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Old 09-28-2003, 02:13 PM   #106
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http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/...mment-opinions

PRESIDENTIAL RACE





With Clark on Fire, Calls of Liar, Liar

By Joshua Micah Marshall

Joshua Micah Marshall covers politics and foreign affairs. He publishes talkingpointsmemo.com

September 28, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Is retired Gen. Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme allied commander, an erratic liar? He is if you believe the spin coming out of the conservative hit machines that cranked into action as soon as Clark announced his intention to run for president as a Democrat.

Success in politics sometimes comes down to which side can tell the most compelling story and, even more important, which side can tell it first.

That simple truth has triggered a manic, win-at-all-costs drive to "define" Clark in the worst terms possible so that he won't be able to knock the president out of the White House next November. In his newsletter last week, Washington's highly respected political handicapper Charlie Cook correctly noted that "for the White House, it is particularly important that Clark's credibility be impeached as soon as possible." The White House and its media allies clearly agree.

Before Clark's entry into the race a little more than a week ago, there were nine other candidates in the Democratic field. But none had garnered even a fraction of the invective Clark is now receiving not even former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a front-running candidate whose politics put him decidedly at odds with President Bush.

Why are conservatives so hot and bothered? The answer and the threat Clark poses couldn't be clearer. For the last two years the White House has been able to maintain high rates of public approval even in the face of a rocky economy at home and a breakdown in the country's key alliances abroad.

A key factor in Bush's popularity was the public's trust that he was the right man to keep the country strong abroad and safe from future terrorist attacks at home. That perception allowed Republicans to defy historical precedent and a soft economy to win the 2002 midterm elections handily.

Since July, however, a mix of economic woes and rising doubts about the operation in Iraq has battered the president's standing in the polls he now stands at about 50%, the break-even point in public approval ratings. The one big advantage President Bush still has working for him is the simple fact that a great many Americans trust Republicans more than Democrats to keep the country safe in dangerous times.

But make the Democratic standard-bearer a retired four-star general who helped keep the fractious NATO alliance together while conducting a successful war in the Balkans and that could all change rapidly. That means Clark has to be destroyed now, before he gets a chance to make his own first impression. And thus the fusillade streaming out of talk radio, Drudge, Fox News and various other media outlets with a conservative bent.

One of the main attacks began last week in the mainstream press when Howard Fineman, Newsweek's chief political correspondent, led an article on Clark with the claim that the retired general had decided to become a Democrat only after being rebuffed in his efforts to enter the Bush administration. According to Colorado's Republican governor, Bill Owens, and one of his cronies, Marc Holtzman, Clark told them during a chance encounter at a January conference in Davos, Switzerland, that he had wanted to become a Republican but had decided against it when White House strategist Karl Rove snubbed him.

"I would have been a Republican," Owens and Holtzman say Clark told them, "if Karl Rove had returned my phone calls." When asked, Clark told Fineman that the remark was meant in jest. But Holtzman assured Fineman that Clark was in deadly earnest: "Clark wasn't joking. We were really shocked." Who knows what Clark said in this exchange? But it doesn't take a leap of imagination to see that two high-profile Republicans both of whom have close ties to the president and his chief political advisor, Rove might have some reason to frame the exchange in the most unflattering light possible.

But it didn't end there.

Almost immediately, the conservative Weekly Standard picked up the ball and got an unprecedented bit of assistance from the White House. At the Standard's request, the White House completed a quick audit of Rove's phone logs for the last two years and found that Clark had never placed any calls to Rove's White House office.

Now, for those keeping score, the fact that Clark apparently never tried to contact Rove could be seen as strengthening his point to Fineman that the whole thing was a joking remark that Owens and Holtzman are warping out of context for political gain. But no matter. The Standard dutifully added the canard to what they call Clark's growing list of "whoppers" and statements that "bear little resemblance to reality." And, true to form, the next day the ever-present and always "fair and balanced" Fox News which, like the Standard, is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. was blaring the news that "White House phone logs suggest Wesley Clark is telling tales once again." Before long, a secondhand account of a brief conversation from an interested party had been bundled up into evidence that Clark was a congenital liar.

In the coming weeks we'll see more and more of this. And along the way we'll learn the answers to two questions, both of which may have a profound effect on the outcome of next year's election.

The first is: Who will define Clark first? Clark's opponents and his own nascent campaign are moving as fast as they can to answer that question in their favor. But will Clark be able to staff his campaign in time to offer any sustained rebuttal to the attacks? This is a candidate, after all, who reportedly didn't decide to enter the race till 48 hours before his announcement. And Clark has already made some of the kinds of mistakes common to first-time campaigners, storming out onto political minefields without knowing where the lethal charges are buried. So he may end up doing some of his opponents' job for them.

The other question is this: Will the mainstream media networks, major metropolitan dailies and news magazines be carried along for the ride? In 1999 and 2000 a steady drumbeat of conservative attacks on then-Vice President Al Gore, accusing him of being a serial fibber, wended their way into the mainstream media and became a mainstay of coverage during the campaign. The Bush campaign mounted a similar attack on Sen. John McCain's emotional stability during the primaries. Both had a real effect. With Newsweek's report on Clark, it appears that the general could have an uphill battle.

To the White House, it doesn't really matter whether people believe that an Al Gore or a Wes Clark is a liar. If a question is asked often enough, the truth becomes a secondary matter. That's what the White House is hoping will happen with Clark. That's how the game is played. And the race is on.
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Old 09-28-2003, 05:03 PM   #107
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Quote:
Originally posted by deep
To the White House, it doesn't really matter whether people believe that an Al Gore or a Wes Clark is a liar. If a question is asked often enough, the truth becomes a secondary matter. That's what the White House is hoping will happen with Clark. That's how the game is played. And the race is on.
and of course we all know GW and company have enough money to say it as many times as it takes, in as many ways possible - aganist any of the candidates.

*edited cause I can't seem to remember how to put in a quote from one thread to another*
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Old 09-28-2003, 05:55 PM   #108
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Ugh. I'm afraid it's going to be an ugly campaign. The tenor of presidential politics makes me awfully wary of getting too involved too soon before the elections. Usually by the time Election Day comes I'm so sick of politics I could scream.
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Old 09-28-2003, 08:00 PM   #109
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Well, for at least a few months in early 2000, Bush will be nearly forgotten by the Democratic Candidates as they finally star to swing at each other for the nomination.
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Old 09-28-2003, 09:28 PM   #110
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I'm not fond of negative campaigning no matter who it is. It looks like we'll get plenty of that.
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Old 09-28-2003, 09:39 PM   #111
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Originally posted by deep
Clark had never placed any calls to Rove's White House office.


the fact that Clark apparently never tried to contact Rove
It is amazing how in op-ed pieces, a writer will take one fact and presume another. There is a significant gap between calling a person at one phone number and never trying to contact that person.

YARWC

(yet another right wing consipracy)
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Old 09-28-2003, 09:54 PM   #112
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader


It is amazing how in op-ed pieces, a writer will take one fact and presume another. There is a significant gap between calling a person at one phone number and never trying to contact that person.

YARWC

(yet another right wing consipracy)
I think you're missing what the article said. The conservative media searched the phone records and reported that no call was made. They then said that Clark was lying that a call was even made in the first place. Well, if that's the logic we're working with, than the deduction that the author came up with wasn't a leap at all.



On another note, Bush will have 170 million dollars raised just for the primary season. At least 10 times of the nearest Democratic candidate. I can't even imagine the number of commercials and verbal destruction of the leading Democratic candidate and the combined verbal destruction of Bush. This one will be ugly folks.
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Old 09-28-2003, 09:58 PM   #113
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oops, I meant to say 2004. The interesting thing is that the Bush Campaign will pick up tips from the competing Democratic Candidates on the best way to go after who ever their front runner becomes.
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