Commander in waiting

General Clark enters the race

The shine is off the Bush presidency, although George W. still has to be the favorite for 2004. The numbers tell us that the economy is stirring, but the job market isn’t doing much better than the Detroit Tigers: the Federal Reserve’s latest report described the employment situation as weakening, and too many jobs appear to have been lost permanently, casualties to globalization and technology. Iraq continues to cost lives and money, and most Americans in a recent ABC survey thought the war has made a terrorist attack in the United States more rather than less likely. In Afghanistan, there are signs of deterioration; on a good day, relations between Israel and the Palestinians are standing still; North Korea is building nukes almost as fast as the administration’s policies add to the deficit and to economic inequality. But while Democrats have been comforting themselves with the recognition that George W. Bush just might lose the election next year, they have lacked any matching conviction that they can win it. Like the trailing team in a pennant race, the Democrats haven’t felt in control of their own destiny.

General Wesley Clark’s candidacy could change that. The general will have a tough few weeks of it: visible chiefly as a critic of Bush’s Iraq policy, his ideas about domestic policy, so far, lack depth and detail; he’s a novice with partisan Democratic audiences, and despite his experience with the...

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About the Author

Wilson Carey McWilliams, contributed regularly to Commonweal. He taught political philosophy at Rutgers until his death in 2005.