Naked City

The General Gives 'Em Hell

"Kosova's Son," a reference to his Balkan military campaign, was among the welcoming signs Monday afternoon for Wesley Clark's Wooldridge Park rally in support of his recently declared bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Also among the quickly recycled "Draft Clark" posters were a few homemade "Give 'Em Hell, Wes" banners, which Clark acknowledged in Trumanesque terms: "We're gonna give [Bush] the truth, and they think it's hell!"

Clark had been a bit late for the rally -- kicked off by songsters Eliza Gilkyson and (Clark's cousin) Shelley King -- and former U.S. representative and state Supreme Court Justice Bob Gammage was himself drafted as Clark's warm-up. He described the former general as "worth waiting for" and a candidate who would provide the "missing ingredient" on the crowded Democratic primary slate. Under the Bush administration, said Gammage, "I saw my country going into the toilet," and he described Clark as just the man to pull it back from the brink.

Clark arrived behind a phalanx of a dozen or so legislators, among the 19 Democratic representatives -- from Gabi Canales of Alice to Miguel Wise of Weslaco -- that Laredo's Richard Raymond listed as having declared their endorsement of the newly minted Democrat. (Also among the supporters on stage: Austin Council Member Brewster McCracken.) Clark, explaining his late entry into party politics as a consequence of his 34-year military career, said that after considering his views on issues -- pro-affirmative action, pro-choice, pro-education, pro-health care, pro-environment, pro-jobs -- he realized, "I could be the loneliest Republican in America, or a happy Democrat." He said that while he was probably "the newest Democrat in this assembly, I believe we'll bring a lot of other people like me" to the party during his campaign.

Clark denounced Bush's entry into an "unnecessary" war and said the White House seems to believe its biggest problem abroad is "that our allies have democracies." He charged that the Bush administration "doesn't have policies, it has politics," and called for an independent commission to investigate the recent leak to the media of the name of a CIA agent, an apparent retaliation for her husband's criticizing the president's misuse of flawed intelligence about Iraqi nuclear weapons. "The Department of Justice of John Ashcroft," said Clark, "is not the right agency to restore the credibility of the intelligence community."

Clark, one of several Democratic candidates to swing through Austin this week, said he expected to be back in Texas several times before the spring primaries.

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Wesley Clark, Bob Gammage, Richard Raymond, John Ashcroft, George W. Bush

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