This is the eighth in a series of interviews with Democratic presidential candidates.
Upstart Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark touted his military credentials while assailing President Bush’s foreign policy Monday night (Dec. 8) during an appearance at the Kennedy School’s John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum. Clark answered questions from host Chris Matthews and a Harvard audience during a live national broadcast of MSNBC’s “Hardball.”
Clark, who served as NATO supreme allied commander and commander in chief of the United States European Command until his retirement in May 2000, said the American people must “ask the question” why the Bush administration launched war in Iraq last spring. “It was a wrong war. It was an unnecessary war. And it’s a $150 billion mess today,” Clark said.
Citing reports of questionable intelligence used to justify the war, Clark called for congressional hearings to determine what may have gone wrong, saying the president should be held accountable. “They used evidence that wasn’t properly vetted by the intelligence community. Of course it was reckless,” he said. “And if you take the country to war improperly it’s an impeachable offense.”
On the issue of domestic policy, Clark criticized the Bush tax-cut plan. “We need to restore fiscal responsibility in this country,” he proclaimed. “We’re borrowing money from our children and giving it to the wealthy to buy homes in Aspen.”
Clark proposed rolling back the tax cuts for those Americans earning more than $200,000 a year. He also pushed a $100 million jobs bill that will boost employment in science and technology. “Creating new jobs will be priority number one for my administration beginning on day one,” he said.
When asked about gay marriage, Clark responded by saying that gays and lesbians “should have exactly the same rights every other American has.” Yet he did not say homosexuals should be allowed to marry, claiming the matter is “up to the church, synagogues, mosques, and state legislatures.”
Host Matthews spent several minutes quizzing Clark on his controversial early retirement from the military three years ago. Clark defended himself, saying he “wasn’t fired.” He termed it a “difference of opinion between the guys in the field and the guys in the Pentagon” that prompted his rather unceremonious departure from the service.
Clark appeared before a standing-room-only forum audience on the same day reports surfaced that former Vice President Al Gore had decided to endorse Howard Dean for president. Clark casually dismissed the news. “I don’t pay attention to endorsements unless they’re for me,” he quipped.