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Monday, July 02, 2007

Forget Coy, Can Wes Clark 'Secure America'?

NEW YORK – Gen. Wesley Clark is at it, again. Asked in Sunday's New York Times Magazine, whether the good general has any presidential intentions, he coyly replied, "I think about it everyday."

Judging by the response to our last Wes Clark posting, were wondering if Clark is vetting the veep possibilities – or, is he seriously thinking of a run. With web hits ranging from Osaka to Iron Mountain, interest in a potential candidacy by Gen. Clark topped The Brandwagon's all-time charts. Our hats go off the people of Clark's "Securing America" blog for sheer tenacity. But, please spell our name correctly – it's b-r-a-n-d-w-a-g-o-n with an "r" as in ®!

That said, here's our best thinking from the wonderful world of strategery. First, sift through the hubris and really distill the essence of Wes Clark. What lurks beneath the General's perfectly-creased, telegenic veneer? Who is the "man"? And, why should I want to go fishing with him? Beyond the platitudes of each policy position, what is different about who he is, what he does, and why should we care? And speaking of issues, other than opposition to the war, what casts Clark in a different light than the competition? Then, take a look at the competition. What do they stand for? How are they different? How does the General stack up? Most importantly, where is the opportunity for differentiation. And go beyond the Rhodes Scholarship and general's stars. John Kerry is a bright war hero and he still lost.

In our thumbnail estimation, Clark's real opportunity resides outside opposition to the Iraq War and the saber-rattling vented toward Iran. We think that Gen. Clark's real opportunity might lie within his current "Secure America" positioning. But, to be successful, "Secure America" must become a transformative trope used at every touchpoint throughout the campaign. "We must Secure America by ensuring that our manufacturing base is not exported to foreign shores. We must Secure America by providing individuals and small companies access to affordable health care in order to make ours a nation of doers and not disassemblers..." If Secure America means that we're preserving jobs in the Rust Belt, Ohio is in play. If Secure America only refers to national security, the campaign might not resonate beyond the national security moms. To compete, Gen. Clark must demonstrate how he will Secure America at every turn. After all, national security is heavily dependent on domestic, economic security.

Is Gen. Clark the person to "Secure America"? Perhaps, but his campaign must extend this positioning to each point of contact, from the website, to mailings, to Gen. Clark's wardrobe. "But, he's the most well-dressed of any candidate save for Sen. Obama," Clark's supporters might plead. And, they are not wrong. He is well-dressed. But, we ask how does his wardrobe stake a claim that he is doing his part to Secure America? While we're not suggesting that he wears the combat boots of his son, ala Sen. James Webb – we are suggesting that Clark consider donning American-made suits and shoes and then talk about how his Cleveland-made threads bring income to the working families of Ohio, "securing" their livelihoods and "securing" the local tax base to "secure" an education for future generations.

If Gen. Clark defines his "brand" – and "lives it" in every possible way, he just might have a shot at being heard.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

This piece is so absolutely right on! General Clark is the best candidate we could ever hope for to "secure America," in the National security sense, but yes, in reality, the greater threats to our "Security" are from lack of health care, economic viability, unsafe streets, crumbling infrastructure (Hurricane Katrina, e.g.), etc.
But it is in this sense even more than the military/diplomatic (external) threat area that the General really shines. Wes Clark stands alone in this field as the candidate who can deliver the progressive agenda that America truly needs to thrive after the "Liberal agenda" of the last generation so turned off Middle America. It's a fine line to walk, but Wes Clark is uniquely qualified to walk it because he is a guy that engenders trust in the Heartland, a guy who can bring home the folks stolen by Republicans from Nixon to Bush jr. by the fears and smears that they're so good at raising up and throwing around.
Sorry to say that the in the current Democratic field all are vulnerable to these tactics. It's why HRC presents such tortured positions, to escape the mistrusted "liberal" label. In her case, I'm afraid it's too late.
But General Clark is virtually immune from that toxic stuff. Hard-core conservatives will understand, and they won't support him, but they can't sling mud at him, and even if they try, he's tough enough to give it back twicw as hard, particulary given the "accomplishments" of this Administration.
One last thing of tremendous importance that Clark brings to these scandal-ridden, money-driven political times is Integrity. And it's not just the golly-gee, I won't lie to you integrity of Jimmy Carter (post-Watergate), but the world-wise Integrity of a Military commander, a wounded in battle, 34-year Army Vet, with his true passion for core American values still intact, and the ability to communicate these to ordinary people, as well as to the intellectuals among us.
Think about it folks, after the nightmare we've been going through, Wes Clark gives us the opportunity to make the 2008 election a Watershed event in American politics and in American History. Let's not blow this chance. Who knows when we'll get another.

Dan said...

While I agree that Gen. Clark would make a fantastic candidate, I wish he had been keeping a higher public profile the past few years. He is not Al Gore - and cannot simply announce he is running and have an instant base of support - both political and financial. I think if he were to make a serious run, he would have been in the news more often the past few years while working on a special pet project (the John Edwards route). So General Clark - if this is a go - its time to start hustling - NOW.

Dan said...

I just had a long thought out response - and google blogger deleted it - so here is the abridged version.

If General Clark wants to run (which i'm sure at some level he does) - then why has he not kept a higher public profile over the past few years. John Edwards wasted no time in his work on poverty. General Clark is not Al Gore, he can't simply decide to run and automatically find the open arms of many in the political operative and donor establishment. If he is going to have a base, he needs to identify, persuate and motivate it to action on his behalf. Al Gore did this with "An Inconvenient Truth". General, if this is a GO - its time to pick up the pace and start marching - NOW.

Editor said...

In response to Anonymous, we would agree that America's domestic challenges are great -- particularly in the purple states, where the exportation of jobs is a threat to the "security" of working and middle class families. And, we believe that Anonymous is correctly interpreting our contention that the "Secure America" positioning will serve General Clark well, should he actually enter the race. Concurrently, we agree with contributing editor, Dan, who argues that the general needs to get rolling with all deliberate speed.