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Meet Howard and Wes

Making a snap judgment, eight Democrat presidential candidates are consigned to the trash container leaving two who remain viable — Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont and retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark.

They were selected as survivors based on lines penned by Bertolt Brecht some 50 years ago: “Would it not be simpler if the government dissolved the people and elected another?”

Howard Dean, 54, is a physician who introduced himself to politics as a volunteer in Jimmy Carter’s failed re-election campaign, and was elected to the Vermont legislature two years later. Four years on he was the state’s part-time lieutenant governor, succeeding to the governorship in 1991. At that stage, his wife, Judy Dean Steinberg, also a physician, took over his patient list and Howard remained governor until he resigned to campaign for the presidency. The Doctors Dean claim that if he is elected, Judy will practice medicine in Washington. Oh well!

Speaking about foreign aid, Mr. Dean said that he was all for it, but would “get rid of some of the tax cuts.” Reminded of his earlier statements that “all tax cuts will go,” Dean said it was a mere slip of the tongue. But throughout the month the poor guy has made slips regarding the Middle East, trade, defense, race, Medicare and the Social Security retirement age.

Sometimes Howard has us retiring at age 70, sometimes at age 68 and sometimes nothing changes. Sometimes we listen to his boasts of creating thousands of new jobs in Vermont, of cleaning up and closing down many of the state’s landfills and preserving more than one million acres of Vermont’s seashore, forests and wilderness.

All of which tells us that Howard Dean is a zealot with a tongue that slips. His appeal is to the young and inexperienced, to the white middle-class of the East Coast, to academics and intellectuals. Dean does not have a penny’s worth of grits’ chance of a Southern vote, and many of the labor unions who might support him are troubled by the “upper class” nature of his campaign.

Dean’s campaign is at its very best on the Internet, where the candidate can take time when responding to questions. To defeat him, there must be a concentration of attacks on his credentials on foreign policy, defense, security and social spending. These are all of his most vulnerable areas, particularly with respect to the war in Iraq where he has compromised himself by alliances with the radical anti-war movement — just like his look-alike of 30 years ago, Sen. George McGovern.

FOR THE BENEFIT OF WES

All of which is wonderful grist for Gen. Wesley Clark, who in his quest for the presidential nomination has an ABD (Anyone But Dean) support rating of 100 percent.

Wes Clark, 58, admits to the world that he is from Little Rock, Ark., and his campaign headquarters is heavily staffed with former Clinton officials. Gen. Clark has no history of elective office or of domestic policy and his acumen in foreign affairs can be seen in a video with Wes exchanging hats and guns with a Serbian war criminal in Kosovo.

Let us look now at this Rhodes Scholar, who first met his commander-in-chief, Bill Clinton, not in Rhodes House or Magdalen College, Oxford, but at a student anti-Vietnam War conference put on by the communists in 1965 in the United States. We know what Clinton was doing there, but a West Point cadet• There is some explanation needed.

The general takes pride, as well he should, in his military career. First in the 1966 class at West Point, White House fellow, assignments in Vietnam, head of U.S. Southern Command and NATO commander during the 1999 campaign in Kosovo are merely highlights.

But what use is this military background to us, here, in 2003• Now, the general can say, “More than 100,000 American troops are fighting abroad and once again Americans are concerned about their civil liberties.” Clark is as American as apple pie. So why does he think the troops are fighting overseas• And what does he plan to do about civil liberties?

Clark has the full support of the Clinton family. Bill claims that the general “is brilliant” and he is good. The junior Senator from New York is planning to campaign for him and will find herself with the Clinton team of 10 years ago — former Arkansas governor Jim Guy Tucker, convicted in the 1996 Whitewater-related trial and forced to resign; Mickey Kantor; Skip Rutherford; actress Mary Steenburgen; Bruce Lindsey; and Mark Fabiani, the damage-control specialist.

The Clark campaign will be a twin of Howard Dean’s campaign. Internet messages, lots of television appearances, a major group of supporters known as “Wesley’s Warriors” and a vast kiddie corps recruited from the college campuses. However, a potential bear trap of his own making exists for the general. Clark is a director of Acxiom Corporation, which sells customer-database software to federal agencies who use it to scan and coordinate the cyberspace trove of citizen information.

Think of a candidate who has access to millions of people’s Social Security numbers, their occupation, income, gender, home ownership history and credit reports. Wesley’s Warriors will have some explaining, other than, “It’s for security.”

But neither Howard Dean nor Wesley Clark will have the strength and wealth of the service unions from the AFL-CIO and both will be left at the post when Hillary prances into the convention arena to be nominated by the acclaim of all those delegates to the Democratic National Convention who want a Clinton at any costs.

And, perhaps Hillary will choose one of the boys to run as vice president?

Additional Information:

Coming October 5

Tough action is being avoided despite a ‘red’ alert on China’s spies and an influx of thousands of illegal Chinese immigrants. Read about it in Sunday’s ‘Dateline D.C.’ column, a Tribune-Review exclusive.


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