Thursday, July 03, 2008

Clark & McCain: Contrasts

Wesley ClarkGeneral Wesley Clark (ret) is a mouthpiece for the Democratic Presidential Nominee-apparent, Barack H. Obama. Touting his magnificent military record as evidence of his political acumen he has attacked Senator John McCain on quite a few occasions. The Obama campaign is using Clark as a stalking horse against McCain to give the American public the perception that McCain is not the man they say you think he is. Why use Wes Clark in this capacity?

General Wesley Clark - a Democrat - is considered by the Democratic Party a genuine military hero, much in the manner of John "France" Kerry, and thus immune to any counter-attacks by the mean-spirited Republicans and their thugs. As the Former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, his words carry a lot of weight, though this is not the usual case for the Democratic Party. The fact that he was fired from that position - by the Clinton Administration! - is conveniently ignored.

From Counterpunch:
Anyone seeking to understand the bloody fiasco of the Serbian war need hardly look further than the person of the beribboned Supreme Allied Commander, General Wesley K. Clark. Politicians and journalists are generally according him a respectful hearing as he discourses on the "schedule" for the destruction of Serbia, tellingly embracing phrases favored by military bureaucrats such as "systematic" and "methodical".

The reaction from former army subordinates is very different.

"The poster child for everything that is wrong with the GO (general officer) corps," exclaims one colonel, who has had occasion to observe Clark in action, citing, among other examples, his command of the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood from 1992 to 1994.

While Clark's official Pentagon biography proclaims his triumph in "transitioning the Division into a rapidly deployable force" this officer describes the "1st Horse Division" as "easily the worst division I have ever seen in 25 years of doing this stuff."

Clark cartoonAnd there's this:

While he regards his junior officers with watchful suspicion, he customarily accords the lower ranks little more than arrogant contempt. A veteran of Clark's tenure at Fort Hood recalls the general's "massive tantrum because the privates and sergeants and wives in the crowded (canteen) checkout lines didn't jump out of the way fast enough to let him through".

Clark's demeanor to those above is, of course, very different, a mode of behavior that has earned him rich dividends over the years. Thus, early in 1994, he was a candidate for promotion from two to three star general. Only one hurdle remained - a war game exercise known as the Battle Command Training Program in which Clark would have to maneuver his division against an opposing force. The commander of the opposing force, or "OPFOR" was known for the military skill with which he routinely demolished opponents.

But Clark's patrons on high were determined that no such humiliation should be visited on their favorite. Prior to the exercise therefore, strict orders came down that the battle should go Clark's way. Accordingly, the OPFOR was reduced in strength by half, thus enabling Clark, despite deploying tactics of signal ineptitude, to triumph. His third star came down a few weeks later.

Because Wesley Clark believes he is a truly gifted military man, and the Democrats want so desperately to believe that also, his word is accepted as Gospel in the Party. The Obama campaign clearly sees no problem in throwing Clark's insidious attacks in McCain's way. Despite disavowing Clark's statements - and not really! - Clark remains their stalking horse. What is it about Clark that has earned enmity from those in the military who served above, with, and under him? Why is the Golden-Haired Boy of his early military days now exposed for the cheap, vain, small-minded, little man he seems to be?

From Oceanguy at Somewhere on IA, comes "Wesley Clark - Useful Idiot":
I once described Wesley Clark as one of those military officers who believed their Fitness Reports… I still believe it.
I don't think the military is unusual in having a problem of inflated evaluations, but it's a system I'm very familiar with. Whatever the cause of the phenomenon, I lived it during a 20 year career in the Navy, both as an evaluator and as one being evaluated. Grades are inflated to the point that Ratings of "above average" are a slap in that face that could be career killers. "Superlatives" were merely average grades. The whole evaluation process was often laughable. I had one evaluation as a young 24 year old Lieutenant Junior Grade which described me as "sagacious" and "perspicacious." Yeah, at 24 I may have thought I was, but I still laughed at the comments, and was almost embarrassed during my evaluation interview.


And here I thought grade inflation was only used by the Leftist School Administrations. But, no, the military finds it easier to pass than fail.

I look at Wesley Clark and I see one of those men who believed their fitness reports. For his entire career he was almost certainly told he was superlative… just like 90% of his peers… if he hadn't been he'd have never been a General… and through the luck of timing, and maybe a politically minded mentor, or through his own burning ambition, he wound up in charge of something important ant a momentous time. The fact that he was basically fired, doesn't matter, because through it all, even after he was removed from the post, he believed his fitness reports. In fact his firing was publicly presented in such a way as to keep his superlative self-esteem intact. He was a success while being fired.

It's not at all surprising to me that such a man, one who feels great about his accomplishments while ignoring the reality of the results, winds up as a voice in today's Democratic Party. A sympathetic press, eager to have a military hero as a Democratic spokesman, rush to hold him up as an icon to their commitment to National Security. It's not at all surprising that, given that platform and his unfailing belief in his own fitness reports, that he would pull out his crank and stomp on it while attacking a genuinely courageous and soft-spoken hero. It's extremely offensive, but not at all surprising.

I think the most telling statement that shows exactly what a 'useful idiot' Clark is would be his most recent back-handed slap in McCain's face. While explaining that McCain had not had that much experience so as to be a President, he said, "I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president."

No, that isn't a qualification. Nor is being the Editor of the Harvard Review, which is one of Barack Obama's chief resume points. But that simplistic bit of nastiness wasn't enough for Ol' Gen'rul Clark, no he wanted to make sure we all understood. His previous words were, "I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in the armed forces, as a prisoner of war, [...]"

McCain giving interview in April, 1974Look, I may not know all that much about matters military, but I don't recall ever reading that description. McCain was serving as a US Naval Aviator, not as a Prisoner of War. I imagine one does not 'serve' as a prisoner of war so much as endure. And McCain endured. For five-and-a-half years. Clark's words are an insult, not to mention stupid beyond belief. He may have been a Rhodes Scholar, and nobody will say he's not bright, but he's not terribly smart. Instead he's a weak man, full of himself, still hoping for greater things in his life. And McCain is a handy target for his unfulfilled ambitions. He's just another tool of the Obama smear campaign.

McCain speeks at Annapolis

And what of Senator John McCain? Who the heck is he that he commands such ugly attacks on himself? Here's an excerpt from the Jerusalem Post article/editorial, "A not-so-public man: the private character of John McCain":

It's pretty amazing when you think about it. War hero John McCain has been in the public eye almost his entire adult life. He's run numerous campaigns, served in Congress for 25 years, and is in his second run for the presidency.

Yet, there is so much of his life that reveals an absolutely sterling character, but remains largely unknown to the public. And in spite of the tremendous political advantages that publicity could confer, McCain instinctively keeps that information private. Although as a presidential candidate he may be forced to overcome this reticence, he honorably shies away from using his personal heroics for political gain.

How aware is the public that McCain has raised seven children? Or that he adopted his two oldest sons as small boys (children from his wife's prior marriage)? Or that he has raised a Bangladeshi girl with severe health problems adopted from Mother Theresa's orphanage? Or that his own sons have served in the military, including in Iraq?

It's widely known that McCain, a Navy pilot, was shot down, captured and tortured by the North Vietnamese for 5 and a half years - an episode worth a forthcoming column all its own. But few are aware that he refused early release until all the POWs captured before him were freed, and that he refused special treatment offered once it was discovered that he was the "crown prince" (the son of the admiral in charge of the Pacific Fleet) because he wouldn't provide the enemy with any propaganda victories.

Even fewer seem to know that those years were a fraction of a 22-year Navy career. Although broken and battered, after his release from Vietnamese captivity he went right back to the Navy, where he continued to serve for an additional eight years.


Remember the whispering campaign the MSM trumpeted in 200? You know, the one that hinted that John McCain had a “black baby”? I remember, and I recall wondering who really cared? After all we were coming to the close of the Bill Clinton era, the era of BJs in the Oval Office and other nasty behavior in the White House. Did anybody really care about John McCain? Well, some believe that campaign of innuendos ruined McCain’s chances at the Republican nomination in 2000.

I didn’t believe it, and I did vote for McCain that year. Not G.W.Bush. Of course it was more a protest vote against the Republican Party, but still ... I voted for McCain in 2000.

Angry John McCainMcCain may be a hot-head - the word is ... he is! - and he’s never going to be the conservative that we right-wing Republicans want. Like Barry Goldwater, McCain steers his own course, heedless of the opinions of others. If he doesn’t have all the facts he goes with his guts. That means he can be way off base, as he is with the Illegal Alien issue, or with the phony Man-made Global Change hysteria.

But with John McCain there is a solidity that his opponent does not have and his attackers have never had. With McCain Honor is not just a nice-looking word but a credo to live by. His loyalty may not be to the Republican Party, but it is to the United States of America, which he served for 22 years as a military man. His loyalty is to his constituents in Arizona whom he has served for 25 years. His loyalty is to his family.

While John McCain touts his political service and experience, his military service and experience, he rarely discusses his captivity and torture in North Vietnam. He shields his family from the public glare as much as is possible, and goes about his business. He is an honorable man, a prickly man, and as much a hero as any who served during the Vietnam War.

By the way, Wesley Clark also served in Vietnam. He received the Bronze Star for his work as a Staff Officer, and was wounded in combat one month after taking command of A Company, 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry of the 1st Infantry Division in January 1970. For his actions he was awarded the Silver Star. His “meteoric rise” through the military ranks began then. His press clippings rose, too.

Clark addresses Nutroots
Gen. Wesley Clark at YearlyKos conference in Chicago, Aug. 3, 2007.
Chicago Tribune photo by Charles Osgood.

Of the two men, I know whom I consider the far better and greater man, and the one whom I would trust. And it ain’t Wes Clark.


shoprat said...

Wesley Clark would have been a war hero if he's have kept his mouth shut. I guess he's not smart enough to understand that.

When I think of great generals I also think of my mother, who was a military wife, and a flat tire. With 2 kids and one more coming she was in no position to change the flat, but a car stopped and a man who was obviously a marine changed the tire for her and refused anything for it. When Dad came home that night she learned that the man who changed her tire was a two star general. That is a classy general.

benning said...

Damn right!

Brooke said...

I'm starting to think that quite a few military officers are not there to serve their country, but to build a political career.

That's a shame, because there are so many heros in our Service.

Tom said...

I've always known that Clark was a sleazeball, but I didn't know to what extent until I read this. Good job!!