DEMOCRAT VICE GENERAL
Ret. General Wesley Clark had his political coming out party on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, slamming the Bush Administration’s Iraq and war on terrorism, and essentially taking the side of NATO allies who are balking at joining the coalition to take down Saddam Hussein and his totalitarian regime.
Clark is mulling a run for president at the urging of the Arkansas Democratic Party, which has been pushing him to travel to Iowa and New Hampshire for months. Clark is expected in New Hampshire within the week to meet with Democratic Party faithful.
After watching Clark on TV on Sunday, DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe was said by associates to be calling all over Washington and elsewhere touting Clark as a sure-fire winner for Democrats. “He’s going to be our Colin Powell,” says a gushing DNC staffer. “He’s our Schwartzkopf. What voter wouldn’t listen to him and then feel more comfortable voting for a Democrat over Bush and his team? This guy solves all the problems about doubts we can handle national security issues.”
Party people doubt Clark can successfully run for president, but already there is DNC spinning that Clark is almost assuredly a natural “short list” leader for Vice President and will be talked up constantly for a high profile role in any Democratic White House.
Even with snow tumbling down in Washington on Sunday morning, campaign advisers for Sen. John Kerry and Rep. Dick Gephardt were looking for ways to get Clark speaking about the security issues and failings of the Bush team under their banners. But Clark most likely won’t allow himself to be used as a pawn.
He’s already spoken extensively to former President Clinton about how to play the political game, and he didn’t get to his position in the military without knowing how to play that game well, already.
Rather, Clark will most likely begin appearing in Washington and elsewhere at the behest of the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate and on behalf of the DNC at appropriate events where his expertise seems a natural fit.
“We have to use him carefully,” says the DNC source. “We don’t want him to appear too politically ambitious, too political. If he sticks his neck out too far, the American people might view him as simply another politician. We can’t afford that if we want him to help us in 2004.”
Even some Democrats are razzing Sen. John Kerry about his wife’s decision to go by Teresa Heinz Kerry, even though she has never legally changed her name. The widow of former Pennsylvania Sen. John Heinz has always gone by Teresa Heinz, and has never used Kerry’s name.
“It’s kind of like Hillary Clinton, isn’t it?” said one Democratic leadership staffer. “Didn’t she not use Clinton’s name for a while, then tacked it on because it was politically necessary?” (Who can remember? Who cares? But someone did once author a valentine to her entitled The Seduction of Hillary Rodham.)
Kerry people are shooting back that other Democratic spouses have done similar things for political reasons. A Kerry staffer pointed the Prowler to John Edwards’s wife, who used her maiden name for a number of years. But Elizabeth Edwards was a practicing attorney in her own right, and she changed to her married name after the death of the couple’s older son, and well before Edwards decided to enter the political arena. One thing is for sure, though. Be it Teresa Heinz or Teresa Heinz Kerry, you know she’ll never go by Terry Kerry.