Kevin Drum has the

January 17, 2004 6:06 p.m.

Kevin Drum has the most concise, on-point run-down on the Clark testimony silliness.

As Drum says, “The nickel version is that Clark testified before Congress in 2002 that Saddam was a dangerous guy and it was appropriate to put a lot pressure on him. Then after the war was over he wrote an op-ed for the London Times congratulating everyone involved for having fought a brilliant campaign.”

The issue here is what it means to be ‘anti-war’. I’ve said I suppose a million times now that Clark was a consistent opponent of the president’s policy. But I’ve also said that calling him ‘anti-war’ misses the mark. I say this because in our politics this phrase ‘anti-war’ has a meaning that goes beyond one’s position on a given use of military force. It signals a general tone — one that simply doesn’t apply to Clark and leads to all sorts of innocent and in other cases not so innocent misunderstandings.

So for instance this very anti-Clark editorial in the Florida Times-Union says Clark now has no credibility because his congressional testimony “hardly sound[s] like the words of a war protester.”

A ‘war-protestor’. You get the idea where this goes.

Similarly, Mickey Kaus says “it’s impossible to square this London Times article with Clark’s current antiwar criticism. Not only is the tone the opposite of Bush-bashing, but Clark seems to have forgotten that it was “the wrong war at the wrong time,” as his adviser Jamie Rubin characterizes his current position.”

This is priceless on a couple levels. Apparently, if a pundit decides you’re a ‘bush-basher’ and then finds you’ve said something generous about the president, it means you’ve been untrue to your bush-bashing values. I don’t know quite what to make of that.

More to the point, though, I think we’ve got a more muted version of the Times-Union’s ‘war protestor’ line here.

Mickey’s line is that opposition to the president’s policy is inconsistent with cheering a stunning military victory once the decision for war has been made. For an ex-General I don’t think it’s that surprising at all. As I said, Mickey’s point is similar to the Times-Union’s point. Since Clark is running as some sort of war protest candidate how could he enthuse over the success of the military’s rapid victory in Iraq?

But whatever people think of Clark, I don’t think most people in this country would find that a contradiction. I do think that will cause Clark some difficulties in the Democratic primaries. But the slices of the electorate that will decide this election will, I think, share that ambivalence.

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