I've been hearing
more and more about these Meet-Up meetings
for various presidential candidates. So yesterday I stopped by one
for Wesley Clark in Washington, DC. Or rather I should say it was for the Draft Wesley Clark
group, since Clark isn't even a candidate yet. I can't say I was particularly underwhelmed or overwhelmed by the turn-out or the energy of the folks there. But it's hard for me to judge really since it's the only one of these I've been to.
I have a number of friends who are very taken by the idea of a Clark candidacy. And I think I'd say that I'd include myself in that group.
At the same time, though, I'm awfully skeptical. Military heroes who get into politics or are drafted into politics are usually big heroes, generals whose popularity is so transcendent that they can literally sweep away all the rest of the contenders from the field. The key examples would be Grant, Eisenhower, Powell (had he chosen to get into the race in 1996).
Clark, as much as I admire him (and I do, a lot), simply isn't in that category. And by conventional standards, it's way too late for him to get into the race. It's not at all clear to me that he can push these other contenders from the field simply by throwing his hat into the ring. And will he have the money or the organization or staff that will allow him to do it the old fashioned way?
I have my doubts.
Here's another issue.
One of the big attractions of ex-military candidates is straight talk. Always has been. It signals a no-nonsensism that's one of the big attractions. Yet a while back I remember Clark not only being cagey about whether he was going to be a candidate (that's certainly understandable) but even which party's nomination he'd run for. And that falls a bit short on the no nonsense test.
Now I say this as someone who'd really like to see Clark get into this race and catch fire. The national security credentials speak for themselves. And he does have the advantage that none of the other candidates have really pulled away from the pack or demonstrated any serious credibility as national candidates. (Even Dean's momentum --- as important and innovative as it is at the level of technology-assisted grass-roots organizing -- still strikes me as a sign of the weakness of the Democratic field.) I just have my doubts.