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Signs of Life

The Note reports:

Spotted on Capitol Hill yesterday: Wes Clark, speaking, according to a source who was there, to a standing-room-only gathering of Democratic Senate staffers with a national security bent. Clark gave an upbeat account of the Party's fight to forge policy alternatives to President Bush's plans. He urged Democrats to stop talking about exit strategies and timelines and focus on how to win in Iraq.

He also joined Leaders Reid and Pelosi for a closed-door meeting of their newly announced National Security Advisory Group, including bold-faced names Perry and Albright.

They frame this as an early, early, early look at the '08 field which is very Note of them. The important thing here, though, is less that Wesley Clark was on the Hill than that his appearance attracted a standing-room-only gathering of Democratic Senate staffers eager to here what he had to say. This seems to indicate to me that the National Security Advisory Group concept will actually go somewhere, with its members actually doing stuff, and staffers and legislators actually paying some attention. Ezra Klein is right to say that the politics of security are largely about image (the politics of everything are), but the important thing to note is that you can't just whip up some issues and an "image" cooked to order when it comes time to run a presidential campaign. You need to have some idea of what it is you're trying to market, and some experience with various people actually trying to market it. And perhaps most important of all, one key element of "image" is not looking uncomfortable discussing these topics, and one easy way to do that is to actually be comfortable and confident that you know what you're talking about and understand where you want to take the country.

March 15, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

Mr. Yglesias,

May I once again make my suggestion -

You are in an excellent position to improve the Democratic image on national defense, as you have the medium and the standing to press Harvard to restore ROTC.

This is just one measure among many other possible ones, but it seems like an obvious and painless one.

The poor Democratic image on the subject is to a large degree a cultural matter.

Posted by: luisalegria | Mar 15, 2005 1:51:35 PM

Is Clark or is Perry running this thing?

Posted by: praktike | Mar 15, 2005 1:53:10 PM

Is Clark or is Perry running this thing?

Posted by: praktike | Mar 15, 2005 1:55:48 PM

The National Security Advisory Group has been around since at least 2003. According to this the group had (has?) ten members:

Note: the National Security Advisory Group, established at the request of the Democratic leadership in the Senate, consists of ten senior defence and national security officials from the 1993-2001 administrations of President Bill Clinton: William J. Perry (chair), former Defense Secretary, Madeleine K. Albright, former Secretary of State, Samuel R. Berger, former National Security Adviser, Louis Caldera, former Secretary of the Army, Ashton B.Carter, former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Retired General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Michele Flournoy, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Alfonso E. Lenhardt, John D. Podesta, former White House Chief of Staff, John Shalikashvili, former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall.

Posted by: Mark | Mar 15, 2005 1:56:26 PM

"He urged Democrats to stop talking about exit strategies and timelines and focus on how to win in Iraq."

Agree with Clark.

Posted by: Movie Guy | Mar 15, 2005 1:57:51 PM

Larry Summers wants to restore ROTC to Harvard too. If Larry can't do it, I can't see how MY will be able to do it either. (It also isn't a matter of national security that Harvard ROTC students have to travel to MIT in order to train.)

Posted by: joe o | Mar 15, 2005 2:01:26 PM

Very bizarre for Clark to talk like that. Enlistment is down 30%, and that probably understates the problem. I am sick of policy makers talking about issues without any regard to people's lives. The American people do not want this war, never did. That is why no one is enlisting.

Posted by: Alice Marshall | Mar 15, 2005 2:04:09 PM

Good post Matt. The need to have an overall world vision and strategy is immense.

Posted by: KevinA | Mar 15, 2005 2:05:02 PM

No, the actual inconvenience imposed on Harvard ROTC people isn't a huge deal. It is, however, more inconvenient than simply traveling to MIT because MIT and Harvard are on different vacation schedules. The main point, though, is simply that the symbolism is bad. Obviously, I don't have a huge personal say in Harvard's policy on this regard, but what Summers needs is support from the alumni and that would be, well, me.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias | Mar 15, 2005 2:05:21 PM

Mr. Joe O,

Some reinforcement from the left, in the form of an endorsement by the Prospect, would be of some use to Mr. Summers I think. An idea needs to be planted in the right circles, fed by the right sort of argument. I certainly can't say what sort of argument would work best in those circles, but Mr. Yglesias might.

As for the utility of the thing - it is mainly a gesture. But gestures can be important. Many other universities look to Harvard.

Posted by: luisalegria | Mar 15, 2005 2:09:39 PM

Alice Marshall:

I agree that we went into Iraq at the wrong time, in the wrong way, with awful execution, but be careful w/ your above assertion.

Before the invasion, support was quite high. It has dropped greatly since, but there is a pretty close split, if anything trending slightly up.

Posted by: KevinA | Mar 15, 2005 2:12:05 PM

If Clark wants to be a factor in '08, I suggest he run for something in '05 or '06. Dogcatcher, alderman, county sherrif, whatever, but some elected office where (a) he has to stand in front of real voters {as opposed to soldiers} and answer to them (b) he has a realistic chance of winning. And preferable does win.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer | Mar 15, 2005 2:28:11 PM

"Many other universities look to Harvard."

Because it SUCKS!

Posted by: praktike | Mar 15, 2005 2:33:43 PM

Dear luisalegria:

Why don’t you ooze on down to your nearest army recruiting office and put your oily charm to work there?

Posted by: Blue Iris | Mar 15, 2005 2:43:06 PM

"He urged Democrats to stop talking about exit strategies and timelines and focus on how to win in Iraq."

Alas, if only Kerry had done this...

Posted by: RC | Mar 15, 2005 3:05:33 PM

What the hell does 'Win in Iraq' mean?

Posted by: Davis X. Machina | Mar 15, 2005 3:13:59 PM

Problem/Job 1: what is the Democratic stand on "national defense"? Becuase if the Republican frame is that "defense" requires invading any nation-state that Cheney wants to invade, and that anyone who opposes such invasion is a "traitor", it is going to be very hard to come up with any frame or actual policy that will beat that one. "Oh, Clark is sucking up to the French now. I guess he turned gay after he left the Army the flag-burner".

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer | Mar 15, 2005 3:19:59 PM

Ms. Iris,

Alas, I am much too old. They would not let in a broken-down ancient specimen like me. I am no longer the spry youth who performed his military service (which included ROTC) in his native country thirty years ago.

Posted by: luisalegria | Mar 15, 2005 3:22:07 PM

> Alas, I am much too old. They would not let in a
> broken-down ancient specimen like me.

The Reserves are taking new applicants to 54, have called back many Vietnam vets (particuarly pilots), and have called back at least on 74 year old doctor. So there is still hope - get down there and ask!

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer | Mar 15, 2005 3:41:30 PM

What the hell does 'Win in Iraq' mean?

That is exactly the correct question for Democrats to ask and then answer. Without a definition of victory, the phrase 'Win in Iraq' is meaningless.

More importantly, Bush will never define victory because he lives in a simplistic world of jingles. If Kerry had asked and answered this question it would have been more apparent that far more than armies and bullets are required to achieve victory.

Posted by: Mark | Mar 15, 2005 3:51:37 PM

(It also isn't a matter of national security that Harvard ROTC students have to travel to MIT in order to train.)He didn't say that it was. But as a cultural touchstone it matters: Harvard's faculty's hostility to ROTC speaks symbolically about a perception that the Democrats are a) hostile to the military and serving men and women and b) fundamentally unserious about national security.

Posted by: Colin | Mar 15, 2005 3:55:54 PM

"Ms. Iris,

Alas, I am much too old. They would not let in a broken-down ancient specimen like me. I am no longer the spry youth who performed his military service (which included ROTC) in his native country thirty years ago. "

Posted by: luisalegria


Or sign up with Halliburton - I heard that they have a hard time hiring tanker drivers, for some strange reason.

Posted by: Barry | Mar 15, 2005 3:59:52 PM

Mr. Cranky,

I did, back in 2001. No, they won't take the likes of me and other middle-aged characters unless I was previously in the US military (no) and (especially) had some skill that they wanted, like helicopter pilots or airline pilots or surgeons, etc., with up-to-date skills (none of the above).

And we would need to be in top-notch physical condition rare among people our age.

Posted by: luisalegria | Mar 15, 2005 4:01:38 PM

Luis, didn't you say you were in the Phillipines' military?

Posted by: praktike | Mar 15, 2005 4:03:58 PM

Mr. Praktike,

I did my Philippine military service (they do it in high school - yes its strange) and went through the Philippine Navy ROTC course. But I never served in the regular Navy. There is intense competition to enter the regular Philippine armed forces.

Posted by: luisalegria | Mar 15, 2005 4:08:09 PM

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