- exclusive to WesPAC:
Waiting for America’s Son:
Why Wes Must Run
The surge is George W. Bush’s greatest strategic error in a sterling legacy of greatest hits. Had he listened to the Baker Commission, he could have crafted a graceful and responsible turn around which most Americans would have welcomed and honored.
But by ignoring the wise council of Baker’s bipartisan council, Bush has instead awakened new voices in the Democratic Party; like New Hampshire’s formidable Carol Shea-Porter, who entered Congress this month, and Vermont’s Bernie Sanders.
This will no longer be a Congress which appeases and accommodates neocon agenda, advances egregious torture strategies unknown since the Enlightenment and repeals habeas corpus. It is becoming instead a Congress of real warriors, like Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania and the new Senator from Virginia, Jim Webb, whose constituents today wear bumper stickers which read: “My Senator is Fearless.” Increasing, it is a Congress which looks to soldiers for strategic thinking as well, like Wesley Clark, which journalist Tom Rinaldo calls “the peace candidate for 2008.”
But the President, who’s Yale undergraduate colleagues recall him to be a relentless player of Risk: The Game of Global Domination at a time when Clark and Webb were getting shot to pieces serving their country, is constitutionally incapable of strategic thinking.
Anyone with eyes can see a new awakening in Congress. But much of the mainstream press refuses to look. For the most part it is a state of denial. They are just hoping the leadership crisis will go away and things will go "back to normal." There will be no going back. The Democrats now have the initiative and they should go forward without looking back. This is the crisis which will bring us forward and will bring a new political generation to power.
In 2006, we found ourselves at the edge of a river and this year we will cross that river. INVARIABLY, polling, objectivity, statistics, previous patterns and the rational path fail at moments like this. Instinct and intuition are the better guide. Nature is calling forth something new. We already know who the leader will be who will lead us across the river.
In the primary of ’04, which was the coldest winter on record here in New Hampshire, I brought a lot of people in to warm by the fire who were campaigning for Democratic candidates. Most were campaigning for Howard Dean. When I said that I was a volunteer for Wesley Clark, invariably they said that they would like to see Wesley Clark as Vice President in a Dean Presidency. Howard Dean did not really want to be President; he knew he did not want to be – but his followers found in him a comfort – I would call it denial of the crisis and a denial of the responsibility to face it – but beneath that they saw the authentic figure, Wesley Clark. Kerry people wanted Clark as VP as well. Everybody did.
Then when Clark said, "I’m not going to be Howard Dean’s Dick Cheney," it revealed to everyone what they already knew: They wanted Wes Clark to run the show as Dick Cheney runs Bush’s show: They wanted Wes Clark to be the President. He is the one necessary ingredient to face the leadership crisis today in America. His progress will be a graph of our willingness to face the crisis; as his line goes up, the other lines will go down. He will be the one indispensable ingredient and the rest of us will be ready to cross the river with him in the upcoming year.
Here are two real-world, reality-based reasons why General Clark should run for President in 2008: Demographics and Generational Shift.
Demographics: The burial ceremonies for President Ford have reminded us of what decent people we Americans can be. They also put into perspective how our world has changed since his Presidency. And from then until now, most every influential cultural figure has been from the South: Jimmy Carter, Johnny Cash, Pat Robertson, Otis Redding, Little Richard, Tammy Faye Baker, Bill Clinton, Oprah, Jimmy Johnson, Jimmy Swagger, Waylon Jennings, the Intimidating # 3 in the Big Black Car. This will continue. The North used to be the Red States. Now they are Blue. We are seeing the historic rise of indigenous America – America formed of red clay, Texas desert, Delta mud and Appalachian prayer and song – beholding to no one who came before from Europe, Africa or anywhere else.
General Clark is the American Son who epitomizes this change in demographics and history. He will begin to give a new Democratic Party and a new century shape, sense and sensibility. And his is the federalist sensibility – he is at home with old-time honored but injured veterans who drink in the morning at the Legion Hall, just as he is at the Four Seasons with George Soros. He advanced candidates in the ’06 races throughout Tennessee, Arkansas and the heartland and in New York City as well. This is most important in 2008 as the variety of candidates who have so far entered from the Northeast or are expected to – Senators Kerry, Clinton, Dodd and Biden – are likely to gather few electoral votes in Texas, Oklahoma or any other red state and will offer any Republican opponent an easy ride.
Generational Shift: We are at the cusp of a major shift in generations as the fourth post-war generation rises to power. 2006 was the year of the turning.
Each generation is superseded by the next, which countervails the values of the last. Each needs entirely new heroes, new monks & poets, new goddesses, new Great Mothers and artists. As historians William Strauss and Neil Howe point out in their studies on generational dynamics, generational culture can change in an afternoon. It is said that the culture of the first generation changed to the second when Bob Dylan changed from a wooden guitar to an electric one on an evening in Newport in 1965. The culture changes with a single individual and the character of that individual becomes the character of the new group, the new generation, and then the character of the country during that generation’s reign. The fourth generation is characteristically awakened by a Gray Champion, often a veteran from a former war, who stands alone in defiance of an intimidating force and changes the political tide.
When we look back years from now, we will look at 2006 as the beginning of the new century. There has been a tendency until now to look for the "new" Roosevelt, or the "new" Kennedy, or to see in a new candidate something which reminds us of a former period. It is a natural healthy yearning for the "return of the king." But it is spiritually debilitating. When Aragorn arrives, the yearning subsides.
General Clark is neither the new JFK nor the new Roosevelt. He is himself. He can be that individual for generational change. There have been many opportunities for Democratic leadership to step forth in this process in the last six years. Again and again and again and again at each critical turning, only General Clark has taken the initiative.
The upcoming primary can change the sensibilities of the Democrats and the Democrats need to be changed. I have no doubt that we can win in ’08. The Republicans are in free-fall and come to a dead end with the current mischief of President Bush and his Dungeon & Dragon Warriors. But winning is not enough. If we win with a nostalgia candidate who doesn’t advance the new political generation or one who reminds us of past glory, it will be a vain effort and a one-term Presidency.
Of all potential candidates, only Wesley Clark brings the needed core of leadership to the country. The truth is, new movements, new Congresses and new generations cannot turn on old leadership.
I’m all about Wes. I’m looking forward to his new book. I especially want to hear more about his early childhood transition from Chicago to Arkansas and the turning of events during Bosnia which he spoke about up here at New England College last spring. Bosnia paralleled my own life, as I was a kind of student advisor at a Southern university at the time. The students were left adrift when the President, with Elie Wiesel standing behind him, said publicly that he didn’t know what to do. That brought a critical American turning point – from then until now, we haven’t known what to do in foreign policy unless General Clark told us what to do.