When I seen Howard Fineman on a talk show, he always strikes me more as a gossip than a journalist. His latest dish:
Last January, at a conference in Switzerland, he happened to chat with two prominent Republicans, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and Marc Holtzman, now president of the University of Denver. “I would have been a Republican,” Clark told them, “if Karl Rove had returned my phone calls.” Soon thereafter, in fact, Clark quit his day job and began seriously planning to enter the presidential race—as a Democrat. Messaging NEWSWEEK by BlackBerry, Clark late last week insisted the remark was a “humorous tweak.” The two others said it was anything but. “He went into detail about his grievances,” Holtzman said. “Clark wasn’t joking. We were really shocked.
I know a lot of dishonest Republican politicians. Republican politicians who possess a sense of humor are decidedly more rare. Apparently, Clark didn’t deny saying it. He just said it was a joke. Sounds like a joke to me. I don't necessarily doubt that he aired grievances with the Bush administration. He's still doing it. Clearly Bush's policies disgust him. But it seems highly unlikely that the same Clark that Bill Clinton, Madeline Albright, Richard Holbroke and so many other Dems think so highly of was just a Karl Rove call away from being a Republican. And for what purpose? To run against Dubya? Replace Cheney? What would have possibly been offered that compared to what he's aiming for now? And what is this suppose to imply? “Soon thereafter, in fact, Clark quit his day job and began seriously planning to enter the presidential race—as a Democrat.” Ah hah!
For a soldier returning from Viet Nam needing a year of rehab to learn to walk without a limp, one can seen why Clark would have supported Nixon. Some Democratic leaning citizens at the time didn’t always have the warmest welcome for returning soldiers. One can also understand why an officer would have voted for Reagan—a failed rescue of Iranian held hostages under Carter was demoralizing for many in the military. Besides, so many Democrats even voted for Reagan they were dubbed “Reagan Democrats.” And Dukakis? Well, seeing him in a tank may have been too much for many soldiers, particularly one who oversaw tank divisions.
But he’s voted Democratic the last three elections. I wasn’t in the booth with him, but if he was going to lie about that he could have just as easily lied about Nixon and Reagan. He seemed to have formed good relationships with many in the Clinton administration and contrary to what has sometimes been said, Clinton didn’t “fire” him—William Cohen did. Those decisions are generally made by the Secretary of Defense who, in this case, was the lone Republican in Clinton’s cabinet. Moreover, for what its worth, his father was apparently active in the Democratic Party.
Want more? Perhaps you witnessed this exchange:
BLITZER: But during the war, early in April, Tom DeLay, the majority leader in the House, really hammered you directly. I want you to listen to what he told our Judy Woodruff then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: Frankly, what irritates me the most are these blow-dried Napoleons that come on television and, in some cases, have their own agendas.
General Clark is one of them that is running for president, yet he's paid to be an expert on your network. And he's questioning the plan and raising doubts as he becomes this expert.
I think they would serve the nation better if they would just comment on what they see and what they know, rather than putting their own agenda forward as an expert.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Well, pretty strong words from Tom DeLay going after you. What do you say to that criticism?
CLARK: Well, first of all, I'd be happy to compare my hair with Tom DeLay's. We'll see who's got the blow-dried hair. But beyond that, Wolf, he's got it exactly backward. It's upside down. I am saying what I believe. And I'm being drawn into the political process because of what I believe and what I've said about it.
So it's precisely the opposite of a man like Tom DeLay, who is only motivated by politics and says whatever he needs to say to get the political purpose. And so, you know, it couldn't be more diametrically opposed, and I couldn't be more opposed than I am to Tom DeLay.
You know, Wolf, when our airmen were flying over Kosovo, Tom DeLay led the House Republicans to vote not to support their activities, when American troops were in combat. To me, that's a real indicator of a man who is motivated not by patriotism or support for the troops, but for partisan political purposes.
BLITZER: Well, he was hammering you, and you're hammering right back.
You think Clark is still a little peeved at the almost total lack of support that the Republicans showed when he was trying to win a war?
Connect the dots, Howard. You’ve been had.
UPDATE Via Chronicles of an Anti-Apathetic: Thanks to those crazy whack-jobs at the Weakly Standard (who have compensated for Howard Fineman's lack of legwork) we know that Clark was being honest when he indicated that his remark about calling Karl Rove was, in fact, a joke. The best part is that they are so eager to play "gotcha", they don't realize they have proven him honest. Remember what I said about a sense of humor being decidedly rare among the Right Wing?
Clark Never Called Karl
Wesley Clark says he would have been a Republican if Karl Rove had returned his phone calls. White House phone logs suggest otherwise.
by Matthew Continetti
09/22/2003 1:45:00 PM
Matthew Continetti, editorial assistant
WHEN WILL Wesley Clark stop telling tall tales? In the current issue of Newsweek, Howard Fineman reports Clark told Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and University of Denver president Mark Holtzman that "I would have been a Republican if Karl Rove had returned my phone calls."
Unfortunately for Clark, the White House has logged every incoming phone call since the beginning of the Bush administration in January 2001. At the request of THE DAILY STANDARD, White House staffers went through the logs to check whether Clark had ever called White House political adviser Karl Rove. The general hadn't. What's more, Rove says he doesn't remember ever talking to Clark, either.
Fortunately for Clark, ya genius.