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Michael Moore, the loudest, most visible (and, to many, most annoying) voice of the American Left surprised me a few weeks ago: he posted a letter on his website in strong support of Wesley Clark. Although Moore was cautious not to label the letter an “endorsement,” Moore’s letter clearly backed Clark as a presidential candidate. “[N]ow is the time for all good people from the far left to the middle of the road to bury the damn hatchet and get together behind someone who is not only good on the issues but can beat George W. Bush…” Moore wrote. “General, I know you are the kind of candidate that the average American will vote for.”
As I read the letter, I thought to myself, does Moore really know Wesley Clark? Does he know the Clark who backed the campaigns of Nixon, Reagan, and Bush I, and even showed support for Bush II? Does he know that Clark is up in the air on affirmative action policy, opposes gays serving openly in the military, and is not very critical of the Patriot Act? Or that he’s in favor of nominating Supreme Court justices with “moderate views” and increasing military spending? Or that he has provided almost no plans or promises to improve health care coverage for the poor or improve public education?
Apparently not. Or, apparently, he doesn’t care. The only thing that has thrust Clark into Moore’s good graces and into the national spotlight is the strange—yet compelling fact—that, despite being a high-ranking military official, he opposed the war in Iraq. The fact that Clark actually has flip-flopped on the issue of whether or not he would’ve voted for a war in Iraq doesn’t seem to concern Moore, or the American Left, all that much. What Moore cares about is that Clark, on paper at least, is anti-war, and that he has the best chance of beating Bush. Moore is probably right; according to a CNN.com poll with over one million respondents, 87 percent believe that, of the democratic candidates, Clark has the best chance of beating Bush.
What shocks me about Moore’s letter in support of Clark is that Moore wrote it. The millions who support Moore expect his politics to come from the far-far Left, not the Clintonian middle ground, and rightfully so. This is the same guy who exposed and humiliated General Motors C.E.O. Roger Smith as a depraved corporate crook in Roger and Me and publicly lambasted Nike C.E.O. Phil Knight as a supporter of child labor in The Big One. This is a guy whose entire career has been defined by an unabashed and ruthless brand of Leftist principle (often at the expense of unprepared corporate officials and conservative bureaucrats), someone who represents moral outrage and progressive idealism, not pragmatic politics.
And yet, I can’t blame Moore. For the first time in my life, I too am strongly considering voting with my head, not with my heart. I’m considering voting for a guy (Clark) who I distrust personally (is it just me, or does it seem a little bit strange and unrealistic for a life-long Republican to turn into a progressive overnight?), think is too weak on almost every issue, and who, at the moment, doesn’t even seem politically competent enough to carry out a campaign, let alone run a nation. I’m actually considering voting for a guy who I think could be a bad President.
If I do abandon ideals for pragmatism, it’s out of a very real, very intense fear. A fear that my vote for a candidate other than Clark could help re-elect perhaps the most provocative, dangerous man ever to run this country. A fear that, by 2008, America will have rejected dozens of other international treaties and mandates, invaded Iran and North Korea, and alienated itself from its allies and the rest of the world. Most of all, a fear that America will suffer serious, perhaps even nuclear, attacks—a fear that I might die before the age of 30 if Bush continues to run this country.
Ralph Nader would be furious to hear me talking this way. He’d argue that I should vote for the truly progressive candidate, because there’d be no difference between Clark and Bush anyway. Four years ago, I believed Nader when he gave me the same rap about Al Gore and Bush. Since then, I’ve realized that Nader was either lying to get more votes, had no clue how much of a maniac Bush really was, or both. Sure, maybe Gore would have cut social programs, given tax refunds to the rich, and rejected some of the international treaties that Bush rejected. But it’s hard for me to believe that Gore would have had the audacity/idiocy to invade another country against U.N. mandates. There is no way in hell that Gore would have matched Bush’s eagerness to fight wars and anger other nations. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think Gore is even capable of muttering something like “Bring ’em on.”
From what he’s shown us so far, Wesley Clark is nowhere near progressive. Who knows if he’s not just a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a conservative masquerading as a Born-Again Liberal? I certainly don’t. I doubt he’ll really improve health care and education, substantially reduce poverty, or crack down on big business. But I do have faith that Clark is intelligent, and, above all, levelheaded. And these two attributes alone make a world of difference between a Clark presidency and a Bush presidency. And so, it’s probably wise for me, and you, to take the path of least resistance. Clark won’t necessarily be a great president, but he also won’t destroy America, and the rest of the world, by 2008. I’m convinced that Bush will, and we shouldn’t let him.
Sam Graham-Felsen ’03-’04 is a social studies concentrator affiliated with Quincy House. His column appears on alternate Tuesdays.
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