On Wesley Clark and Other Irrelevancies


I will freely admit that one of my many failings as a political journalist and commentator is that, deep down in the nether regions, I really don't care about 90% of symbolic kerfuffles that seize the frontal lobes of campaign coverage for days and weeks at a time. I remember once at the 2004 Democratic Convention going on Hugh Hewitt's show and having him ask me, in high excitement, about wasn't it true that Michael Moore sitting next to Jimmy Carter in the rafters was going to be the biggest single story of this campaign?, and me just staring at him blankly, trying to imagine what it must be like to think that way. (Hewitt, I should add, very well might have been right; who knows!)

That's kind of how I feel about the ongoing hullaballoo over Wesley Clark saying this:

He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee and he has traveled all over the world, but he hasn't held executive responsibility. […] That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded—that wasn't a wartime squadron. […]

I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president. […]

John McCain is running his campaign on his experience and how his experience would benefit him and our nation as president. That experience shows courage and commitment to our country—but it doesn't include executive experience wrestling with national policy or go-to-war decisions. And in this area his judgment has been flawed—he not only supported going into a war we didn't have to fight in Iraq, but has time and again undervalued other, nonmilitary elements of national power that must be used effectively to protect America.

This is one of those marvelous passages where just about every statement (as far as I can quickly reckon) is true, yet I disagree with it. That is to say, it's true that McCain has rarely held executive responsibility (he's an aviator-turned-legislator, after all), and never in a theater of war (though I would argue that his leadership as a POW was extremely impressive, even if he wasn't at the top of the chain of command in Hanoi), but … who gives a rat's ass? McCain did lead a squadron, and by most accounts did a bang-up job of it, and at any rate, since when is holding a command during wartime a prerequisite for faithfully executing the laws of this land? Command-holder Wesley Clark, self-evidently, is an atrocious politician, and the presidency (I think) requires at least non-incompetence politically. McCain's father and grandfather held commands during war, and they would have been lousy presidents, largely for the same one reason that troubles me most about John Sidney III, at least the post-1997 version ? when anyone yelled "war!" they immediately replied "how high?"

As for all the high dudgeon and questioning-his-patriotism and gorbledy-fark salad: Well, you kids have your fun. I hear that Darth Cheney McChimptard canceled the solar power, and Michael Moore is still fat!