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Jewish World Review Oct. 22, 2003 / 26 Tishrei, 5764

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Clark's Achille's heel


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | General Wesley Clark's posture of a general-as-a-man-of-peace running for president in the aftermath of a war taps into an iconography that is well established in American politics. General Ulysses S. Grant was elected president as much for his saying "let us have peace" as for his bloody and successful strategy of attrition in winning the Civil War.

It was General Dwight D. Eisenhower's pledge to "go to Korea" to end that sanguinary stalemate rather than just a celebration of his D-Day success which impelled his election as president. Even Senator John Kerry's attempt to summon the memory of his leadership of Vietnam Veterans Against the War run smacks of the same formula. Clark's opposition to the Iraq War as he sheds his uniform is an effort to bring this tradition of the peace-making general into the 21st Century.

But Clark is no hero. His iconography is entirely artificial. One has difficulty recalling the war he won or the invasion he led. We also have a tough time figuring out whether he would have voted for or against the war had he been in Congress. He is a liberal Democrat's idea of a war hero.

Now, attempting to cash in on his national standing without mucking around in the trenches of electoral warfare, he trumpets his decision to avoid the Iowa caucuses entirely and downplays his prospects in New Hampshire. But even if this general feels he can harvest the benefits of the warrior image without having led the military in a war, he cannot win the nomination without battling his way through the early caucuses and primaries.

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Its not that a candidate must win Iowa and New Hampshire to win the nomination. Clinton lost them both and prevailed in 1992. Harkin from Iowa and Tsongas from next-door Massachusetts beat him in these first two contests. But a candidate who wins both of these early contests and does not come from the local neighborhood acquires a momentum that is irresistible, particularly if his victory is a come-from-behind upset.

It is not that Clark won't win Iowa or New Hampshire that will doom his candidacy. It's that Howard Dean will.

Dean, a candidate who has deeply penetrated the early primary and caucus states with his Internet-era campaign. Dean can name his supporters in each state, a particularly valuable asset when it comes to a caucus contest as in Iowa. His Internet candidacy is as packed with cyber-roots (formerly grass roots) supporters as Clark's is devoid of real backing.

Dean will probably win in Iowa. He will knock out Dick Gephardt of neighboring Missouri in the process. The momentum from Iowa will swamp Kerry in New Hampshire and the resulting surge from the first two victories will eviscerate Edwards in next-door South Carolina.

The impact of this trifecta of upsets cannot be offset by Clark's national base of amorphous popularity. By the time Wesley Clark shows up to the dance, it will be over. Even with massive financial support, one cannot simply begin to run for president in the California and New York primaries in early March. Dean's financial and political momentum will be too forceful and massive for Clark to pull it off. The hill is too steep, the slope too sharp, and the king of the hill (Dean after the early victories) is too deeply entrenched for Clark's strategy to succeed.

Indeed, Clark's failure to grasp the political reality of the Internet, reminds one of Hubert Humphrey's lack of reality in adjusting to the primary process when it was first established in most states in 1972. Then, as now, a candidate from nowhere (McGovern then and Dean now) understood the dramatic changes of modern politics. McGovern exploited the rules reform he passed to win the nomination against Humphrey who tried to use the old style boss-dominated politics to win. Dean is using the Internet to develop, brick-by-brick, a massive base of popular support. He faces Clark, who is trying to use the old-style media campaign to propel his way to the nomination.

Clark's managers, veterans of the 1992 Clinton run, are like the generals of France who enter each war perfectly prepared to win the last one.

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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, Off with Their Heads: Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists in American Politics, Media & Business" Comment by clicking here.

Up

10/16/03: The raging fury against the political establishment
10/08/03: Barbarians at the gates
10/03/03: Get ready for Iran's drive to be national suicide bomber
10/01/03: Dean's E-reform
09/26/03: An open letter to Karl Rove
09/24/03: Why Clark will fade
09/18/03: Terror fears fade too fast
09/10/03: As Dubya sinks, Al & Hill scheme
08/25/03: Bias-mongers on rocks as viewers taste straight news
08/14/03: Arnold & Dean's political revolution
08/08/03: Hillary Clinton might not want to wait until 2008
08/06/03: Revolution
07/24/03: As Bush falters, watch Hil run
07/21/03: Peace dominoes begin to fall
07/17/03: Let's hear the good news
07/14/03: Sending troops to Liberia could be a bridge too far
07/10/03: McGovern II
07/07/03: French: Toast
07/03/03: At moment of truth, Hillary turns backwards
06/27/03: And now the dominos begin to fall
06/25/03: W's triangulation
06/23/03: Presidents often fall victim to their own success: Some advice for the president
06/18/03: Times not a-changing
06/13/03: Why did Hillary write the book?
06/11/03: Will the Rev go rogue?
06/05/03: Napoleon's maneuvers at Austerlitz have nothing on prez's
06/02/03: Prez's tax-cut catch-22 for Dems
05/29/03: Liberal author documents Clinton's wasted second term
05/16/03: Early Democrat handicapping for 2004
05/14/03: Gephardt: AWOL
04/30/03: Prez can lose
04/25/03: My message to Putin: Call President Bush
04/23/03: NO OIL FOR BLOOD
04/21/03: The war that network news lost in Iraq
04/15/03: Media meltdown
04/10/03: Giving government a good name
04/03/03: Polls' message to Bush: Relax and win the war
03/31/03: Bomb as you need
03/28/03: The strong grow weak through inhibition
03/26/03: Carping pessimism of TV anchors and interviewers fails to give Americans a sense of defeatism
03/17/03: Poll: Get on with it
03/13/03: It's time for U.S. to play hardball at U.N.
03/10/03: The whole (Hispanic) world is watching
03/07/03: Anti-war errors
03/05/03: Domino theory II: Toppling Mideast despots
03/03/03: Europe's triangulators: Chirac and Blair
02/27/03: Invasion? More like a coup
02/21/03: The first casualty of Iraq war: Liberal credibility
02/19/03: Old Europe's last hurrah
02/14/03: Corzine throws down gauntlet on Wall St. fraud
02/12/03: An exile deal for Saddam
02/07/03: The Dems give up the House
02/05/03: France: Saddam's ally
02/03/03: War critics will suffer
02/30/03: Even by Clinton standards, it's sheer chutzpah
01/24/03: Rebirth of the balanced budget Republican
01/22/03: Next to Bubba, Dubya's got it good
01/16/03: End racism in affirmative action
01/13/03: The new swing voter
01/10/03: Political e-mailing comes of age
01/07/03: In Dem race: Home field no advantage
12/31/02: Hey, Hillary: Want to appear like a stateswomyn? Stay silent
12/19/02: Kerry in the lead
12/19/02: Lieberman the frontrunner
12/17/02: In defense of Lott
12/02/02: An issue for Bush: Drugs
11/27/02: Women gone wobbly?
11/25/02: The U.N. over a barrel
11/15/02: Gore's suicide
11/15/02 One-party control is an illusion
11/13/02 The House of Extremes
11/08/02 I have egg on my face
11/01/02 Is Bush losing control over events?
10/25/02What is causing Bush's free fall?
10/25/02: Anybody sense a trend?
10/23/02: A deadline for Iraq
10/18/02: Only sure bet of 2002 elections is voter angst
10/16/02: Endangered incumbents
10/11/02: Why multilateralism doesn't work
10/09/02: Hey, Dems: Believe NYTimes polling at your own risk
10/03/02: Dem suicide: Let's count the ways
09/30/02: The Dems just can't stop themselves
09/26/02: The perils of polling
09/19/02: W. boxed in the U.N.
09/19/02: Welfare reform: Keep on keeping on
09/12/02: Are Dems insane on Iraq?
09/09/02: Twin shadows of Election '02
09/05/02: GOP should triangulate
08/28/02: Trust the military
08/22/02: It's not the economy, stupid
08/09/02: As America unites, Gore goes divisive
08/01/02: Bush must focus on big picture
07/23/02: Election 2002: Advantage Dems
07/19/02: Rudy for SEC tough cop
07/17/02: The investor strike
07/15/02: Door open for drug testing students --- go for it, GOP!
07/12/02: Dubya looking out for No. 1?
07/03/02: The DNA war for Bush's soul
06/21/02: Why are conservatives winning?
06/19/02: Learning to love the feds
06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine
06/12/02: It's terrorism, stupid!
06/10/02: Sanctions are a potent weapon
06/04/02: Al Qaeda's more dangerous new front
05/31/02: Why '04 looks tough for liberal Dems
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction
05/22/02: The Clinton failures
05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
05/03/02: Give Bush back his focus
05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan
04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
03/27/02: Where W's drawn a line in the sand
03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
03/11/02: Bush popularity = GOP win?
03/01/02: Will America be forced to chase its tail in its war on terrorism?
02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
02/13/02: Dodd scurries for cover
02/11/02: U.S. 'unilateralism'? The Europeans don't have a case
02/06/02: WAR: What women want
02/01/02: They all talk in the end
01/30/01: The odd couple: Chris Dodd and Arthur Andersen
01/22/01: His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast!
01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine 01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2003, Dick Morris