Sunday :: Jan 4, 2004

Dean Survives Another Debate, Gets Rejected By Clark


by Steve

In looking at several accounts of today’s debate in Iowa, the conventional wisdom seems to be that Howard Dean took the usual number of shots from his Democratic adversaries and came away just fine. David Broder makes the point in tomorrow’s Post that the other Democrats tried unsuccessfully to get Dean to lose his temper, but Dean came away unscathed once again.

Dan Balz of the Post, who has the Page One lead tomorrow on the debate, says:

Dean's opponents, hoping to slow down his front-running candidacy, ganged up on him during a two-hour debate that took place 15 days before Iowa's precinct caucuses, the first major event on the 2004 nomination calendar. But the attacks mostly covered ground the candidates have plowed in past debates, and Dean responded with measured answers and occasional barbs of his own that did little to change the shape of the race.

Adam Nagourney of the Times also took the line that Dean came out of the debate just fine.

But the real news of the day was the flat-out rejection by Wesley Clark of a second spot on a Dean-lead ticket, and the somewhat withering reason he gave. Clark, who skipped the debate in Iowa today since he has bypassed Iowa to focus on New Hampshire and the states just after the Granite State, went a step beyond rejecting a second spot on the ticket during a Meet the Press appearance and gave another soundbite to Karl Rove in the process.

Retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark said yesterday Democratic presidential front-runner Howard Dean lacks foreign policy expertise and "absolutely" ruled out becoming the former governor's running mate if Clark fails to win the nomination.

Clark told NBC's "Meet the Press" that he had no interest in playing second fiddle to the Democratic nominee to strengthen the ticket with his extensive national security résumé.

Last week, Clark said, "I don't want to be Howard Dean's Dick Cheney," which he explained as his opposition to propping up a presidential candidate weak on national security issues. When asked yesterday whether Dean lacks foreign policy expertise, Clark said yes, but added that if George W. Bush is qualified to be president, his eight rivals are, too.

"I just don't believe that, at this time in American history, the Democratic Party can field candidates who can only represent the education, health, job and compassionate sides of the party. We have to be a full-spectrum party. We have to deal with the challenges facing America at home and the challenges facing America abroad," he told NBC.

Ouch. Well, that should put to rest once and for all any talk about a Dean/Clark ticket. And whom may Dean be looking at for a VP nominee, assuming he himself gets the nomination?

Dean has acknowledged that he may need to plug a hole in his résumé by choosing a strong national security figure if he wins the nomination. Clark would be an obvious choice, but he would not be the only one. Sen. Bob Graham (Fla.), who dropped out of the race last year, and former senator Sam Nunn (Ga.) are among several Democrats with the twin attractions of foreign policy stature and southern roots. Among other possibilities are New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the Clinton administration's ambassador to the United Nations, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.). Dean has a penchant for the unexpected, which could lead him toward an African American leader, a woman or one of his other rivals.

The most likely name on that list to me is Graham, who will be out of the Senate after 2004 but has the geography and background to help Dean. Graham, although bland, brings to the table national security bona fides, foreign policy, and inside-the-beltway experience, and may help with any chance the Dems would have with Florida. I cannot see for a moment Sam Nunn hooking up with Dean, if he rejected cabinet talk from fellow Southerner Bill Clinton. Richardson is not going to alienate his constituents in New Mexico by jumping for national office this soon, and if Dianne Feinstein didn’t want to run for governor of California, she isn’t about to tackle this campaign or the possibility of being the foreign policy Rock of Gibraltar for a Dean presidency.

Of course, if Dean really wanted to surprise folks and finish the job of cementing the party together with someone who has broad support amongst the base, a hawkish foreign policy, worldwide experience, and respect with our allies, he could reach back for someone who has already done the job successfully and loyally for eight years who can remind folks about how well things went during the 90's without baggage of his own.

Yes, the 22nd Amendment allows for this.

Steve :: 11:31 PM :: Comments (25) :: Digg It!