CLARK ON MTP
I’ve finally gotten around to watching MTP via TiVo-delay and am amazed at how poorly Wesley Clark acquitted himself. After yet more time to reflect–even after getting hammered on the issue in the debate Thursday evening–he still won’t say that George W. Bush wasn’t a “deserter,” as Michael Moore asserted while standing next to Clark and endorsing him.
MR. RUSSERT: Is it appropriate to call the president of the United States a deserter?
GEN. CLARK: Well, you know, Tim, I wouldn’t have used that term and I don’t see the issues that way. This is an election about the future, and what’s at stake in this election is the future of how we’re going to move ahead with the economy, how we’re going to keep the United States safe and what kind of democracy we want to have, whether we want an open, transparent government or whether we want a very closed and secretive government. To me, those are the issues.
MR. RUSSERT: But words are important, and as you well know under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, if you’re a deserter, the punishment is death during war. Do you disassociate yourself from Michael Moore’s comments about the president?
GEN. CLARK: Well, I can’t use those words and I don’t see the issues in that way. But I will tell you this: that Michael Moore has the right to speak freely. I don’t screen what people say when they’re going to come up and say something like that. That’s his form of dissent, and I support freedom of speech in this country, and I would not have characterized the issues in that way. I think this is an election where we have to look at the future, not at the past.
MR. RUSSERT: The right of dissent is one thing, but is there any evidence that you know of that President Bush is a deserter from the United States armed forces?
GEN. CLARK: Well, I’ve never looked into those, Tim. I’ve heard those allegations. But I think this election has to turn on holding the president accountable for what he’s done in office and comparing who has the better vision to take the country forward.
MR. RUSSERT: One of your major supporters uses words like that. Isn’t that a distraction?
GEN. CLARK: Well, it’s not distracting me, and I don’t see any voters out there who are distracted by it. I’ve talked to people all across this state, and not one single person has mentioned that. I will tell you this about Michael Moore, though. I think he’s a man of conscience. I think he’s done a lot of great things for ordinary people, working people, across America. And I’m very happy to have his support. He’s free to say things, whatever he wants. I’m focused on the issues in this campaign and how to take America forward.
He also made this bizarre assertion:
Now, I spent most of my adult life making less than $100,000 a year. In fact, more than half my time in the Army, I made less than $50,000 a year. My mother was a secretary in a bank, and so we struggled, from the time I was a kid growing up all the way through my military career, with what we were going to do at the end of the month and whether we could afford to get a car repaired and what if the seats had a hole in them and how you were going to pay for braces, and all of those issues were important.
That’s absolute nonsense. While it’s true that military pay was comparatively meager before the Reagan build-up, it has not been the case in Clark’s lifetime that military officers had trouble affording car repairs and medical care for the kids. Indeed, second lieutenants tend to drive rather nice cars. And Clark’s kids would have been eligible for free orthodontic services at base hospitals. And, of course, $50,000 in the 1970s and 1980s was a lot more money than it is now.
See Steven Taylor’s post from this morning for more on this appearance.