Kerry, Dean Question Clark's Democratic Credentials
Wed September 24, 2003 07:02 PM ET
By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two Democratic rivals of retired Gen. Wesley Clark questioned his party credentials on Wednesday, wondering how a self-proclaimed Democrat could have voted for Republicans Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.
Clark, the former NATO commander who became the 10th Democrat in the 2004 presidential race last week, declared his party affiliation for the first time earlier this month but said he had voted for Reagan and Nixon for president.
Two of his chief rivals, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, said the votes called into question his commitment to the party and its priorities but said voters would be the ultimate judge.
"While he was voting for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, I was fighting against both their policies and what they did, frankly, to the average working person in this country," Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry told reporters.
"I'm confident that a lifetime of being a progressive, fighting Democrat will make a difference in this race," said Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran who opposed the war and Nixon's direction of it after he returned from Vietnam.
Dean, who has met with Clark several times to discuss foreign policy and other issues, told ABC's "Good Morning" that he was "surprised" to hear of Clark's support for Nixon and Reagan.
"That certainly doesn't disqualify him. Only the voters get to decide that," he said.
But asked if Clark was a "true Democrat," Dean said: "I think we have to find out about that. We don't know what all his positions are."
Clark spokesman Mark Fabiani said the former four-star general was trying to attract all Democrats, "including those who may have voted for Ronald Reagan. That's how you win elections."
He questioned Kerry's decision to focus on Clark's votes from 25 years ago and said it showed he lacked "a strong message about the future."...
If people who voted for Reagan aren't welcomed into the Party, we are doomed to minority status until a few generations have died off. Reagan appealed to alot of Democrats. Only about a third of the electorate is registered as Democrats and that percentage is shrinking each year. If Clark can make the case that the ideals he articulates are most at home in the Democratic Party there can be a realignment of the electorate. If Kerry and Dean want to insult Reagan Democrats they do so at their peril, and the party's.
I never voted for Reagan, but 20-24 years later, I don't really care who did. Reagan won his second term with 59% of the electorate and 525 electoral votes-- but Mondale was pure! Nixon won his second term with 61% of the vote and 520 electoral votes-- but McGovern was a "true Democrat", by gosh, by golly! "Fighting" John Kerry and "Doubting" Howard Dean don't care. So if you're reading this, and you ever voted for a Republican (including John McCain, New Hampshire voters) Kerry and Dean don't want your damn votes.
Seriously, this isn't 1972, 1980, 1984 or even 2000. It is 2004, people! If you haven't grown as a person over the last 20 years, you might agree with Kerry and Dean. If your thinking has ever evolved or if your views have ever been affected by changing events, then you should be able to wrap your brain around this concept. Clinton brought back many Reagan Democrats and independents who had previously voted Republican. Clark has allowed us to peek behind the curtain into his private voting booth. He didn't have to. This is only an issue because he was honest. Clinton ran a positive, inspiring campaign in 1992 that moved a lot of people. Clark was one of them. I was not bitter that everyone didn't bite the bullet with me on Dukakis in 1988. I was just glad ya'll came back! I want you to come back to stay-- and bring a friend!