Gingrich’s Gaffes and Wesley Clark’s

The New York Times’ Michael Shear has a piece today (5/19/11) reminding readers that presidential candidates often have early stumbles of the sort that Newt Gingrich has been having. He recalls several examples, most of which don’t really offer much hope for Gingrich. One is Wesley Clark’s brief 2004 campaign:

In 2004, General Clark’s campaign was premised on his military credentials and his critique of President George W. Bush and the Iraq War. So when the general said, within days of announcing, that he might have voted to authorize the Iraq War, it was a big deal.

That’s not exactly how it happened.

FAIR played a pretty prominent role in this story, pointing out in a press release (9/16/03) that Clark’s supposed anti-war credentials were mostly a fiction. The media chatter at the time was that Clark was strongly opposed to the Iraq War, which in the corporate media’s worldview was a serious problem for him. But as FAIR pointed out, Clark was hardly a critic of the war:

On the question of Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, Clark seemed remarkably confident of their existence. Clark told CNN‘s Miles O’Brien that Saddam Hussein “does have weapons of mass destruction.” When O’Brien asked, “And you could say that categorically?” Clark was resolute: “Absolutely” (1/18/03). When CNN‘s Zahn (4/2/03) asked if he had any doubts about finding the weapons, Clark responded: “I think they will be found. There’s so much intelligence on this.”

After the fall of Baghdad, any remaining qualms Clark had about the wisdom of the war seemed to evaporate. “Liberation is at hand. Liberation–the powerful balm that justifies painful sacrifice, erases lingering doubt and reinforces bold actions,” Clark wrote in a London Times column (4/10/03). “Already the scent of victory is in the air.” Though he had been critical of Pentagon tactics, Clark was exuberant about the results of “a lean plan, using only about a third of the ground combat power of the Gulf War. If the alternative to attacking in March with the equivalent of four divisions was to wait until late April to attack with five, they certainly made the right call.”

After the FAIR release started circulating, reporters asked Clark about his position on the war. And that’s what caused him the trouble–he was unable to live up to the storyline that much of the media were pushing.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.