How Does Wesley Clark Rate as Potential VP?
Posted by Brandon Crow on 08.15.2008
Because the Obama camp has announced the theme for Wednesday night will be "securing America's future," and that the VP nominee will speak on that night, many have openly pondered about the VP being General Wesley Clark. How would Clark rate as the VP nominee?
A few days ago, I posted a column on the Obama campaign's choice to thematically tie the Vice Presidential nominee to their Wednesday night agenda on national security and foreign affairs. Obama's people have titled Wednesday night as "Securing America's Future." Coincidentally, or perhaps not, this slogan also happens to be the mantra of WesPac, the political action organization of General Wesley Clark.
Due to this parallelism, many pundits, folks in the main stream media, and even readers here at the politics zone have begun to speculate heavily that Obama's VP choice is in fact Wesley Clark.
At this point, all of this buzz on Clark is nothing but conjecture. However, if it turns out to be true, then I would be okay with the selection. My personal preference, at this stage of the game, would still be Joe Biden, as I feel he is the best choice. However, Clark would make a good selection and a solid VP as well.
In 2004, when John Kerry won nomination, I thought a Kerry/Clark ticket would pack a punch, especially when you look at two Democrats with military service and war-time experience going up against the absolute chicken-hawk ticket of Bush/Cheney. But then Kerry chose John Edwards. I wanted Edwards to win nomination, and would have enjoyed an Edwards/Clark ticket as well. Either way, I thought, of the crop that the Democrats produced for '04, Clark would surely be a top player.
If Clark is indeed Obama's pick to be VP, it isn't a guaranteed success. Clark has some advantages and he has some disadvantages. His advantages are indeed impressive. Consider for a moment the reality that our nation is indeed at war. Set aside the fact that we were basically lied into this war; we are currently engaged in warfare. Clark would bring a wealthy military resme. He graduated from West Point; he served as Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO; he was operations commander in Kosovo; as well, he served as the Director of Strategic Plans and Policies under the Joint Chiefs of Staff. All in all, Clark has nearly 35 years of military service and experience. The man retired as a four-star general. There isn't really any way to knock this kind of history and credentials.
Another advantage would be the fact that the man is straight out smart. He didn't need daddy or daddy's connections to get him into institutions of higher learning. Not only did he gain entrance and flourish academically on his own, Clark was also a Rhodes Scholar—crème de la crème—in terms of academic achievement and accomplishment. Additionally, Clark has become a self made man after his military retirement. He rose from near obscurity to national prominence with his unlikely run for president in 2004. This time around, he would bring that name recognition with him to a possible Obama/Clark ticket. Clark has also stayed current and involved with national politics. Though not directly through elected office, the man has WesPac going, campaigns and helps raise money for candidates, and is currently a political analyst for MSNBC.
And really, who can forget, just a mere two months ago when Clark came out and challenged John McCain and the Republicans for their supposed argument that McCain's military background makes him much better suited to be president during this time of war. In case you missed it, Clark, with one simple line, completely neutered (not demeaned, mind you) McCain's POW experience as a qualification to lead, by saying, "I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president." The best part of this, Clark has the strength and conviction to stand by his words and not back down to the Republican bullying tactics.
Two more advantages: Clark is a well-known Clinton supporter, and putting him on the ticket could potentially sooth over the still-existing ill will on the part of some of the staunchest Clinton supporters. Clark is also from Arkansas and is a southerner through and through. He could help Obama siphon off some of that southern, white vote. Could he turn Arkansas for Obama? At best, maybe.
As surely as there are advantages to Wesley Clark, there are also some negatives that must be weighed. For instance, one knock on Obama is the fact that he has little to no governing/Washington experience. Clark would only amplify that image. Republicans will go rabid in pointing out that the Democratic ticket has only four or five years of national experience combined. This may not work well in the breadbasket of America.
Another disadvantage to Clark is that he's simply not very good on the campaign trail. He did not garner much excitement in 2004 (outside of the draft Wes Clark groupies), and doesn't seem to come off too well on the stump. Now, this may not be too big a deal considering Obama's got enough charisma for his entire administration, but when Clark campaigns on his own for Obama, it would be rather dull. Along with this is the fact that though Clark is a southerner, he didn't seem to have too much southern appeal. In 2004, he won Oklahoma, and that was it. He never placed higher than third in any of the other southern states.
Clark is also associated with military/foreign policy issues. Though these are important, come election time, I have a feeling that it will be domestic issues, like the sagging economy, the ballooning mortgage crisis, and the high inflation rate on many household necessities like gas, essential groceries (anyone check the price on a gallon of milk or even an ear of corn lately?) and utilities that will likely dominate the political sensibilities of the American voters. In this regard, Clark would not be bring much heft to the ticket.
What I'm about to say won't sit well with the Clark supporters, but I believe, in the end, picking Clark for VP, in the current climate, would probably end up being more of a neutral, if not possibly adverse move than being helpful. And though I think he could make a good running mate and a good VP overall, I just don't see Obama doing so. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say, even now, given all the names we know won't be the VP pick, Clark's at maybe a 3; 4 tops.