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A Time to Lead: For Duty, Honor and Country,
by Wesley Clark & Tom Carhart
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
Retired Army General Wesley Clark's A Time to Lead proves, if nothing else, that the war hero would perhaps be better suited as an author of personal autobiographical texts, non-political in nature, or even as an author of fiction. When reading of Clark's upbringing as a poor young man in Arkansas, raised in an unstable home but taught a blue-collar work ethic and steadfast morality by his struggling single mother, one cannot help but commiserate with Clark and admire his character as well as his gifts as a narrative writer. The poignant anecdotes Clark pens of his childhood memories will appeal to those who rank character as a dominant priority in accessing a politician's merit. But it must be said that those who open this book expecting to read a political narrative just as rich in texture as the one he paints of his personal experience will most likely be dismayed. When writing on the issues, Clark shifts to a tone of pedestrian rhetoric that seems Xeroxed from stale Democratic campaign slogans and tired stump speeches. Many of his phrasings are redundant, such as his insistence to begin countless, often consecutive sentences with the expression: "We need to [fix/change/solve]" a stated problem. The specifics of several key topics ranging from the war in Iraq to reforming our health care system are simplified in a perfunctory manner that belies the intelligence and deep social insight that Clark seems to possess. As an Oxford graduate and a professor of economics his work lacks attention to detail and alludes to an effort to appeal to the layman. Unfortunately, in appealing to the layman, he alienates his key demographic, which are the kind of political enthusiasts who would bother pick up the narrative in the first place.
-- LeChristian Steptoe, lcs@OnTheIssues.org, May 2008
by Wesley Clark & Tom Carhart.
POLITICAL REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
This book was published in September 2007, just as the presidential race was starting to heat up (there had been 8 Democratic primary debates and 4 Republican primary debates by then). One wonders why Clark would choose that timing to release a book, when it could have been published anytime after Clark's 2004 presidential race concluded. One must conclude that Clark is running for some office based on that timing.
My first assumption was that Clark was planning to run for Senator in Arkansas (Clark was raised in Arkansas, and spent most of his adult life in the military, without any real "home state," so Arkansas is the closest he has). Sen. Mark Pryor is up for re-election in 2008 -- certainly Clark could have mounted a formidable primary challenge -- and they disagree on enough issues (abortion, free trade, the Iraq war) to make the race interesting. Alas, the filing deadline came and went (March 10, 2008). Perhaps Clark is planning for the governor's race in 2010? Possible, but why publish in 2007?
The only conclusion left is that Clark was running for Vice President. Clark is most assuredly a "Friend of Bill Clinton" and therefore a "Friend of Hillary" and likely to get onto her short-list if Hillary were to win the nomination. More importantly, Clark would provide Hillary with the grassroots support that she lacked in her primary battle against Barack Obama (more on grassroots support below). Clark would also compare strongly against the "national security ticket" that the Republicans were sure to mount -- at the time, John McCain was not the frontrunner, but Clark is one of the few Democrats who can counter McCain's miltiary expertise. Most significantly, Clark formally endorsed Hillary for president -- on Sept. 15, 2007, at the same time his book was published! -- we suspect that was not a coincidence.
Unfortunately for Gen. Clark, Hillary's status as the prohibitive frontrunner has faded substantially since September 2007. Clark seems more likely to end up as an adviser in Obama's campaign, and perhaps in an Obama cabinet, than as Obama's V.P. choice. He may still make Obama's "short list," however, and will certainly be on the pundits' speculative radar, making this book a must-read for political junkies (or at least, must-read-the-excerpts).
Some readers may wonder about my claim of Clark's grassroots support -- indeed, it is barely mentioned in this book. But during the 2004 presidential race, it was as substantial as Ron Paul's or Barack Obama's grassroots organization is in 2008. I was involved with the Howard Dean online grassroots network -- arguably stronger than Clark's, Paul's, or Obama's -- and we had deep respect for the online capacity and grassroots support behind Wes Clark. They managed to actually draft Gen. Clark into running -- I have little doubt that Clark would never have seriously considered entering the race without the online draft movement. Dean supporters at that time often forgot that all online grassroots activists were not progressives -- an easy assumption because progressives so dominated that niche, as with Barack Obama's online grassroots network today. Clark's supporters kept us reminded (I was told several times, "Jess, we're NOT progressives!" by Clark supporters when I assumed what I considered obvious!) That made the advent of Ron Paul's even stronger online grassroots support understandable -- libertarians can use the Internet for political benefit as well as progressives can. In any case, Clark could have offered Hillary Clinton that power, but did not, and Obama captured the political Internet on the Democratic side, to Hillary's detriment. It's likely that Clark had too little understanding of the Internet's political power to be able to offer it to Hillary -- despite his being one of the earliest beneficiaries of that power. I think if Hillary had used the Internet -- especially for the task of caucus organizing that Obama utterly dominated via Internet grassroots support -- it would have made a substantial difference in the Democratic primary's outcome.
So where does Clark go from here? He's certainly staying involved in politics. His WesPAC/securingAmerica.com has become a major fundraising source for Democratic races in 2006 and 2008. Clark now writes books and consults and gives speeches, working towards his stated goal of becoming a philanthropist and a professional golfer. His 2004 race and his PAC -- as well as his appeal to Democrats seeking national security credentials -- provide Clark with the means to stay involved in national politics for the indefinite future.
-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, May 2008
Page last edited: Feb 25, 2019