Michael Totten

Mainstreaming the Fringe

Wesley Clark is supposed to be the alternative to Howard Dean. He’s the man with a military uniform who projects an image – an image – of credibility on national security.
Here is Jay Nordlinger:

In a recent column, I attributed the following comment to [Wesley Clark]: that President Bush “is more concerned about the success of Halliburton than having a success strategy in Iraq.” The Associated Press reported that Clark had said it; Reuters reported that his spokesman, Chris Lehane, had said it. It seems that it was Lehane.
Either way, the remark is in perfect harmony with current Clarkian rhetoric.
The general has told us, “I’m one of those people who doesn’t believe in occupying countries to extract their natural resources. I think you buy them on the world market.”

I agree with Wesley Clark. We should never occupy countries to extract their natural resources. I mean, for crying out loud, what kind of person could support such a policy? Thank goodness I’ve never heard a single person say they do, never read a single column by any writer supporting anything like it.
The problem, of course, is that Wesley Clark is obviously implying that some people do think we ought to invade other countries to steal their resources. And we all know who that is. Iraq was all about ooooooil. According to Wesley Clark.
But let’s not photoshop a tin-foil hat onto the general just yet.
I don’t believe for a minute that Wesley Clark has bought what he’s selling. This is a cynical Say-Anything-To-Get-Elected moment. He’s trying to siphon votes from Howard Dean.
That’s what politicians do. But he’s mainstreaming the fringe while he’s at it.
Try to imagine mainstream Republican candidates ranting about Satanic Darwinists on school boards and black helicopters in Montana. The moderate middle would scramble to the left as fast as you can say boo!
The 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston was really something. This was where Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan declared a fundamentalist Culture War on America. Blame Ross Perot on Bill Clinton’s ’92 victory if you want to. But that turkey show in Houston kept me and a lot of other people out of the GOP for a decade.
Wesley Clark and his rival Howard Dean are doing what the Republicans did twelve years ago – stirring up the fringe for votes and attention. They are letting loose forces that will not soon vanish, that cannot be accomodated, that will be their own undoing.
I know of so many people who have never supported Republicans who are shaken and disillusioned by what is happening to the Democrats. I don’t know of a single person, anywhere, who is moving the other direction.
The damage will last a long time.
UPDATE: Mithras says I took Clark’s quote out of context. Here is the full context. Okay, so Clark was referring to the occupation rather than the invasion. Still, saying we are occupying Iraq to extract resources is hardly less batty than saying we invaded Iraq to extract resources. Either way, I still don’t think Clark believes what he’s saying. He’s pandering. And he’s pandering to the fringe.
Oliver Willis thinks that because I found Clark’s quote from Jay Nordlinger my entire argument is invalid.

Michael Totten masters alchemy in the act of extracting the idea from stone that Democrats are becoming extremists – get this – from a National Review story…Newsmax says Tom Daschle eats baby’s brains. It must be true.

The same quote can be found at clark04.com. Oliver, you may not like National Review but they aren’t in the habit of making up quotes from scratch.
UPDATE: Nathan Hamm and Randal Robinson comment.