

-- Marc Pestana

Has Salon gotten punchy? What kind of cauliflower-brain, editorial decision brought the new column "Right Hook" to your pages? This is not what I subscribe to Salon for. Don't you think, at the present time, there are more than enough venues that feature the flailing of rightist pugilists in media Palookaville?

Once again, members of the so-called progressive media are standing flat-footed and leading with their chins (due to the delusion they are practicing fair play) while the Republicans attempt to fix every fight they enter.

If you're annoyed by the tired boxing tropes in this letter, we are in agreement on that point -- but you're not nearly as tired as I am from being constantly pummeled by right-wing palaver from every direction. Let's make a deal: I'll drop the hackneyed fight metaphors, if you mugs at Salon stop sucker-punching me.

-- Phil Rockstroh

I hope Mark Follman is compensated adequately for having to read all that right-wing B.S. day after day for his new column. Is there "hazardous duty pay" at Salon?

-- Michael Fallai

This is exactly the sort of service that Salon should be providing. I want to know what these people are saying -- and the arguments that will filter into public discourse as a result -- without feeling that my subscription money is going to plump up Horowitz's, Paglia's and Sullivan's already fat wallets in exchange for their being invited to eye-gouge and bait people who think more critically about public affairs.

Thanks, as usual, for the wonderful journalistic service; the only change I'd make, if you really want to use boxing terminology here, is to call it "Roundhouse Right." That's the kind of punch these palookas tend to throw. They'd be laid out flat if the fights they entered weren't usually fixed.

-- Greg Diamond

Salon Staff

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