Wesley Kanne Clark (born 23 December 1944) is a American politician, a retired four-star general of the U.S. Army, and a former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. He was a candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2004.
- I am saying what I believe. And I'm being drawn into the political process because of what I believe and what I've said about it.
So it's precisely the opposite of a man like Tom DeLay, who is only motivated by politics and says whatever he needs to say to get the political purpose. And so, you know, it couldn't be more diametrically opposed, and I couldn't be more opposed than I am to Tom DeLay.
You know, Wolf, when our airmen were flying over Kosovo, Tom DeLay led the House Republicans to vote not to support their activities, when American troops were in combat. To me, that's a real indicator of a man who is motivated not by patriotism or support for the troops, but for partisan political purposes.
- We live in a liberal democracy....That’s what we created in this country. I think we should be very clear on this. You know, this country was founded on the principles of the Enlightenment... It was the idea that people could talk, reason, have dialogue, discuss the issues. It wasn't founded on the idea that someone would get struck by a divine inspiration and know everything right from wrong. I mean, people who founded this country had religion, they had strong beliefs, but they believed in reason, in dialogue, in civil discourse. We can’t lose that in this country. We've got to get it back.
- But you don't have a chance if you can't find a job. I don't think it penetrates the minds of this Administration what it must be like for a factory worker to arrive home to his family with the news that he's been laid off. What it must be like not to know what the future holds for your children, because you don't know what the future holds for you. What it must be like to see the government take hundreds of billions of dollars that could be used to fund job training, unemployment benefits, or jobs programs — and instead to send that money off to people who have such staggering wealth that the new money won't make the tiniest improvement in their lifestyle. What it must be like to be told that tax cuts for the rich are necessary to create jobs for working people, and then to see jobs fall month after month for more than 30 months. If that doesn't break your heart, you don't have a heart.
- Nothing could be a more serious violation of public trust than to consciously make a war based on false claims.
- Conference of Military Reporters and Editors (October 2003)
- War creates its own intensity of hatred... You don't want to use force except as an absolute last resort.
- I think General Eisenhower was exactly right, I think we should be concerned about the military-industrial complex. I think if you look at where the country is today you've consolidated all these defense firms into just a few large firms — like Halliburton — and with contracts and contacts at the top level of government. You've got most of the retired generals are one way or another associated with the defense firms — that's the reason that you'll find very few of them speaking out in any public way — I'm not. When I got out I determined I wasn't going to sell arms, I was going to do as little as possible with the Department of Defense because I just figured it was time to make a new start. But I think the military-industrial complex does wield a lot of influence — I'd like to see us create a different complex. And I'm going to be talking about foreign policy in a major speech tomorrow, but we need to create an agency that is not about waging war but about creating conditions for peace around the world. We need some people who will be advocates for peace, advocates for economic development abroad, not just advocates for better weapon systems. So we need to create countervailing power to the military-industrial complex.
- Interview with Laura Knoy, New Hampshire Public Radio (5 November 2003)
- I think we're at a time in American history that's probably analogous to, maybe, Rome before the first emperors, when the Republic started to fall... I think if you look at the pattern of events, if you look at the disputed election of 2000, can you imagine? In America, people are trying to recount ballots and a partisan mob is pounding on the glass and threatening the counters? Can you imagine that? Can you imagine a political party which does its best to keep any representatives from another party — who've even been affiliated with another party — from getting a business job in the nation's capital? Can you imagine a political party that wants to redistrict so that its opponents can be driven out entirely?...it's a different time in America and the Republic is — this election is about a lot more than jobs. I'm not sure everybody in America sees it right now. But I see it, I feel it.
- Interview with Laura Knoy, New Hampshire Public Radio (5 November 2003)
- I don't have labels. I believe in human beings, I believe in a strong national security, I believe in maximizing freedom... I can give you a whole list of things i'm for, but I believe in solving problems. I guess, more than anything else, I'm a pragmatist with strong beliefs in people.
- Interview with Laura Knoy, New Hampshire Public Radio (5 November 2003)
- I'm not running to bash George Bush. A lot of Americans really love him. They love what he represents, a man who's overcome adversity in his life from alcoholism and pulled his marriage back together and — and moved forward. But I'm running because I think this country must have better leadership in moving forward.
- Remark, reported in The New York Post (24 November 2003)
- The time has passed in America when this party can be the party of compassion and let the executive branch run foreign policy. It won't work. We have to be the party that can stand toe to toe with George W. Bush on national security, as well as the party of compassion.
- Democratic candidate debates (9 December 2003)
- I made the decision that I couldn't not run. I had to run. This country is in great danger. It's in great difficulty. It's being taken the wrong way by a leadership team that has no real vision for the country other than trying to posture and pose and aim for winning the next election. I think Americans deserve a more visionary, a more selfless and a more dedicated leadership than that.
- Well, last I checked, there was no 'if' in the 15th Amendment. One person one vote isn't just a slogan — it's the highest law of this land. As president, I will not rest until every single American can cast their vote, and every single one of those votes is counted. We shouldn't have to wait for another Florida to fully fund election reform.
- George W. Bush has helped those who have most, hurt those who have least and ignored everyone in between.
- Maybe it's because I've never been in politics, but I don't believe that America is run by politicians in Washington. I believe it's run by people like us, in places like this.
- True Values Tour (January 2004)
- I believe in open, honest government, where we hold our leaders accountable. I believe in putting the national interests over the special interests. I believe in putting principle above politics. The bottom line: I believe we can do better. I believe we must do better. And if the system's broke — fix it.
- I've forgotten more about national security than George W. Bush will ever learn.
- Speaking at the 2004 Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner, Richmond, Virginia — as reported by CNN (7 February 2004)]
- The safety of our country demands an end to the doctrinaire, ineffective policies that currently grip Washington. Enough is enough! A safe America — a just America — that's what we want, that's what we need.
- Democratic Convention (19 July 2004)
- G. Gordon Liddy says that Democrats haven't given the president enough credit. I think the president deserves full credit. In fact I think he should be held fully accountable.
- Esquire magazine (August 2003)
- If Karl Rove is watching today, Karl, I want you to hear me loud and clear: I am going to provide tax cuts to ease the burdens for 31 million American families — and lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty — by raising the taxes on 0.1 percent of families — those who make more than $1,000,000 a year. You don't have to read my lips, I'm saying it. And if that makes me an 'old-style' Democrat, then I accept that label with pride and I dare you to come after me for it.
- Families First tax plan speech (5 January 2004), reported in Clark unveils tax plan" — CNN (5 January 2004)
- ... they said, "Sir, we want to tell you a joke." I said, "You don't have time to tell me a joke." They said, "Oh, you gotta hear this one." So I came in, they shut the door, and they said, "Here's"— I said, "What's the joke?" I said, "What's the joke?" They said, "9/11. Saddam Hussein. If he didn't do it, too bad. He should've! Because we're gonna get him anyway." I said, "But that's not funny." I said, "That's not very funny." They said, "It sure isn't."
Seton Hall Address (2002)
- It is customary at occasions such as this for some old person to pass on his accumulated pearls of wisdom and life story to the young.
But this is not a customary year. It is a year marked by distinctive tragedy and challenge, by events that no one at last year’s commencement ceremony could have possibly anticipated. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon took the lives of so many — Seton Hall graduates among them — and have affected us so deeply that it is impossible to speak here today without acknowledging the witness to tragedy which this University and its students have borne.
These events delivered a four-fold shock to us and our country. The shock of our country, under attack. The shock that others would hate so much that they would kill themselves to hurt us. The shock of death to the youthful and innocent. The shock that the murderers would claim to have acted in the name of God.
- Had we seen an earthquake, or the results of a powerful storm, the devastation and loss would have been awful — but our country has seen terrible tragedies before: fires, earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes. We prayed for the lost, rebuilt for the survivors, and strengthened our laws, dikes, weather warnings and earthquake predictors. We prepare for an eventual recurrence of acts of nature…
But 9-11 was not a natural catastrophe: these events were deliberate, conceived, organized and ruthlessly executed by human beings. And so, their significance must be assessed differently — and the actions to prepare for “next time” must be different, also.
- They killed in the name of God. But they are not the first. This began in pre-history; the tragedy is that it persists today.
Some would characterize the events of 9-11 as a clash of civilizations, and a conflict of religions. And to many it seems a simple and satisfying explanation.
But others would suggest, correctly in my view, that such an interpretation is both wrong-headed and dangerous. They recognize a civil war within Islam itself, as contending factions compete for power. They would argue that we must influence the struggle where we can, by supporting greater attention to the secular structures in the Islamic world, and by encouraging our own American Islamic community to speak out in support of America’s democratic values.
Ultimately, your generation will have the decisive voice. You will determine whether rage or reason guides the United States in the struggle to come. You will choose whether we are known for revenge or compassion. You will choose whether we, too, will kill in the name of God, or whether in His Name, we can find a higher civilization and a better means of settling our differences.
And this is not a new choice, not for your generation — it is a choice that many others have faced throughout history. Only now, we can hope that with your help and engagement we can find a new answer.
Twenty Year Vision for America (2004)
- We'll still need our armed forces and we'll take every necessary action to make America safe — but we'll gain that safety not by force of arms, but by who we are and what we represent. For we should be an America not puffed up by pride in our own power, but rather an America humbled by the recognition of our common humanity. We must make sure that globalization helps people around the world, raising living standards and improving the environment everywhere — rather than leading a race to the bottom.
- Working together, we can build a world in which the rule of law — not the rule of force — governs relations between states. A world in which leaders respect the rights of their people, and nations seek peace, not destruction or domination. And neither we nor anyone else should live in fear ever again.
- As with science and technology, there could be a dark side of globalization, in which progress for some means poverty for others, as jobs and opportunities ebb and flow, securities and currencies fluctuate in value, and the tension between private profit and public good persists. But surely these are risks that we can manage in a world with an America more attuned to its larger purpose and responsibilities.
The final frontier is perhaps the most difficult, but it's also the most important — and that's the frontier of the human spirit. For too long, people have allowed differences on the surface — differences of color, ethnicity, and gender — to tear apart the common bonds they share. And the human spirit suffers as a result.
Imagine a world in which we saw beyond the lines that divide us, and celebrated our differences, instead of hiding from them. Imagine a world in which we finally recognized that, fundamentally, we are all the same. And imagine if we allowed that new understanding to build relations between people and between nations.
Our goal for the next twenty years should be to finally recognize that our differences are our greatest strength. That's true not only here in America, but in all parts of the world, where we've allowed historic rifts to poison the well of opportunity. They've arisen from the natural prides and passion of humanity. Only when we recognize that — when we respect the human spirit — will we be a great nation and a great world. These are the steps we must take in the next twenty years, as we reach out for the newest frontiers.
92nd Street Y Cultural Center (2007)
- You see, essentially, you cannot win the war on terror by military force. It is first and foremost a battle of ideas. It is secondly a law enforcement effort and a cooperative effort among nations. And only as a last resort do you use military force. This president has distorted the capabilities of the United States Armed Forces. He's used our men and women in uniform improperly in Guantanamo and engaged in actions that I think are totally against the Uniform Code of Military Justice and against what we stand for as the American people.
- The truth is, about the Middle East is, had there been no oil there, it would be like Africa. Nobody is threatening to intervene in Africa.
- I’d like to get rid of landmines. I did participate in getting rid of laser blinding weapons. And I was part of the team that put together the agreement that got rid of laser blinding weapons. I’d like to get rid of nuclear weapons. But I can't agree with those who say that force has no place in international affairs. It simply does for this country. And I would like to work to make it so that it doesn't. But the truth is, for now it does. And so, I can't go against giving our men and women in uniform the appropriate weapons they need to fight, to fight effectively to succeed on the battlefield, and to minimize their own casualties.
- I am tired of being categorized as immoral and unpatriotic because I am a democrat and because I oppose this war. Why is liberal a bad word? It comes from the word liberty — a concept we used to cherish. Family values include loving and embracing all genders, sexual orientations, races, religions, physical and economic conditions, etc. As a Christian, and more specifically, a Catholic, that is my understanding of what Christ teaches. Battling for separation of church and state is one thing. Now, we also have to battle for the separation of church and hate. Family values and morals include making certain that a parent or parents can support their children, provide them with a home, food, education, medical care, etc.
And I am a patriot, despite opposing this war. We can't let the right tell us we are not because we question our leadership. It is my duty to question them. I do support the troops by questioning and opposing this war because, when I do, I help insure that they are sacrificing for a just cause worthy of their lives. When we don't, no one is there to protect them from the leadership putting them in harm's way for illegitimate reasons.
- I'm pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, pro-environment and pro-labor. I was either going to be the loneliest Republican in America, or I was going to be a happy Democrat.
- Rule nothing out.
- When asked whether he would ever run for president again
- Somebody once told me in business that when you're going to negotiate a business deal, you stake out your position and stand on it! Don't go in there and ask what they want. Say, "Here's what I want!" You've got a Republican Party under Gingrich and Tom DeLay that says, "Here's what I want." Then you've got the Democrats over here saying, "Yeah, ah, yeah, we could, some of what you say makes pretty good sense." The result is the American people don't see the full spectrum. Before the 2002 election there were a lot of Democratic politicians apparently who said, "I don't have the information. I can't battle with the president on the information. He's got the intelligence. What if there is a smoking gun in there? I can't fight the president in my congressional district." What we've got to do is stake out our position. For instance on tax reform, stop saying you agree with simplification of the tax code. … We stand for progressive taxation. We're proud of it. If you make more, you should pay more, period!
- The American people will trust the Democratic Party to defend America when they believe that Democrats will defend other Democrats.
Quotes about Clark
- Alphabetically by source
- I've never endorsed a presidential candidate before. But when I talk to General Clark, and when I listen to him, I can see him as a president for all Americans.
- Dr. Mary Francis Berry, former chair of the United States Commission On Civil Rights
- Professional and moral attributes are impeccable.
- General Edwin Burba, Jr.
- Wes Clark is a man of whom you can ask a question, and he will look you directly in the eye, and give you the most truthful and complete answer you can imagine. You will know the absolute truth of the statement as well as the thought process behind the answer. You will have no doubt as to the intellect of the speaker and meaning of the answer to this question....So you can see, as a politician, he has a lot to learn.
- Wes Clark has the character and depth to be another Marshall or Eisenhower in time of war.
- General Alexander M. Haig, Jr. (19 July 1978)
- To those who say that Wes Clark has never held political office: anyone who can command NATO, and keep all those forces together, and win that war without losing one American life, knows what it means to hold political office.
- Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa
- [He] is probably the most intelligent officer I ever served with. [He has] great integrity, sound judgment and great kindness in dealing with people. He is a public servant of exceptional character and skill.
- General Barry McCaffrey (ret.)
- There are a lot of good Democrats in this race. But Wes Clark is the best Democrat. He is a true progressive. He's the Democrat's Democrat. I've been around the political block — and I can tell you, I know a true progressive when I see one. And that's why he has my vote.
- Senator George McGovern (18 January 2004)
- I've read his environmental statement. It's very good, and I agree with it. Clark's environmental position is spelled out very well and it hits the important points. He handles the tough questions better than anyone else.
- Senator Gaylord Nelson
- He is unquestionably one in a million. A professional whose perceptions are correct, whose plans are thorough and complete, whose executions are artistic, and whose success is inevitable....I have never been more impressed with an officer's talent and dedication. He should rank with men like Douglas MacArthur, Maxwell Taylor, Creighton Abrams...
- Colonel Charles G. Prather IV (23 June 1977)
- Wes Clark has been a superb battalion commander and will be a superb brigade commander. He is an officer of the rarest potential and will clearly rise to senior general officer rank. He will be one of the Army's leaders in the 1990's.
- General Colin Powell (1982)
- The mark of leadership is not to stand up when everybody is standing, but rather to actually stand up when no one else is standing.
- Samantha Powers, Pulitzer-prize winner and human rights activist, on Clark's humanitarian stances, when endorsing Clark for President
- The corporate scandals of the last two years have shown us that we need to bring a new standard of openness to government and to business. I believe Wes Clark will play it straight with the American people. The Bush administration has put the fox in charge of the hen house time and again, placing former industry advocates in charge of the very government organizations that should be policing them. We have seen the results of such cronyism: the average working American loses, the average retiree loses, the environment loses, the average investor loses. We need a leader who will stand up for our interests and not the special interests. I think Wes Clark is that leader.
- Sherron Watkins, Time Magazine Person of the Year 2002, whistle-blower exposing Enron's corruption, endorsing Clark for President (3 Janurary 2004)
- I asked a whole lot of my friends who were generals and colonels and majors, who served over General Clark and under General Clark and every last one of them said to me that this is a good man, and if he were leading our nation they would be proud. [He is a] son of the South capable of making a dangerous world a safer place for everybody. A man we are going to make the next president of the United States.
- Andrew Young, Civil Rights activist, accompanied Martin Luther King Jr. on day of MLKjr's assassination, first African-American ambassador to the UN
- As the friendly force maneuvered through the treacherous region, it was suddenly subjected to an intense small arms fire from a well-concealed insurgent element. Although painfully wounded in the initial volley, Captain Clark immediately directed his men on a counter-assault of the enemy positions. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Captain Clark remained with his unit until the reactionary force arrived and the situation was well-in-hand. His courageous initiative and exemplary professionalism significantly contributed to the successful outcome of the engagement. Captain Clark's unquestionable valor in close combat against a hostile force is in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the 1st Infantry Division, and the United States Army.
- From the Award of the Silver Star, as presented to Capt. Clark after he was wounded in battle in Vietnam (26 February 1970)
- Impact Aid: Making the Commitment to our Military Family: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Education Reform Committee on Education and the Workforce United States House of Representatives (8 November 2001)
- An Army of One? - In the war on terrorism, alliances are not an obstacle to victory. They're the key to it. - The Washington Monthly (September 2002)
- Never Leave a Soldier Behind - Military.co (15 December 2003)
- Real Tax Reform - The Wall Street Journal (9 January 2004)
- Families Should Keep More Of Their Earnings - Seattle Post-Intelligencer (14 January 2004)
- Broken Engagement: The The strategy that won the Cold War could help bring democracy to the Middle East — if only the Bush hawks understood it. - The Washington Monthly (May 2004)
- Transcript of Clark's Democratic National Convention Address, Boston (29 July 2004)
- The Real Battle: Winning in Fallujah Is Just the Beginning The Washington Post (14 November 2004)
- The Next Iraq Offensive, The New York Times (6 December 2005)
- Transcript of "The Real State of the Union 2006" (30 January 2006)