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government selection 2004

Kerry To Pick Gen. Wesley Clark For V.P. ??

this Keane seems to think so -

(I knew there was a reason Clark appeared coincidentally - out of the blue as corporate/media/Democrat Presidential candidate at the end of last year . . . )
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Gen. Clark's bars could take Kerry far

By Tom Keane
Wednesday, May 12, 2004

It's ``more than a system failure, [it's] a failure of leadership that goes right to the top.''

Those are the words of Gen. Wesley Clark [related, bio], John F. Kerry's pick for vice president, talking last weekend about the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal.

OK, I'm getting ahead of events here. Kerry hasn't chosen Clark for anything. Just a few months ago, in fact, they were in a heated battle against each other and Clark was deriding Kerry (``He's a lieutenant, and I'm a general''). Yet if one thinks about the possible (and mostly dull) choices Kerry has for his No. 2 spot and, more importantly, about the best strategy for winning the presidency, picking Clark makes enormous sense.

Start with this assumption: Kerry can't beat George W. Bush on economic issues.

Few Democrats would concede that point, of course. In fact, current polling suggests that Americans are still worried about bread-and-butter issues. They fear for their jobs, their mortgages and their kids' college educations. And perhaps, if the election were to be held today, those Democrats would be right.

But the election is not being held today. Monthly economic reports show continuing good news. In March, the economy added 337,000 jobs. In April, it added another 288,000. Kerry is fond of lambasting Bush for losing 2.7 million jobs under his tenure. Now, however, the number is less than 1.7 million. By the time November rolls around, the booming economy may very well have added yet another million.

Eventually, perception will catch up with reality, all of which will play to Bush's favor.

Yet while the economy may be improving, the situation in Iraq is deteriorating. It's not necessarily the shifting rationale for the invasion (from 9/11 to weapons of mass destruction to democracy and human rights) that has proven a problem for Bush. So far, Americans have seemed tolerant of that, figuring - whatever the reason - the world was better off without Saddam.

Yet incompetence is a problem. If the war really had ended last May, when Bush proudly stood on an aircraft carrier in front of a banner saying ``Mission Accomplished,'' Iraq would doubtless be an electoral advantage to the president. But the mounting death toll, the intractable resistance of militants, the failure to win the ``hearts and minds'' of ordinary Iraqis and the abuse scandal all raise, as Clark says, ``the larger issue of the success or failure of the mission in Iraq.''

From Kerry's point of view, the issue is powerful. He doesn't need to argue for a dramatic change in U.S. policy, such as unilaterally pulling out of Iraq or disengaging ourselves from the war on terror. Rather, he simply needs to argue that - unlike Bush - he would do the job right.

And in his role as NATO supreme commander, Clark in fact did do the job right.

The Political Hotline lists more than 60 names as possible Kerry VPs. Among those taken seriously, each for the most part brings two key attributes. One is the hoped-for ability to deliver a state (or even a region). The second is domestic policy experience and, as part of that, a connection to traditional Democratic constituencies, be they labor or minorities or middle-class voters. The theory here is that a good VP candidate is someone who can balance Kerry's Northeast geography and his foreign policy expertise.

Geographic balancing makes sense (and Clark, with his Arkansas roots, brings that as well). But suppose, when it comes to policy expertise, the right strategy is not to balance but rather to play to one's strength? Both men have deep experience in international issues. Both understand war - Kerry as a soldier in battle, Clark as a commander who oversaw major military operations. Together they can make a compelling case that they can do a better job than Bush, not by retreating from America's role as the world's only superpower, but rather, managing it effectively and restoring the nation's credibility.

Although Clark has received little notice as a VP candidate, he has been making his presence felt. Just this weekend he was front and center, lambasting the administration on ``Meet the Press.'' And Kerry and Clark are now reportedly on good terms, with Clark graciously conceding the race in February and quickly endorsing Kerry.

Admittedly, Clark made an unpersuasive presidential candidate. VP is a different case, however. Unlike almost all of the other oft-mentioned but vanilla-plain VP possibilities, Clark will capture media attention. He will give Kerry the standing to wage a campaign on his terms targeted at what now appears to be Bush's greatest weakness. It's a formula for a win in November.

Now, if only Kerry would take my advice.

(Talk back to Tom Keane at  tomkeane@tomkeane.com)

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