Saturday, March 03, 2007

Carol Shea-Porter & Wesley Clark: Lights in the New England Snow

for WesPAC - 3/3/07

The idea of snow and ice is to test Yankee resolve and hone the gnarly character. Last night, Gene and Wesley Clark found us at our finest moment. Driving home up the mountain later, I’d never seen so many cars spinning off the black ice into snow banks.

But it left the grand houses in Portsmouth, NH, New England’s most elegant city, a picture postcard. And the gracious and genuine crowd gathered to support and donate to Carol Shea-Porter, seemed not to notice the weather.

Carol was at the last moment called to Washington business and could not attend, but her husband and daughter were present.

General Clark seemed happy to be here in New Hampshire and took the opportunity to speak candidly among friends.

Just as we arrived it was announced that the Secretary of the Army had resigned over the treatment of soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. General Clark opened his remarks with comments on this as a continuation of the same process of a war fought with hubris rather than means; the price being paid by the veteran and the wounded soldier. This scandal will run deeper.

He said he admired Carol’s voice in Congress and called her “one in a hundred” in bringing issues to focus. He encouraged those present to give generously to her reelection.

Clark recalled incidents in Estonia leading up to the Kosovo conflict, bringing up some interesting and enlightening behind-the-scenes episodes which brought home the extended influence of the Cold War in tragic detail. He advised the crowd on the possibilities of advanced warfare with Iran behind the hubris of a Commander-in-Chief who refuses diplomacy. This evening was a detailed and advanced seminar on the specifics of conflict in the Middle East which would complement his recent talk at the Y in New York. If was a private affair and I’d feel it inappropriate to pass along some of his most interesting anecdotes and private observations.

I’ve been dragged unwilling to Democratic events in Boston politics since I was a child and Jack Kennedy was a Senator here. But this event brought a distinct sense of awakening. As I said to Susan Putney, a key supporter of Carol Shea-Porter, Wes Clark brings a new direction to the Democrats. He is to the Democrats what Tedy Bruschi is to the New England Patriots: He provides a vital bull-dog heartbeat to a new generation and he embodies what we mean by duty, honor and responsibility to family, country, and world.

We have seen this same spark recently with Jim Webb in Virginia and elsewhere. But here in New Hampshire and I would claim in all of New England, this new direction was no better crystallized than by the new voice in Congress of Carol Shea-Porter. In Portsmouth last night you could feel this new political life force begin to coalesce in this beautiful New England house in its quiet light in the snow. Other New Hampshire Democrats present who support Carol, like Dick Swett and Katrina Swett, are sure to encourage and feed this light, institutionalize it and bring it forward to new levels and new offices.

Note to Shea-Porter staff: Recently, I passed along a memo to the Fighting Dems and a few others calling for a new Democratic Council like the DLC but to stress the new Democratic values that have come about by people in the new Congress. I continually cite Carol Shea-Porter, Jim Webb, Joe Sestak, Mark Warner, Kathleen Sebelius and Wes Clark as paragons of this new direction. In a word, new Democrats restore the Democrats relationship with the common people and the working class, bring excellence to management, practice family-based values and see military service as the natural consequence of responsible citizenship. This has been called "new Democrats" but it very much parallels the old Dems as expressed by people like Tip O'Neil and Mary McGrory.

I enjoyed talking to Katrina Swett and hearing her thoughtful comments to General Clark. I hope she runs for office. I can think of no one better suited to model this new direction that Carol and Jim Webb bring to Congress. As a colleague of Carol and Wes Clark, she seems a natural to bring these new values forward. She is enormously attractive as a candidate and I can see her winning New Hampshire as it votes along the lines it did in the primary in '04 (that is, I can see her appeal both to the populated southern regions of the state and to the north country hills where I live).

From my point of view, the '08 Democratic race for President is unfortunate. It has never happened before that the airwaves and the entertainment industry have virtually commandeered the public consciousness, creating a celebrity show more akin to American Idol. Republic government cannot survive with dialog at such a low entertainment level. I’m more concerned under these circumstances to see a strong new Democratic party in the Senate and House in '08 and look to 2012 to the Presidency. I see parallels today with the New England Whigs-turned-Republican (Lincoln, Grant) in the 1850s thereabouts; New England shed its old skin and found a new one & better one inside. I believe we are doing the same right now.

I don't come to this through politics, but from other things I write about. We are facing the fourth generational turn in the post-war period. Each new generation starts with new ideas and new ideas always demand new people. The century will build on the new Congress of '06.

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