A Call to Arms

General Wesley Clark Stumps His Way to Santa Barbara

by Ethan Stewart

With 11 days until November’s election, General Wesley Clark (pictured) headlined a last-minute Democratic fundraising dinner at the Earl Warren Showgrounds Friday night, no doubt eyeing his own run for the White House in 2008. Under the official guise of keynote speaker at the second annual Jefferson and Jackson Dinner — sponsored by the local nonprofit Democratic group Be For Change — Clark was joined by Congressmember Lois Capps and blogging activist Brad Friedman in the decidedly left-leaning cheerleading affair. In addition to blasting the Bush administration, Clark warned the public about potential vote-counting scandals and urged the 400-some people in attendance to undo the mistakes of 2000 and 2004 by “taking the country back” this November 7.

Dancing around the issue of his possible presidential candidacy, Clark declared, “Tonight is not about 2008. It’s about 2006, and it’s about right now, and it’s about taking this country back!” Echoing Capps’s statements earlier in the evening, Clark stressed the importance of Congressional races vital to a blue comeback in the House of Representatives. In addition to the race for an open seat in Nevada’s historically Republican 2nd District, Clark harped on important California races, such as the 4th District battle pitting Democrat Charlie Brown against incumbent Republican John Doolittle, and the 11th District face-off between Republican Richard Pombo and Democrat Jerry McNerney.

However, it wasn’t long before Clark — who was a short-lived challenger in the 2004 Democratic presidential primary, due in large part to a sudden fanatical wave of Internet-based support — got off the stump and went on the offensive, taking distinct and strong shots at President Bush and the Republican Party. Describing military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq as “failing” and our current state of domestic affairs as a “national security meltdown,” the retired four-star general and one-time Supreme Allied Commander of NATO’s European Army accused the Republicans of having no real strategy for the Persian Gulf region. “You cannot win the war on terrorism unless you make more friends than enemies in the world. … And you cannot win the fighting in Iraq by killing people,” intoned Clark.

The evening concluded with a heartfelt standing ovation in a Warren Hall awash in blue balloons, high hopes, Uncle Sam hats, and the acoustic patriotism of “This Land Is Your Land” belted out by local activist Marion Shapiro. In his closing remarks, Clark warned the audience that Democrats “must become a full-service party” if they want to start winning elections. Delivering a speech on topics ranging from healthcare, education, and national security issues to North Korea, Iran, and the eventual pullout from Iraq, Clark seemed to be trying to do just that, even if he isn’t technically running for president — at least not yet.

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