Monday, December 15, 2003

Dean/Clark? Not According to Clark

General Wesley Clark has – for the moment – thrown cold water on the idea of a Dean/Clark presidential ticket. In a blunt interview with Salon.com, the retired general told reporter Josh Benson that Dean lacks national security credibility.

With the presidential campaign of Howard Dean building strong momentum even before the primary elections, the idea has returned to fashion in Democratic political circles that retired Gen. Wesley Clark is in the race primarily to become Dean’s running mate. As a hypothetical scenario, it makes good sense: Dean is a charismatic former governor from New England with strong progressive backing, but he lacks foreign policy experience; Clark is an accomplished warrior who has negotiated on behalf of America and its allies at the highest international levels, and he is expected to have strong appeal in more conservative Southern and Western states.

And so, the thinking goes, Howard Dean and Wes Clark would make a Democratic dream date in November 2004.

But just 48 hours before before the capture of Saddam Hussein outside of Tikrit, Clark made his strongest statement to date about why a Dean-Clark ticket is a bad idea. Clark, who says that he’s uniquely qualified to go “toe-to-toe” with President Bush on security issues in 2004, said that whether he’s on the ticket or not, the Democrats can’t win with Dean as their presidential candidate.

“I don’t think the Democratic Party can win without carrying a heavy experience in national security affairs into the campaign,” he told Salon in a phone interview last week. “And that experience can’t be in a vice president.”

Asked if he was referring specifically to the much-discussed possibility of a Dean-Clark ticket, he said: “It’s no substitute. It won’t work, and it won’t carry the election for this party.”

Read the rest here.

For a little historical context, in 1960 John F. Kennedy chose his primary opponent and political opposite Lyndon B. Johnson as his veep. LBJ accepted less than 24 hours after swearing (literally and figuratively) that he wouldn’t consider it. Ah, politics.