Peggy Noonan has a point:

Let me assert something that I cannot prove with a poll but that is based on serious conversations the past few months with Republicans and also normal people: 9/11 changed everything. Yes, I know you know that. But it has even changed how people who usually vote Republican think about Democratic candidates for president. Our No. 1 question used to be: Can we beat this guy easily? But now we feel the age of terrorism so profoundly challenges our country, and is so suggestive of future trauma and national pain, that our No. 1 question has become: Is he . . . normal? Just normal. Is he stable and adult and experienced?

Only then we ask if we can beat him.

The Democratic nominee in 2004 could win the election. There may be something to the idea that Democrats in general want to get rid of George W. Bush more than Republicans in general want to keep him. One of the men running in New Hampshire tonight could become the next president, and lead the war on terror. And our country cannot afford a bit of a nut.

Which get us of course to Howard Dean. But not for long. I do not know how Democrats in New Hampshire will judge him today, but I can say with confidence that the American people will not choose him as president, because they will not want him near the nuclear arsenal.

Which gets me to Wesley Clark. Forgive me, but he seems to be another first class strange-o. He has been called arrogant and opportunistic. That’s par for the course in politics, but what worries me about Gen. Clark is that it seems to be true to greater degrees than is usual.

She lists some of the gaffes and controversies that have been discussed here and elsewhere and concludes,

Gen. Clark gives off the vibrations of a man who has no real beliefs save one: Wes Clark should be president. The rest–the actual meaning of his candidacy–he seems to be making up as he goes along. It seems a candidacy void of purpose beyond meeting the candidate’s hunger. He is passionately for the war until he announces for the Democratic nomination facing an antiwar base, at which point he becomes passionately antiwar. He thanks God that George Bush and his aides are in the White House, then he says they’re the worst leaders ever. Anyone can change his mind; but this is not a change, it’s a swerve, and without a convincing rationale. Last week, Brit Hume asked Gen. Clark when it was that he’d “first noticed” that he–Gen. Clark–was a Democrat. There was laughter, but that was a nice big juicy softball. Gen. Clark flailed and fumbled. Later he blamed Mr. Hume for being a Republican agent.


And so my Democratic friends, patriots who vote Democratic and are voting in today’s primary and the ones down the road. Please. We will take Joe Lieberman or John Kerry or even young John Edwards, men who appear to be somewhere in the normal range. We need a person who could rally the nation on a terrible day, and who could arguably meet the security demands the age requires. We can’t afford flip-outs, or people who are too obviously creepy. Just a person in the normal range. Is that asking too much?

But, as with Dean, I suspect the Democratic nominating electorate will figure this out in short order. Clark is already fading. Barring a huge surprise in New Hampshire today, it’s looking more and more like a Kerry-Edwards race to me.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I liked some of the points Peggy made in this column, since I’m no fan of Clark, but gosh, Wes is sinking, and the whole point of the column — pleading with Dems not to vote for Clark felt Dowdian in its irrelevancy.

  2. James Joyner says:

    One of the disadvantages of published op-eds, as opposed to blogging, is time lag. When she wrote was prescient Sunday morning. It’s dated Tuesday afternoon. 🙂