Cavalier Clark


Historian Thomas Fleming argues that

a certain type of general is able to win presidential elections, and another type is an almost certain loser. With the margin for error that all generalizations require, it becomes clear that the winners all fit Arthur Schlesinger's brilliant division of America's soldiers into roundheads and cavaliers. Roundheads eschew military glory and lay no claim to brilliance. They are all small d democrats. Cavaliers are all aristocrats, in love with glittering uniforms and orotund appeals to glory and patriotism. General Winfield Scott is the prototype cavalier. He designed his own gorgeous uniforms; the soldiers called him "Old Fuss and Feathers." The other major general in the Mexican War, Zachary Taylor, wore no visible signs of rank and sat his horse, Old Whitey, sidesaddle at the Battle of Buena Vista, eyeing the charging Mexicans before ordering the West Pointers in command of the artillery: "doubleshot your guns and give them hell." Ulysses Grant, who served in Mexico, was an Old Zach clone; there was not a sign of gold braid on his uniform and instead of soaring appeals to patriotism and heroism, he said: "We shall fight it out along this line if it takes all summer." Ike Eisenhower struck the same lowkeyed "let's get this job done" note [in] World War II.

Those of you who learned your history from the movies will recognize this as the distinction between General George C. Scott and General Karl Malden.

Fleming suggests that this trend spells trouble for Wesley Clark's candidacy:

During Clark's "war" in Kosovo, he was extraordinarily fond of getting his picture in the papers and on TV in his well tailored uniform. To the enlisted men this spells a damning phrase: glory hound. Moreover his war was an elitist operation in which all the fighting was done by a handful of pilots and techies in charge of cruise missiles. No large numbers of enlisted men served under Clark and learned to like his ways. Add it all up and Wesley's appeal to the American voters, outside the corps of desperate Democrats searching for someone to beat George Bush, is close to zero.

Which is a pretty broad statement. But he may be onto something.