Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Highlights from the Globe's coverage of last night's Democratic debate:
[F]rustrating as the forum was, presidential politics is about making the most of the moment. The candidate who came closest to that last night was General Wesley Clark. When he began his campaign, Clark was a decidedly uncertain trumpet, but in several answers last night he spoke with both conviction and seeming expertise about the United States and its role in the world.
Asked if foreign policy questions were truly paramount in an election when many voters say they are concerned about the economy, health care, and the like, Clark made an important (if self-serving) political point that his fellow Democrats shouldn't lose sight of: "We have to be the party that can stand toe to toe with George W. Bush on national security as well as the party of compassion."
Too often these debates devolve into a contest to see who can denounce the Republican incumbent in the strongest terms, a tedious exercise that emits a good deal more heat than light. It was refreshing to hear Clark say he wanted to put emotions aside and discuss, in a little detail, his plan to reshape the American presence in Iraq.
Clark maintained that the UN is not able to take over the Iraqi mission and that "nobody can provide security for the Iraqis as they develop their own internal defenses except for a force under US leadership." That, Clark said, means creating an international organization to administer Iraq, with the US troops reporting through NATO and working toward a clearly defined goal: a unified Iraq, with some sort of representative government, a country strong enough to repel Al Qaeda but not so strong as to threaten its neighbors.
Al Gore's endorsement was the highlight of Howard Dean's day. From there, it was all downhill . . .
He rambled when asked whether he agreed with Senator Hillary Clinton's view that the United States must keep troops in Iraq for an extended period of time and finally said yes.
Curiously, Dean complained that too much time was allocated to discussing Iraq and not enough to the economy. His antiwar stance made his candidacy. Why not talk about it, unless the former Vermont governor fears the discussion will reveal gaps in knowledge and experience?
Finally, Wesley Clark is the most improved candidate on the stage. Watch out, Dr. Dean. An endorsement from a former vice president is no substitute for a former general who knows how to plan and articulate an Iraq exit strategy.
Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 10 December 2003 at 6:29 PM