Tactics and Substance in the 2004 Elections GoogleNews: Howard Dean

September 11, 2003

by J

The Morning's Clark Buzz

The Washington Post has a cover story today about conversations between Dean and Clark. A couple of grafs:
Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has asked retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark to join his campaign, if the former NATO commander does not jump into the race himself next week, and the two men discussed the vice presidency at a weekend meeting in California, sources familiar with the discussions said.

Clark, in a telephone interview yesterday, said he did not want to comment about the private meeting. Asked about reports that the two men had discussed a wide range of issues, including endorsing Dean, joining the campaign, possible roles in a Dean administration and the vice presidency, he said only, "It was a complete tour of the horizon."

[...]"Most of our conversations have been around my getting advice on defense, and sometime he asks me about domestic issues," Dean said in an interview yesterday. "This is a guy I like a lot. I think he's certainly going to be on everybody's list if he's not the presidential nominee himself." Dean declined to discuss their private conversations.
I don't know what to make of this. Again, I have no expertise in reading political tea leaves. But here are a couple of speculative thoughts, anyway.

First, who leaked? Three possibilities: 1) A Dean staffer w/o Clark's knowledge, 2) a Clark staffer w/o Dean's knowledge, or 3) it was a joint decision to leak. Ok, if it was #1, and Clark is going to run, that was probably a bad move and makes Dean look a little graspy. If it was #2, then it was possibly a savvy move on Clark's part if he's going to run, and a graspy move, if he's not. Number THREE, though, is the kicker. If it was a joint decision to leak this (and from the quotes from each principal it seems like it might have been), then something "more" is going on than just conversations. If Clark is going to run, then I predict he and Dean have a non-aggression pact. If Clark is not going to run, and is going to support Dean, then why leak it? Why not just drop the bombshell when he unannounces?

Second question: how many other campaigns has Clark been talking extensively with? It's not really clear from the article, although the authors try to make it sound like there haven't been any. This could be just reporter-generated bullsh*t because they know articles about "Dean" or "Clark" get attention. There was also some spin on the part of the reporters. Consider:
But a Dean-Clark alliance would also underscore the relative inexperience that both men have in national campaigns. Clark has never run for political office, and Dean has created controversy for his off-the-cuff remarks last week on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Please. This graf could also have been written:
"Interestingly, a Dean-Clark alliance would also underscore the strengths each brings to the table, especially in contrast to President Bush. Both men are well-travelled and intelligent. Clark has extensive military and foreign policy experience, and Dean has years of experience as a successful executive of one of the few fiscally-solvent states."
And, by the way, Dean didn't "create" the I/P controversy. It's completely manufactured by his opponents for the nomination, but that's another post. The writers also said, "Dean has increasingly talked up Clark as a possible running mate or as a presidential candidate." This is not true. The only time I've heard him talk about Clark is when asked directly by a reporter. He doesn't bring the issue up, otherwise, that I've seen.

So, all in all, I think there's little news here; the reporters were probably just bored. We knew Dean and Clark have been talking. We knew that Dean likes Clark and we knew that Clark likes Dean. It would be absurd if they hadn't discussed many possibilities. The only news is that some kind of leak took place and the questions are: who leaked? why? and what advantage does it give to whom? And I still don't know the answers to those questions.

Any thoughts out there?
Posted by J at September 11, 2003 07:47 AM

I prefer your re-write :)

Posted by: david at September 11, 2003 08:31 AM

Looks like you had it right, J. Several reports are now being filed that Clark will announce that he's in the race tomorrow.

I think he's missed the boat, in both grassroots support and fundraising, which Dean has nearly cornered. On the other hand, Dean could be lifting all the boats simply by being the most exciting thing about the race, and Clark could catch a wave. It's going to become a tough choice for a number of my friends who had been holding out for Clark, and it might spell the end for some of the others such as Kucinich (whom I never really saw as in the race to begin with, but simply raising his visibility vis a vis Leiberman in the 2000 race).

Posted by: Glen Engel-Cox at September 16, 2003 12:18 PM

That's possible, Glen (that he's missed the boat). But, I do worry about the rumors that Clintons (and 'their people') are lining up behind Clark.

Nonetheless, my vague vibe just from what little coverage I've seen, read, and heard, is that Clark's campaign may turn out to be a dud. It may fizzle instead of sizzle. Now, probably most of that impression is wishful thinking, but that's my impression at the moment. We'll see.

Posted by: J at September 18, 2003 02:59 PM

Recommended Reading:

The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity: A Diplomat's Memoir
The Politics of Truth... A Diplomat's Memoir

Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush
Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush

Against All Enemies by Richard Clarke
Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror

LIES by Al Franken
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right

The Great Unraveling
The Great Unraveling

The Great Big Book of Tomorrow
The Great Big Book of Tomorrow

Clinton Wars
The Clinton Wars

Blinded by the Right
Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative

Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat

Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics, and Culture

Living History

The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton

John Adams

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation

Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace

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