1. A couple of months ago I was contacted by someone working on behalf of Wesley Clark. He had just read something I wrote about the general and he wasn't happy.
"Last Monday, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, General Wesley Clark (Ret.) ascended the dais to give a speech at a small convention on the "real" State of the Union 2006. On the face of it, it was a frank, gloves-off speech without the glitz and spin of the official State of the Union Speech made annually by the president to Congress, which took place on Tuesday. Only on the face of it, however, since it was obvious that Clark, the keynote speaker, still dreams of being president one day. His rather ingenuous 2004 bid for the Democratic Party's nomination did not take away his taste for the race, and his speech showed it."
The man, as I said, wasn't happy. Why are you against him? he asked. I promised that I wasn't, which was true. Back then.
2. In our Israel Factor, the monthly ranking of potential Presidential nominees, Clark got somewhat mediocre marks, but was not among those who were evidently out of favor. Take a look at the marks he got in the first four surveys and you'll see him somewhere in the middle. Is the candidate likely to change his position after the election, we asked, and the panel said, again, that he wasn't among those most likely to do so.
3. The panel was right. Why change after the election when you can do it before the race has begun? Yesterday, an interview with Clark was published that makes him look pretty bad. Tired of using the word anti-Semitic, I'll just say that he seemed, well, angry.
4. For those of you who didn't read the Clark interview in the Huffington Post, here it is:
Clark is talking about the possibility of military action against Iran:
"How can you talk about bombing a country when you won't even talk to them?" said Clark. "It's outrageous. We're the United States of America; we don't do that. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the military option is off the table - but diplomacy is not what Jim Baker says it is. It's not, 'what will it take for you boys to support us on Iraq?' It's sitting down for a couple of days and talking about our families and our hopes, and building relationships."
When we asked him what made him so sure the Bush administration was headed in this direction, he replied: "You just have to read what's in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided, but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers."
4. Gee, what can he possibly mean by "pressure being channeled from the New York money people"?
5. Two aspects of these ramblings I find worthy of comment. First: how and why has it become so easy to speak in this way about the Jews? Second: What does it mean politically?
6. It is, actually, rather troubling, even scary. People in elite circles somehow came to the conclusion that denouncing the Jewish community and its support for Israel is now becoming acceptable. Walt and Mersheimer came first, then former president Carter, now Clark - and we already have a new trend on our hands. A Jewish leader with whom I spoke yesterday asked me this most disquieting question: Is the ice thinner than one might have thought?
7. Politically, it is voices coming from the Democratic party, again, a nuance that the Republican Jewish Coalition could hardly miss. Yesterday, it released a statement "strongly condemned 'blatantly anti-semitic' remarks made by Retired General Wesley Clark in an interview with Arianna Huffington and urged the Democrat presidential aspirant to apologize... This is yet another sign that the veiled and not-so-veiled anti-Semitic sentiments that are rampant in the left-wing blogosphere are seeping into the 'mainstream' of Democrats' political discourse."
Now, we all know this is partisan politics. But what can we say? Facts are facts.
"It's a sign that pro-Israel sentiment is not as strong in Democratic politics as it used to be," writes Michael Barone in his blog. Democratic leaders have already distanced themselves from Carter's book and statements on Israel. What will they do now, distance themselves again? Will Hillary Clinton, the New York nominee, distance herself from a man who was her husband's protégé?
8. In early 2004, I met Clark in New Hampshire as he made his rounds to win the hearts and minds of potential voters. We chatted for ten minutes in a coffee shop - it was unplanned, I was sitting there and he just entered. When he heard I was from Israel he immediately jumped with the story, familiar to all by then, of his Jewish roots. I'm willing to bet he is going to use this again as he attempts clarifies the remarks he made.
Note: Some corrections were made to this article after it was already posted.