msnbc.com
updated 2/11/2004 7:25:47 PM ET 2004-02-12T00:25:47

Wednesday, Feb. 11

An interview with Clark
Immediately following his announcement, Clark agreed to an interview. The following is the transcript of that interview:

Where do you fit in now?
"Well I’m gonna do everything I can to promote the same causes and values that I’ve been promoting. So I believe we need a strong national security, but I believe we need a president that levels with the American people."

What role is best suited for that for you?
"Well you know it’s funny, I had a chance to be a commentator before. I was a commentator. I wrote a book. The book’s still out there. It’s not a campaign book — it sold pretty well. And I had a chance to run and take it right to the American people. I’m happy I had a chance to do that. We’ll just have to see."

Will you run another race?
"Who knows? I sure liked running, I tell you that. It was great fun."

Will you accept a spot on the ticket, if one's offered?
"Well nothing’s been offered, so that’s not a … that’s a moot question."

What about an endorsement?
"Well you know we’ll consider all of that in time."

So you will endorse someone?
"It's possible. I want to do everything I can to get George W. Bush and that administration out. And get the American people back in charge. I think you know we’re in a terribly difficult time in this country both economically and with respect to our military. It’s been a government that hasn’t solved problems — it’s created them."

What do you think the biggest obstacle for the party is in unseating Bush this fall?
"I think the biggest problem is we’re going to have to get our story out to the American people. And the American people are going to have to face some unpleasant realities. And as I’ve gone through the campaign trail I’ve talked to a lot of people from both parties, and it’s real hard for people to come to terms with. It's hard for people to believe the president of the United States, despite all the bold talk, [that] he didn’t really do all he could have to keep us safe before 9/11, and despite all the rhetoric after 9/11 he took us to a war we didn’t have to fight. And despite all the finger-pointing at the intelligence community, he can’t escape responsibility for it. He’s the one who’s supposed to know enough to make the right decisions on intelligence. And he didn’t. And so he has to be held accountable for that ,and that’s hard for people to appreciate because this country was — it was under attack. And it’s a very hard thing to turn around and hold your leader accountable, but that’s what we’re gonna have to do. We also have to help people understand the truth — the era when you could give tax cuts to the wealthy and have it trickle down and make jobs for all Americans if there was ever any truth to it it’s no longer. Those jobs aren’t being made, and the jobs that are being created are jobs that don’t pay $25 an hour, they pay $8 and $9 an hour, and they’re not jobs that people can support a family on. So these are things that are wrong in this country, and it’s gonna take leadership to fix them."

Do you think you will be able to criticize the president in ways you weren’t able to do earlier?
(He chuckles) "I think I’ve been pretty hard on the president."

What do you give the chances of the party unseating the president?
"100 percent, absolutely."

  1. Other political news of note
    1. Animated Boehner: 'There's nothing complex about the Keystone Pipeline!'

      House Speaker John Boehner became animated Tuesday over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, castigating the Obama administration for not having approved the project yet.

    2. Budget deficits shrinking but set to grow after 2015
    3. Senate readies another volley on unemployment aid
    4. Obama faces Syria standstill
    5. Fluke files to run in California

So it’s over, essentially?
"I think it’s over. I mean, I know there’ll be a lot of ... If you look at what the issues are facing the country, between Iraq and the economy, this administration doesn’t have any solutions. They’ve never had a vision for America. They’ve looked backwards. They refought the war with Saddam Hussein, put in Reagan’s tax cuts and, ah, even talked about Jack Kennedy’s moon program as a way of — it’s a backwards program. It’s no vision for our country. We have to look forward, not backwards."

What have you gained from this experience?
"I mean I’ve had a tremendous time meeting new people on the campaign trail. They’re so honest, they’ve been so open and direct. I mean it’s been a lot of fun. The things you learn are all a lot of technical things. They’re none of the stuff that’s important to the American people that’s out there. I mean there’s some technical arts of campaigning that I didn’t know, but in terms of the core values and what this nation stands for and the problems we’re facing, it’s all there."

Is there something you can say now that you couldn’t say on the campaign trail?
"I said everything I wanted to say. I never said anything I didn’t believe in, at least not knowingly, and I never trimmed what I said. I said it exactly the way I wanted to, and I think that’s the obligation of someone running for office. Let people know where you stand and be clear about it, and I was."

Are you comfortable with the decision to get out?
"Absolutely. I was comfortable with the decision yesterday."

Time to call it quits
Clark was to end his campaign for the presidency Wednesday with a speech to supporters at the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock. The press were tracking Clark’s comments all day Tuesday as we all tried to read the tea leaves of what he would do if the race was tight between him and Edwards, if he came in third or if he came in second.

I have often learned quite a bit about how Clark views things from what he tells voters in one-on-one discussions. For the most part in that setting sans script he has tended to just tell it like it is. It was that thought that crept into the back of my head when he talked to voters today. Clark: "The momentum of the campaign is just sweeping everybody through all this without them really knowing the candidates. If we do that and that carries through, what’s going to happen is buyer’s remorse — you know the purpose of elections is to bring it out, keep people in the race long enough so everybody’s got the chance to be looked at, really evaluated. I feel like — I’m running for president, I want to keep this thing going so people have a chance to decide. I think I’m the best person — other people may not. But that’s for the whole election to decide, not just for the voters of a couple of states."

Given that context it is no surprise to me that there was such intense deliberations about whether he would stay in the race Tuesday. Clark, even after he gave his speech to supporters had to evaluate and discuss it with his son and his wife, campaign sources confirmed. Eli Segal, campaign chairman, told reporters earlier in the evening, "I think it's largely the family at this point dealing with all the variables." But before such decisions were made Clark spent time with his staff in his private quarters before his speech. A great many of his little rock staff from the schedulers to the website folks were on hand for the speech tonight.

It makes sense that the non politician who had to discuss heavily with his wife the ramifications of getting into the race would do much the same thing to get out of it. Throughout this campaign, according sources along the way, Gert and Wesley II have been an integral part of the campaign behind the scenes questioning, debating and dealing with general’s candidacy on a very intimate level. Tonight as Matt Bennett, campaign spokesman confirmed to me, was a decision that had to be made with his family completely on board. After Clark made the speech to his supporters, Bennett said, "He was still struggling a little bit with the decision. When he got back up - he kinda of thought about it further and made the final decision."

Much like Clark, who frequently discussed the phenomenon of Kerry’s momentum in the last few days, Bennett also cited tonight the biggest factor in what ultimately led to the general getting out of the race was Kerry’s momentum. Bennett: "I think probably the biggest reason is the tremendous momentum that Senator Kerry built coming out the Iowa and New Hampshire races and its just… the mountain got to steep to climb." He also said, "When your momentum dies your financing dies with it so certainly that was part of it." And it should be added that campaign sources have confirmed to me on the record that Clark personally expressed regret this evening in not being able to run in Iowa.

Coming full circle
It started in part by a draft movement and I had a chance tonight to catch up with many of the draft Clark people tonight. One of the founders, John Hlinko told me he was disappointed. He added that the campaign and the draft movement ended up having "different strategies" and "different philosophies". One saw their candidate as part of a grassroot insurgency and the other group wanted, in Hlinko’s opinion, to run a traditional campaign. By his estimate the draft movement was "never fully incorporated." What happens to the draft movement now? Hlinko says the group had reengaged many in politics and its political energy will not fade. There is talk of possibly a PAC or as he said, the energy, " can be channeled in a related goal." He added that working to beat George Bush is still critical to the movement (with whatever title it takes) going forward.

The phone call
As Becky Diamond reported General Clark called John Kerry this evening before Clark’s speech. Bennett told reporters it was to congratulate him as the winner of both states. He added that Clark did not tell Kerry he was getting out of the race but rather, "He said he was gonna think about what his next steps were and that he’d be going back to Little Rock. But he did not tell John Kerry that he’s leaving the race."

What next?
Certainly Clark will face the inevitable barrage of what he does next and who he endorses. Will he run for office? The campaign spokesman says nothing has been ruled in or out or for that matter discussed. But Clark according to them will continue to be actively involved in the democratic party.

Tuesday, Feb. 10

General Wesley Clark spoke to relatively small crowds on the eve of Tennessee’s primary. Most of the crowds, his largest around 300 people, were filled with Clark supporters. Clark stuck to his stump speech throughout the day focusing on leadership accountability, his tax program, and adding "patriotism faith and family" to the mix.

Union City Democrat Glen Tittle wanted to know where General Clark stood on guns.

"I was brought up around guns," said Clark as he rattled off all the guns he had owned. "Nine millimeter, forty five caliber, twenty two caliber rifle with a scope…I was death on crow and squirrels."

The General said, though he was comfortable around guns, he didn’t think assault weapons were a non-military necessity.

"Americans don’t need assault weapons."

Tittle, an undecided voter, mentioned he found Clark to be "sincere."

"You sound like you grew up around here," said Tittle.

General Clark engaged in an impromptu debate at the Cozy Kitchen in Dyersburg, Tennessee. Harold Holt, a veteran, asked Clark his thoughts on gay marriage.

"I don’t support gay marriage I think that’s something up to the states," said

Clark. "I think you've got to treat people with equal rights.''

Holt, who later mentioned homosexuality brought down the Roman Empire, said he supported Clark until today.

"He was my man until this issue came up," said Holt.

Clark took a break from the campaign trail to get a quick trim at a barbershop in Dyersburg Tennessee.

The barbershop, which looked like it hasn’t changed in fifty years, had vintage barber chairs and offered patrons two types of magazines: American Rifleman and North American Hunter. The barber Raymond Criswell, who got a generous tip from the General, said he’d vote for Clark.

In Memphis Clark started dancing during a rally held for him at B.B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street. Major Pat Williams (Ret.) who served with Clark introduced him. She told me Clark was a close friend and she was "counting on him."

Clark, joined by his family, wrapped up his day with a rally in downtown Nashville.

"The stakes are very high," said Clark, but promised his supporters if "You put me on third base I’ll bring you home." The Clark campaign says they will continue to campaign regardless of what happens in Tennessee.

Sunday, Feb. 8

General Wesley Clark discussed tax reform today in Tennessee and Wisconsin proposing what he calls a "simple plan."

Under his plan households of four making under $50,000 dollars would pay no federal income tax.

"If you're making $50,000 a year or less and you have children, you'll never pay federal income taxes again. If you're making $100,000 or less with kids, you'll get a substantial tax cut, averaging about $1,500 a year," said Clark.

To cover costs Clark would increase taxes on the wealthiest families.

"We're going to ask the wealthiest people in this country, the families making more than $1 million a year, to pay 5 percentage points more on their income tax."

Clark also went on the tax offensive attacking both Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards. "If you look at my two competitors (Kerry/Edwards) in this race here in Tennessee, when they're talking about tax reform and helping middle class families, their help is going to average less than $100 per family per year," said Clark.

Clark, who mentioned his frugal lifestyle while in the Army, said his proposal would not increase the deficit.

"$1,500 a year would have meant a lot to me and my family. We're going to do this without raising the federal deficit; we're going to do it the old fashioned way, by asking those who can sacrifice to sacrifice just a little."

Tough act to follow?
General Wesley Clark had a tough act to follow on Sunday night in Nashville. Speaking at a party for Tennessee Democrats, General Clark followed the former Vice President Al Gore who delivered a rousing speech.

Building on momentum from Gore’s speech General Clark delivered his remarks to a crowd noticeably smaller than the Vice President’s.

Clark, clearly pumped up, defended the party’s patriotism saying he would not let Republican leaders "take away the American flag from this Democratic Party."

At one point during the speech audience members began to denounce President Bush’s National Guard record and sidetracked the General.

Clark answered the hecklers saying: "You know what is important, what he didn’t do as President."

The General was able to stay on message mentioning his tax reform plan adding that he’s a "businessman."

During his speech Clark even tried to make peace with the other party.

"I got nothing against Republicans as long as they vote for us."

Crowd watch
Around 200 people, almost all African-American, gathered for Sunday service at the New Hope Baptist Church in Memphis; some of who never heard of the guest of honor: General Wesley Clark.

Mary Billingseley said she never heard of Clark and was voting for Senator Kerry. But Clark’s quick comments behind the pulpit and southern background swayed her.

"He’s from where Clinton’s from…I’ll vote for him," said Billingseley.

Verneva Gray who was not very familiar with Clark didn’t recognize the General sitting a few feet away from her.

"I don’t think Clark is going to cut it, I’m voting for Kerry," said Gray.

In Racine, Wisconsin Clark drew around 700 people, mostly supporters, at a job forum hosted by Governor Jim Doyle.

Racine resident Don Baglui said he was in between Howard Dean and General Clark but leaning towards Clark.

"Clark is the smartest guy in this whole deal," said Baglui.

Nancy Ilk cited electability as her reasoning for being with Clark.

"He’s the only one that can beat Bush," said Ilk.

Dropping out?
The LA Times reported on Sunday that the Clark campaign was packing up ready to call it quits last Tuesday, before a win in Oklahoma gave them a reason to stay in the race. Press Secretary Jamal Simmons told me today that was not the case. Simmons cited he did not read the story in the LA Times, but said "We never seriously considered getting out of this race."

Simmons says the campaign plans on being "fully engaged on Super Tuesday."

It should be noted that General Clark said he would "absolutely" compete in Wisconsin regardless of the turnout in Tennessee.

MTP reaction
General Wesley Cark reacted today to comments President George Bush made on NBC’s "Meet the Press" concerning the war in Iraq.

"From what I’ve seen he’s still justifying the war in Iraq even though there were no weapons of mass destruction based on the fact that Saddam might some day be dangerous. I’ve never heard of such a justification by an American President. I don’t think it’s justified," said Clark.

Gore: 'Truth shall rise'
A fired up Al Gore took a message of anger to Tennessee Democrats on Sunday night in Nashville. Gore made his remarks during a celebration hosted by the Party. Gore compared the current Presidential race to the 1976 race, saying President Bush was running a similar campaign to then President Nixon by using the "politics of fear."

Gore also mentioned his support of Governor Howard Dean. He noted Dean’s ability to

bring new people to the party, his anti-war stance, and his grassroots fundraising.

The former Vice-President said he felt "betrayed" by the current administration over the war in Iraq saying it was "pre-ordained and planned even before 9/11."

Building on his anger generated from the war in Iraq, Gore thundered: "the truth shall rise again."

The crowd erupted in applause, while supporters shook various campaigns signs.

"I think if he gave a speech like that when he was running he would be President," said Nashville resident Pamela Lee.

A sign in the crowd read "Thank you Al," summing up the feeling in the room.

"That was one of his best ones," said Tennessean Tommy Thompson.

Friday, Feb. 6

Setting the bar
Raising over 400,000 online since Oklahoma did not have the same encouraging vibe for the Clark campaign suddenly when Dean put out a statement saying pretty much the same thing. Nonetheless many staffers touted the number this afternoon to the press.

The grind
Today in Coffee County, Clark told voters"I will beat George W Bush if you give me the chance right here in Tennessee." That is the tightrope Clark has to walk these days: selling himself as a national candidate who can overpower Bush but doing it as a regional candidate, wooing voters as a southerner and convincing Tennessee, (to steal a line from Dean), that they have the power to keep Clark going. He takes moments here and there to kneedle Edwards and Kerry for voting for laws they now heavily criticize like No Child Left Behind. However he is unsure of himself in this mode, relying on notes at first and layering each criticism with praise of how much he likes them as well. But its not just about the opposition. Attack lines keep him in the storyline of many local papers and as I am personally beginning to feel, local press is where this campaign is putting most their media time these days. They credit their win in Oklahoma in part to that county by country coverage and it seems with this bus tour they have continued the theme. Radio interview after radio interview, local tv after local tv and the ultimate in maxing out this states visibility? Showing up in a Lady Vols shirt at the most important game of the season here in Tennessee: UT v. Conneticut- the two best women’s basketball teams in the country.

Clark is nothing if not a tireless campaigner. He is looking as haggard and ill as the rest of us but his schedule has gotten no lighter since New Hampshire. It looks like he took that retail politics thing to heart. He starts early and ends late. His crowds are not massive but they are substantial-- full of curiosity, patriotism and good ol’ southern charm.

Wednesday, Feb. 4

Salary sacrifice
About 250 campaign staffers out of the Clark Little Rock home office have agreed to give up their salaries for one week in order for the Clark campaign to pay for more television ads to air in Tennessee and Virginia. This includes traveling staff, but not field staff. The move will add $250,000 to campaign funds on top of the goal of raising $400,000 this week. According to the Clark press secretary, staffers voted by an overwhelming majority to give up their salaries – it was unclear how many staffers voted against the measure.

It didn’t happen collectively, and it wasn’t heard outloud but a great big sigh of relief must have echoed out of Little Rock and Oklahoma City when, although close, Clark won a primary on Tuesday. Staffers all day would not speak directly to it but they were clearly anxious in all their moves, visibly concerned that they might be just about to wrap things up - from the advance to the scheduling office in Little Rock, tonight was THE indicator for the health of campaign. And there were palpitations… Minutes after hearing the unofficial tally Clark reached across the dinner table and high fived an aide. It must have been a relief. An hour earlier even Clark himself had consciously or not alluded to a possible end in Oklahoma. The questions was if he felt the condensed schedule was a disservice to veterams and he answered thus: "You can't answer a question like that. I mean who knows? This could be over. It could be a long way from over. It could be impacted tomorrow by something we don't know about. And you know, there are so many factors in this. I think it was a smart move for the deocratic party to try and move the primaries the way it did.

But on the way to the election night party both Mr and Mrs. Clark were spirited. Clark exclaiming on the phone to someone, " Not bad for an old soldier…" and Mrs Clark downplaying the Edward's win," So he won his own state, big deal."

Engaging the opposition ... finally
In his election night remarks, Clark said, "Tonight the people have spoken and the message couldn’t be clearer. America wants a higher standard of leadership. And there is no party more committed to that…" But what does that mean going forward? Jamal Simmons told me as we landed in Memphis in the wee hours of the morning, "Clark and his campaign are ready to engage the opposition." Clark has already been promoting his Washington outsider status and that will be ramped up another notch. The differences the campaign feels, between Clark and Kerry and Clark and Edwards, are easily distinguishable. Why haven’t they done this sooner? Simmons feels they are better positioned. Although not allowing the use of the word attack, "engaging the opposition" he argued was "harder from a position of weakness than from a position of strength". So watch on the bus tour tomorrow for Clark to make haste in "sharpening the focus" with the differences of a general and senators.

Tuesday, Feb. 3

Spicing things up
Clark did not attack any other Democratic contenders Feb. 2 but rather stuck with criticisms he feels most comfortable with, according to aides, and those are all about President Bush. He hit him on security with new lines like," I’ve forgotten more about national security than he’s ever learned," and in New Mexico and Arizona reaching out in Spanish, "Let me put it in terms that George W. Bush will understand. I am one tough hombre!"

Talking to the press on the plane in Tucson, Clark was pressed on what would happen Feb. 3 given various scenarios: Will you win a state? What state? Why do you think you’ll win? What if you don’t win any? Clark wasn’t having any of it and finally said: "I’m gonna win. I’m gonna win --I’m gonna win, let’s just leave it at that."

For his part, a senior strategist was right on message as well saying the campaign is "well-positioned" in Oklahoma and "competitive" in Arizona and New Mexico. No mention of any other states. But there is a bus tour in Tennessee planned for Feb. 4 and 5.

Friday, Jan. 30

The Clark campaign is trying to find their niche. Even though a senior aide said that their core message has changed even with results of Iowa and New Hampshire they are having a bit to grasp at what they can not predict. In terms of strategic objectives, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, South Carolina and North Dakota are in play. It is where they have organizations, a grassroots movement they tried to capitalize on and expect wins. But even with the Terry McAuliffe setting the bar at having to win a state on Feb. 3 a senior aide spun that a strong showing, not just a win, in any of the states was still enough to propel them towards Feb. 10.

Thursday, Jan. 29

You knew you weren’t in New Hampshire anymore when Clark welcomed the group with "we like to say we came in first in the none New England primary, " and its nice to be back in my neighborhood." It only took a matter of hours for Clark to shed the stump speech of old and add some noticeable new lines to the audience he met with at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa. Clark always talks about faith but today there were several new additions. For example he told the crowd at the age of nine he "accepted the lord as [his] savior" and that he could "quote the scriptures". He hit Washington hard, saying he hadn’t spent years in Washington working backroom deals with special interest groups. But interestingly enough he also defended his heavily criticized inability to answer a question concisely. "I haven’t spent my time plotting and scheming about how to artfully nuance phrases to win an election." One might say that is part of the problem...

Later in the day in New Mexico and Arizona, he removed the heavier religious references and but kept on theme of being an outsider with leadership.

A note on Arizona from the state director. Mark Riddell, state director for the campaign has seen a surge of Kerry folks back into the state as dramatic as when they had, by his estimate, abandoned it for Iowa. Kerry had his first biographical ad up in AZ today he noted. Dean’s staff, he said had already started to squabble before the Iowa and now although they still command a presence are in turmoil according to him. For his part, he feels that the Clark campaign has been plowing ahead ever since they developed a presence here and have had ads on for weeks. Even with the circumstances of expected low voter turnout and mail in votes, the campaign has done as good as they could have here for organization. Its also important to note that the event in Phoenix tonight for Clark was in a extremely crime ridden area of town albeit at a brand new children’s recreation center. It sent a message to locals and supporters that Clark is that ordinary person that voters of all economic backgrounds can relate to.

Wednesday, Jan. 28

On Clark's plane last night there was hooting, hollering and clapping as the traveling staff and Clark found out he got third over Edwards.

Clark’s press conference on the plane had him gleefully telling us why he was pleased with the night. "And I loved being out there tonight welcoming the voters as they came into the polls in the darkness and the cold weather because that’s what democracy really all about. I mean in my greatest dreams I never thought I’d have a chance to do that. I’m just thrilled by it."

I asked him what he had learned from New Hampshire and he said he listened to voters and heard their issues. Did he believe he was a better listener? He nodded and said I do. He also said he was going to differentiate himself more directly from the other democrats in the race but that didn’t mean the race was going negative.

Missouri is really being looked at and a decision on what to do with ads, staffing, etc., will be made in the next 24 -48 hours.

The massaging of the message still continues as well -- expect to hear more from Clark on tax cuts and even more emphasis on the tough economic circumstances that Clark lived with in his childhood and most of his adult life. We should see snippets in Oklahoma.

Tuesday, Jan. 20

Clark's mood, according to communications director Matt Bennett, is "really good."  The Clark campaign had already started a squabble about releasing records with the Kerry campaign.  Clark even joined in last night, noting the difference in military ranking: Clark on Larry King Live and again at his press conference noted that Kerry had been only a lieutenant in the Navy and he a four-star general in the Army.  As for his longstanding claim that it's a two-person race between himself and Dean, Clark said, "That's really up to Howard Dean and what's happened in Iowa. I really don't know what to call it now."

Will Clark go negative? Buchanan says he wouldn't make any promises either way. Clark: "I'm going to do everything I can to be very positive and stay on the message that I think is important to New Hampshire."  He added, "I'm not going to attack other candidates, there's no reason to."  He answered a question on what distinguished him from Kerry with this: "That's really gonna be up to the voters to determine that.  But I can tell you a couple things about myself.  I've never run for elective office, I'm a person who spent his lifetime in public service in uniform until the last three years.  I've had positions where I've actually been accountable, I've actually had to lay out tasks and jobs and get them done.  I've worked at the highest levels of government.  I've worked with heads of state abroad..."

Sunday, Jan. 18

George McGovern has endorsed Clark with all his "heart and strength" at a pancake breakfast in Keene, New Hampshire.

As awkward as it was to see Clark stand next to the man who only won Massachussetts in 1972, it reinforced for democratic primary voters in this state that Clark is a democrat and even as a general, Clark has the support of the one-time peace candidate. But of course Clark didn’t vote for this McGovern in 1972 rather he voted for Nixon and anyone who has covered or follows this campaign would have noted this fact almost immediately.

But add this to Michael Moore’s endorsement yesterday and one sees a very calculated way to appeal to the hardcore Democrats who are ultra-liberal and of course primary voters. That Clark has burgeoning centrist and moderate voter appeal is true but without these left of center voters, who are consistently hearing about Clark false Democratic credentials by other campaigns, they need to combat that in a pronounced way.

The Kerry campaign is making the most pronounced and visible effort to attack the Clark campaign in New Hampshire. Today at an event there were firefighters for Kerry standing outside and Kerry supporters passing out literature. The Clark campaign was also quick to respond to Kerry’s comments from ABC’s "This Week." On their open government kick, Paul Johnson urged Kerry to be as forthcoming as Clark has been releasing tax record and lobbying contacts. For its part, the Clark campaign is releasing all the information about Clark’s lobbying on behalf of Axiom this morning in a spreadsheet and will also put in the reading room. (and yes the Clark reading room is about three doors down from my hotel room as predicted!) Add direct mail and Kerry surrogate bashing of Clark and you have a full fledged effort before Kerry himself gets into town to undercut some of the momentum Clark has gained in the last few weeks.

Friday, Jan. 16

Old-style politics

Clark on his dirt digging media strategist, Chris Lehane, featured on the front page of the New York Times today: "I am very proud of the other members of my campaign and we hold each other to a very high standard. You know this is politics in terms of providing information and that's all we're doing. He was credited with providing some information that he didn't even provide. I think Chris Lehane is not only a great researcher and a good man but he's performing a function that every other campaign performs. I'm not a conventional politician and I'm not engaging in those things. We're holding are campaign to a higher standard. We're not attacking people but the campaign does legitimately have a function to provide information. Information on ourselves based on other people. That's the way campaigns work."

Iowa

Is there even a race in Iowa? Clark is mum on the topic unless asked. He doesn't even think, by his rhetoric, he is competing against any of the other candidates. This lofty position may suit him now but he is just peddling in place while we all wait for the caucus to caucus.

So Clark hit the policy hard today talking about disability rights and children’s welfare at two separate events. He also announced his reading room were he released all his personal documents. All anybody wanted to know though was where is medical record were. He said they would work on gathering them and proceeded to give us the cliff notes to his health record. "I'm a disabled vet. I've had my tonsils out, I've had my appendix out, I had radiation therapy when I was a child on tonsils that caused my thyroid to fail. I had my thyroid out and...I've been shot. "I'm a pretty experienced consumer of healthcare."

Tuesday, Jan. 6

On Karl Rove

Karl Rove managed to get a prominent spot in the Clark tax speech. One of the moments in the speech was a direct assault on President Bush’s senior aide. In the speech, Clark said, "So if Karl Rove is watching today, I want him 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 dare you to come after me for it."

And afterwards when asked about why he reached out to Rove, Clark said, "Why did I address Karl Rove directly? Because this is an issue that goes to the heart of what the Democratic Party stands for. We stand for helping ordinary Americans. We stand for family values. …That’s why I’m addressing Karl Rove. He wants to use the label to divide people. We want the reality of family values to pull this country together."

Wednesday, Dec. 10

On the environment

Clark is still turning around his plan and he told a group of eighth graders about it in Newcastle, N.H. Not willing to say to yes to Kyoto but not willing say no either, Clark laid out for four points on his environmental policy. He also ripped into Bush, calling the Clean Air Act under President Bush a “Clear Lies” policy. His plan highlights “limits on NOX, SO2 and mercury emissions from power plants.”

Tuesday, Dec. 9

The Gore reaction
Al Gore’s pending endorsement of Dean seemed to roll off the back of Clark as he briefly responded to me. I brought it up and Clark said, “No kidding.” Meanwhile, his campaign staff cannot help but take a dig at how many former Gore staffers they have on the Clark campaign. The campaign released a statement saying, “More than twenty former Gore aides, including his chief of staff, national treasurer, press secretary, communications director, trip director and his director of scheduling have endorsed Gen. Wesley Clark.” Having some more time to ponder the issue led to a more cohesive answer to Chris Matthews, “I only like endorsements that are mine.” When asked later by a reporter about his last dealings with Gore he said, “I talked to Gore before I ran.”

Friday, Dec. 5

Turnaround track
The Clark campaign unveiled a push on domestic issues for next week. The campaign is promoting Clark’s past successful efforts to turn around some troubled military units into what they are calling the “Turnaround Plan for America.” Setting goals for each issue on each day, the schedule looks like this:“On Monday, during an RV tour of New Hampshire, Clark will focus on the economy. On Tuesday, the second day of the tour, Clark will discuss the environment. On Wednesday, Clark’s final day on the RV, he will concentrate on family income. On Thursday, in New York City, Clark will offer his ideas for children. Finally, on Friday, in Tennessee, Clark will explain his health care goals.”

Tuesday, Dec. 2

NEW AD

A new Clark commercial has hit New Hampshire, opening with the question, “What kind of leader will he be?” With a mixture of pictures from his past as well as from the campaign trail there are two noticeable lines: “He was never a yes man,” and “He fought for better health care and better schools for those he led.”

ON BUSH ENDING STEEL TARIFFS

“This is yet more evidence that President Bush does not have a strategy to reverse the massive declines in American manufacturing jobs. Our economy has hemorrhaged manufacturing jobs each and every month of this administration, adding up to a total of more than 2.5 million manufacturing jobs lost.”

Monday, Dec. 1

NEW BOSS

Paul Johnson, the new campaign manager, starts in Little Rock today, but with little fanfare. Matt Bennett, campaign spokesman, says there will be no dramatic changes. “I think that what Paul is intended to do is to wrap his arms around the budget, get control of the schedule of the political operation and make sure that the trains are running on time there. That’s what he is expert at and I think that is what he intends to do.” But possibly what will emerge is a more public role for Campaign Chairman Eli Segal, who plans to visit New Hampshire and Washington, D.C., and overall be more “a little bit more visible.”

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments