Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Notoriously cagey straight talk-- huh?

Josh Marshall is one of the brightest, most influential bloggers out there. But this one perplexes me a bit. From Marshall:

'One of the big attractions of ex-military candidates is straight talk. Always has been. It signals a no-nonsensism that's one of the big attractions. Yet a while back I remember Clark not only being cagey about whether he was going to be a candidate (that's certainly understandable) but even which party's nomination he'd run for. And that falls a bit short on the no nonsense test.'

A number of readers have written in to say that this same caginess about party affiliation was practiced by Eisenhower and Powell. (For that matter the same applies to Grant.)

That's true. But it misses the point. For various reasons there was a real question about which party the others would choose, what their real politics were. But the same is hardly true for Clark. He's not running for [the] Republican nomination. He's considering whether to run as a Democrat, period. No question about it.

Because of that, the equivocation sounds odd. Believe me, I have no interest in criticizing Clark. I'm quite intrigued by his potential candidacy. And one stray comment is hardly a big deal. But the comparison to Eisenhower's notorious caginess strikes me as quite inapt.

First, I have heard Clark say he has not declared a party affiliation, which I think would not be unusual for a military man who was in his position, but that he would not run as a Republican. While that makes the calculus fairly simple, his decision to run would come after a career of not be overtly partisan, like the other generals Marshall references. If being politically shrewd on Clark's part negates him being a "straight talker" in general, how did "notorious caginess" on Eisenhower's part translate into him being "straight talker?"


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