I don't know quite what to make of this article on Wes Clark by Chris Suellentrop. Chris runs through a number of statements Clark has made on the campaign trail and, with those quotes, advances the argument that Clark, as much as Dean, has a "propensity for speaking imprecisely off the cuff."
There's a pretty widespread tendency in the mainstream media to say that Clark makes off-the-wall claims about the war on terrorism or the Iraq war. (A frequent example is the claim that the civilians at the Pentagon had a list of countries in line for regime change after Iraq.) It's more accurate to say that Clark has a habit of making points that many in high political circles consider impolitic, impolite or simply in poor taste to bring up.
Case in point, there was a list -- if by list we mean a list of countries that many in the Pentagon (civilian side) were pushing to hit next after Iraq. I know this. Most every reporter who covers the Pentagon knows this. And yet the bully-boys try to intimidate people out of saying it.
But back to Chris.
Here's Chris' quote number two.
Chris prefaces it with this headline question: "Bush 'never intended' to get Osama Bin Laden?"
And here's the quote.
We bombed Afghanistan, we missed Osama Bin Laden, partly because the president never intended to put the resources in to get Osama Bin Laden. All along, right after 9/11, they'd made their mind up, I guess, that we were going to go after Saddam Hussein. That's what people in the Pentagon told me. And they capped the resources, stopped the commitment to Afghanistan, and started shifting to prepare to go after Saddam Hussein
Is it just me, or is the story here that Chris completely distorts what Clark said? What's 'imprecise' about this statement. Provocative? Critical? Yes. But imprecise?
(I have to say that each of the quotes Chris mentions seems in same category to me.)
Clark didn't say Bush didn't intend to get bin Laden. He said he never intended to deploy the necessary resources because he placed a higher priority on the impending war in Iraq.
Now the president and his advisors could and probably would respond that they mobilized sufficient resources for both aims. But the fact that bin Laden and many of the other key targets were not
captured at least makes it reasonable to argue that the forces were insufficient. (Indeed, reporting on the particulars backs this up too.)
These are the sorts of points and arguments that should
be at the center of the national campaign, whichever Democrat secures the nomination -- the balance of resources mobilized to combat al Qaida and Iraq, and which was more central to the country's security.