Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Joseph Graham Clark

"Gray Davis" is not his real name. Incredibly, it is a nick name he adopted. His real name is Joseph Graham Davis, as this Los Angeles Times article reflects. And there are other portions of this Times survey of Governor Davis' career that should occassion a good deal of pause - if not actual dread - in Democrats possibly facing a Wesley Clark candidacy in their party:

Gov. Gray Davis ... ends nearly 30 years in appointed and elected office without having forged more than a handful of close allies. In an occupation filled with ambitious men and women, Davis was among the most driven politicians .... Davis isolated himself from those who sent him to Sacramento. ...

The Times is suggesting here that disaster is more likely to come to a man who is driven but prone to isolate himself from those who put him where he is. Interestingly, Wesley Clark is famously driven, and coverage of Donnie Fowler, Wesley Clark's angrily resigned campaign chief, included this:

Donnie Fowler, 35, told associates he was leaving over concerns that supporters who used the Internet to draft Clark into the race are not being taken seriously by top campaign officials. .... Fowler has complained that while the Internet-based draft-Clark supporters have been integrated into the campaign, their views are not taken seriously by senior advisers, many of them with deep Washington ties. He has warned Clark's team that the campaign is being driven from Washington....

We are told by General Clark's supporters that his military background is an advantage for his presidential run. The Times survey of Governor Davis' career life notes:

Davis rarely made a campaign stop without recalling his service in Vietnam. Many of his campaign ads featured a photo of a young Davis in his captain's uniform. But he long ago lost contact with Army buddies.

General Clark is said to be a fast learner - and he certainly hasn't taken years to lose contact with his military buddies. It happened right away - even while he was still in the military:

To say Clark was unpopular among his fellow officers in the military is an understatement. As he rapidly rose through the ranks, he was widely regarded as a champion brown-noser and know-it-all, a sort of Eddie Haskell in Army green. In conversation with friends, Colin Powell would privately put down General Clark as "Lieutenant Colonel Clark" i.e., a perpetual eager-beaver wanna-be. Some officers questioned his judgment. Talking to a high-ranking Clinton administration official, Gen. Hugh Shelton, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who engineered Clark's firing, bluntly referred to Clark as a "nut."... None of Clark's former comrades in arms showed up last week for his hastily scheduled announcement in Little Rock. Why not? Most soldiers are Republicans, said Clark, who rambled on about how the military profession shouldn't belong to one party, but the absence of old soldiers in the crowd said more about ties of friendship (or the lack of them) than party affiliation.

The Times reports:

Davis subordinated personal relationships to political advantage. ... But he squabbled with the most influential lawmaker, Senate leader John Burton (D-San Francisco), and alienated Democrats in other statewide posts, including Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who sought to replace him in the recall contest .... On a personal level, he offended Democrats and Republicans by overlooking common courtesies; showing up late for meetings, not returning phone calls. ....
Davis didn't build personal relationships, unlike many effective politicians who set aside differences and find common ground by talking about family or movies or baseball."I never felt like I got to know him," said Senate Republican leader Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga, the GOP's lead negotiator on most bipartisan deals during Davis' tenure.

Mr. Davis antagonized John Burton - a man on whom he had to rely - and otherwise failed to establish friendships and cultivate personal relationships, and General Clark could hardly have annoyed the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff more than he did: "I've known Wes for a long time. I will tell you the reason he came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues, things that are very near and dear to my heart. I'm not going to say whether I'm a Republican or a Democrat. I'll just say Wes won't get my vote."

The Times notes: Davis made sure he was in sync with the vast majority of California voters on the issues of the day. ... He was Robo-Governor, knowing the mechanics of government but failing to give people a sense that he cared passionately about any issue. Some people who know him say similar things about General Clark:

[One] general told the Washington Post "There are an awful lot of people who believe Wes will tell anybody what they want to hear and tell somebody the exact opposite five minutes later." Sounds like another Arkansas politician we know--but can Mr. Clark do it as well as Bill Clinton?

The Times draws its own connections from Gray Davis to Bill Clinton: Davis' name would be floated as a potential presidential candidate, his centrist politics ?— though not his personality ?— likened to those of ... former President Clinton.

In sum, Wesley Clark seems to be manipulative, inconsistent (Iraq resolution, yes or no?), personally isolated, almost friendless where others make friends in droves, prone to anger and to alienate those whose good graces he urgently needs. In these many respects Wesley Clark is like Gray Davis.

California just ejected Gray Davis - but many pundits say the state is so "solidly Democratic" that no Republican could carry it in 2004. Maybe. But a lot of those pundits seem to look to the results of the 2000 election for support for such a conclusion. That's just silly. In 2000 Califonia had been booming for years - and booming much more than any other state. Of course California voters credited the Clinton/Gore administrations for at least some of that. As the Los Angeles Times quotes one Californian as saying about the 2000 election:"The weather is good and everybody has got a job."

Today, Califonia's state budget deficit is greater than those of every other state combined - and that is by no means the only indication that this state is faring much worse than the country as a whole. The casting out of Gray Davis - notwithstanding his efforts and the efforts of the liberal media and Democratic Party to argue that California's problems are made in Washington - seriously suggests that many in California understand - or could be taught to understand - that California's problems are mostly made by the Democratic Party.

This state doesn't seem like a "Democratic lock" in 2004 to me - especially if Wesley Clark is the Democratic nominee.

That the Times itself is still in deep denial is evident in its articles like this one, which present voters as swept up in an irrational frenzy of misdirected "retribution" - articles that simply refuse to accept that the voters instead rejected Gray Davis' policies and procedures: For millions of Californians who stomped to the polls Tuesday, the idea was change. And nothing — not political inexperience, not vague answers to issues, not a spate of sexual misconduct allegations — seemed to matter.

Sure. That's right. Once the voters calm down, take their Prozac, spend some time in their hot tubs and get a good nght's sleep, everything will be fine with them - and Democrats will be elected again. Don't worry about those legislative elections in 2004. Or Barbara Boxer's Senate seat. No, no. Nothing to worry about there. Just close your eyes and sleep ... sleep ... sleep.

And, by the way, will the Times and other liberal media be writing so much about the horrors of political inexperience if Wesley Clark is nominated? As John Fund put it: Mr. Clark has never even run for student council ... No doubt by that time. Mr. Clark will be something like a refreshing outsider and brilliant political neophyte - like John Edwards once was ... before he was over ... before almost anyone noticed him in the first place.


Several ... retired officers, while crediting Clark for tremendous intellect and determination, also raise questions about trustworthiness and whether his personal ambition and drive to succeed caused him to overstep his bounds and go outside the established chain of command.

Retired Gen. Dennis Reimer, a former Army chief of staff, describes Clark as an intelligent, ``hardworking, ambitious individual who really applies himself hard.''

But, Reimer said, "Some of us were concerned about the fact that he was focused too much upward and not down on the soldiers. I've always believed you ought to be looking down toward your soldiers and not up at how to please your boss. ... I just didn't see enough of that in Wes.''

Clark, for his part, acknowledges he had conflicts with former Defense Secretary William Cohen and some top Pentagon officials. ...

Ret. Army Brig. Gen. David Grange, the U.S. commander in Bosnia at that time, says Clark was so focused on succeeding that "he would maybe not be cognizant of some of the feelings or concerns of some of the people around him.'' ...

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Marc Cisneros recalls ... Clark "just outright lied'' when confronted, and denied to Cisneros ... "I worry about his ethical standards regarding honesty and forthrightness,'' Cisneros said. ...

Clark campaign spokesman Matt Bennett said no one, particularly a high achiever such as Clark, can go through a 34-year career without ruffling some feathers or bruising egos. Further, the campaign pointed to a number of former generals who speak well of Clark.

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