Public Nuisance

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The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Sunday, September 21, 2003
Mark Kleiman reports haviing received two emails concerning Clark from friends whom he (Kleiman) describes as "each with an Ivy League PhD, each of them substantially smarter than the average holder of an Ivy League PhD". One reads as follows:

I'm almost tempted to contribute. Clark would be almost as juicy an
opponent for Bush as Dean. This is the guy who advocated and engineered the
phony air war against Serbia. Quotes from Clark during this period versus
on-ground reality will make amusing campaign reading. As will quotes from
other NATO commanders (British and others) who claim that if they had not
restrained Clark's attempted bullying of Russian commanders at the end of
this campaign Clark was well on the way to starting WW III. Then, of course,
there is party affiliation: Republican one year, independent the next, then
Democrat. Poor Wesley can't seem to make up his mind, except when it is
expedient to assist a grab at power.

It will be amusing to watch the media repudiate their original takes on
Clark during the Kosovo campaign if he becomes the Democrat candidate: Just
as it was amusing to watch the various spins on Dean play out in the media.
First, when they were trying to get a viable Democrat candidate elected,
Dean was portrayed as a wild-eyed left-wing radical, to whom any other
Democrat candidate should be preferred. Then, when it was so clear that
Dean had so energized the extreme left, attack-Bush-at-any-price wing of the
party, that it began to seem inevitable he would be the Democrat nominee,
the media suddenly began portraying Dean as a moderate populist. Now that
Clark provides the media with a potentially viable Democrat candidate, I'm
sure they'll start comparing him to some combination of the best of
Washington, Jackson, Polk, Grant, and Eisenhower. Of course, these generals
achieved victories and Clark failed miserably in his most famous campaign,
but what the hell.

Is it just me, or does this rant contain a hidden message, something along the lines of "Conservatism causes brain damage"? Mark knows the author and says he is brilliant, so I have to take him at his word. But nothing here other than the grasp of syntax suggests that the writer is impressive in either education or intellect. He has turned one notorious off-hand remark by a highly questionable source into the considered judgments, even the consensus of numerous people who have never said anything remotely close to the words he puts in their mouth. The author professes to be appalled at Clark's switching parties and his supposed advocacy of reckless use of military force, but I stronglyh suspect he has no such reservations about the party switching of Ronald Reagan and it is clear he has none about the much more dangerous acts of George W Bush. As if this weren't enough, the author, who is certain that the facts of the Kosovo campaign condemn Clark, seems more than slightly unfamiliar with those facts. For instance, by making the statement that "Clark failed miserably", he seems to have no idea who actually won the war. Whether comparing quotes from Clark to the reality of the campaign will provide "amusing reading" or not, comparing the strange opinions of our anonymous PhD to the historical facts certainly does. For the record, accomplishing your main political objectives without losing a single soldier is called victory; "miserable failure" is when you claim to be fighting a war against al Qaeda, but stop pursuing them to start a side battle in Iraq where, after hundreds dead, thousands wounded, and over $150 Bn in expenditures, the net result is that al Qaeda terrorists (along with pro-terror Shia radicals in Iran) have now gained a foothold in Iraq that they never had before.