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May 3, 2004
Brownstein Clueless on VP Candidates -- Or Kerry Is

The LA Times' Ron Brownstein, who normally has good connections to the Democrats, comes up with two laughable candidates for the VP slot: Bob Kerrey and Wesley Clark. Not that these two wouldn't have their supporters -- but based on recent experience, they would only add to John Kerry's liabilities instead of balancing the ticket. Brownstein sees it differently:

Conspicuously missing from that list are candidates who could reinforce Kerry's national security credentials.

But two might deserve more attention than they have received. Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, who won a Medal of Honor in Vietnam, was an early hawk on Al Qaeda and Hussein and has reemerged through the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks as a powerful voice for a comprehensive assault on terrorism.

Even more intriguing is a name that has attracted even less attention: former NATO Supreme Commander and 2004 Democratic presidential contender Wesley K. Clark. The irony is that Clark probably would be generating more buzz as a potential vice president if he hadn't sought his party's nomination. The consensus in Democratic circles is that the retired Army general dimmed his prospects through an uneven performance on the campaign trail.

Brownstein bases his recommendation for Clark on his defense of Kerry on the medals flap last week, which amounted to "if you didn't serve, you can't criticize," which is just flat-out wrong. So far, Kerry's entire message has been "Vote for me, I got medals for my Vietnam service," which convinced Democrats that he could stand up to Bush on the war. Unfortunately, when he did stand up, all he's proposed to change is the man in the Oval Office. If he wants to keep putting his Vietnam Service as his chief qualification for the Presidency, then he'd better quit griping when his opponents mention that those medals still remain in his office despite his showy act of throwing them over the White House fence in 1971.

Besides, Clark's performance wasn't merely "uneven", it bordered on the unbalanced. Expect any Clark VP bid to be met with Clark's views on abortion, which he insisted should be legal until the moment of birth, an extremist viewpoint from which he incoherently backed away a few days later. Clark will also need to answer for his own policy flip-flops, which threatened to overtake Kerry's reversals earlier in the campaign, on his support for Bush as late as spring 2003 in editorial columns. Not a good choice at all.

As for the other Kerrey, the former Senator has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts with the 9/11 Commission, but with the grandstanding of the public hearings, that may not play as well as hoped on the general-election stage. First off, Kerrey has tried to make an argument for pre-emptive action in Afghanistan pre-9/11, which makes hay of any argument that war in Iraq was ill-advised. (Which threat needed to be taken more seriously in January 2001 -- the one that pinned down tens of thousands of American military personnel, where missiles were fired at American patrols, or the one that had shelter from an extremist Islamic government in a remote region, surrounded by nations hostile to the US? Tough call to differentiate.) His fumbling of Condoleezza Rice's name, over and over again, does not lend a sense of intellectual skill to Kerrey; how hard is it to distinguish between an old white guy and a younger black woman, anyway?

Brownstein also makes the mistake of thinking that a focus on economy helps Kerry, a mistake the Democrats will recognize as the economy grows stronger and more jobs continue to appear, but that's another post for another day. Either Brownstein has lost the story line at the Kerry campaign by focusing on these two poor choices, or the Kerry VP selection committee has really had the wheels come off. I suspect we'll be seeing either Bill Richardson or John Edwards at the bottom of the ticket in July.

UPDATE: Okay, McQ, you're on ... He puts it so well, and so succinctly, at QandO:

Clark is a loose cannon in political terms. He doesn't have the temperment nor the experience to weather a campaign well ... especially as the second fiddle.

With the Kerry campaign already adrift, Clark would be the spark in the powder magazine to sink it completely (and you may quote me on that Capn' Ed.)


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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 3, 2004 7:02 AM

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Tracked on May 3, 2004 8:41 PM

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