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Clark throws his brass into ring

Advisers to the former NATO commander promise a campaign that is unconventional.

By Associated Press
Published September 18, 2003

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Wesley Clark launched his first bid for elective office Wednesday, setting his sights on the presidency with a war-tested military record he said makes him the ideal Democrat to ensure the nation's security in a post-Sept. 11 world.

The retired Army general became the 10th candidate in a wide-open race, entering with an 11-minute address filled with military references, criticism of President Bush and pleas to Democratic, independent and Republican voters alienated by the political process.

"Get ready!" he told more than 400 supporters summoned to his native Arkansas through the Internet on 24-hour notice. "We're moving out!"

But it was unclear where he was going. Clark left the flag-draped stage without detailing his domestic policies or offering concrete solutions to troubles overseas. He promised major economic and foreign policy speeches soon.

Clark has cast himself as a centrist Southern Democrat who favors abortion rights and affirmative action while opposing the war in Iraq. After his address, Clark called the conflict "purely an elective war" and criticized Bush for waging it without better justification.

"For the first time since the Cold War, many Americans no longer feel safe in their homes and work places," Clark said in his speech outside a Boys & Girls Club. "These are historic times and we are going to run a campaign that is worthy of historic times."

Clark hopes to match the accomplishment of another war-tested political neophyte - Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was elected to the presidency in 1952 as the nation feared a Soviet threat.

His advisers promised an unconventional campaign. They will attempt to capitalize on the Internet and Clark's affinity for television, including the use of satellite, to build momentum nationwide - not just in the traditional early voting states.

Clark plans to participate in the Oct. 9 debate in Phoenix, and might participate in next week's economic debate in New York.

Clark's late entry offers Democrats a four-star answer to Bush's potential advantage on national security. His resume is made to order - Rhodes scholar, first in his 1966 class at West Point, White House fellow and head of the U.S. Southern Command and NATO commander during the 1999 campaign in Kosovo.

But the retired general has never held political office and he has never been pressed to produce a domestic agenda. Four months before the first votes are cast, he has no formal organization in key states, little money and a patchwork staff culled from the political organizations of former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore.

Wesley Clark

AGE-BIRTH DATE: 58, Dec. 23, 1944, Chicago.

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, West Point, 1966; master's in philosophy, politics, economics, Oxford, 1968; master's, military science, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 1975.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: White House fellow, Office of Management and Budget, 1975-76; commanding general, 1st Cavalry Division, Ford Hood, Texas, 1992-94; director for strategic plans and policy, Joint Staff, 1994-96; commander, Southern Command, 1996-97; supreme allied commander, Europe, 1997-2000; managing director of Stephens Group Inc. in Little Rock, Ark., 2000-2002; military analyst, CNN, 2002; chairman and CEO, Wesley K. Clark & Associates, 2002-present.

FAMILY: Wife, Gertrude; son, Wesley.

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