Many of you have written to me in the past months asking, "Who are you going to vote for this year?"
I have decided to cast my vote in the primary for Wesley Clark. That's right, a peacenik is voting for a general. What a country!
I believe that Wesley Clark will end this war. He will make the rich pay their fair share of taxes. He will stand up for the rights of women, African Americans, and the working people of this country.
And he will cream George W. Bush.
I have met Clark and spoken to him on a number of occasions, feeling him out on the issues but, more importantly, getting a sense of him as a human being. And I have to tell you I have found him to be the real deal, someone whom I'm convinced all of you would like, both as a person and as the individual leading this country. He is an honest, decent, honorable man who would be a breath of fresh air in the White House. He is clearly not a professional politician. He is clearly not from Park Avenue. And he is clearly the absolute best hope we have of defeating George W. Bush.
This is not to say the other candidates won't be able to beat Bush, and I will work enthusiastically for any of the non-Lieberman 8 who might get the nomination. But I must tell you, after completing my recent 43-city tour of this country, I came to the conclusion that Clark has the best chance of beating Bush. He is going to inspire the independents and the undecided to come our way. The hard core (like us) already have their minds made up. It's the fence sitters who will decide this election.
The decision in November is going to come down to 15 states and just a few percentage points. So, I had to ask myself -- and I want you to honestly ask yourselves -- who has the BEST chance of winning Florida, West Virginia, Arizona, Nevada, Missouri, Ohio? Because THAT is the only thing that is going to matter in the end. You know the answer -- and it ain't you or me or our good internet doctor.
This is not about voting for who is more anti-war or who was anti-war first or who the media has already anointed. It is about backing a candidate that shares our values AND can communicate them to Middle America. I am convinced that the surest slam dunk to remove Bush is with a four-star-general-top-of-his-class- at-West-Point-Rhodes-Scholar-Medal-of-Freedom-winning-gun-owner-from-the-South -- who also, by chance, happens to be pro-choice, pro environment, and anti-war. You don't get handed a gift like this very often. I hope the liberal/left is wise enough to accept it. It's hard, when you're so used to losing, to think that this time you can actually win. It is Clark who stands the best chance -- maybe the only chance -- to win those Southern and Midwestern states that we MUST win in order to accomplish Bush Removal. And if what I have just said is true, then we have no choice but to get behind the one who can make this happen.
There are times to vote to make a statement, there are times to vote for the underdog and there are times to vote to save the country from catastrophe. This time we can and must do all three. I still believe that each one of us must vote his or her heart and conscience. If we fail to do that, we will continue to be stuck with spineless politicians who stand for nothing and no one (except those who write them the biggest checks).
My vote for Clark is one of conscience. I feel so strongly about this that I'm going to devote the next few weeks of my life to do everything I can to help Wesley Clark win. I would love it if you would join me on this mission.
Here are just a few of the reasons why I feel this way about Wes Clark:
1. Clark has committed to ensuring that every family of four who makes under $50,000 a year pays NO federal income tax. None. Zip. This is the most incredible helping hand offered by a major party presidential candidate to the working class and the working poor in my lifetime. He will make up the difference by socking it to the rich with a 5% tax increase on anything they make over a million bucks. He will make sure corporations pay ALL of the taxes they should be paying. Clark has fired a broadside at greed. When the New York Times last week wrote that Wes Clark has been "positioning himself slightly to Dean's left," this is what they meant, and it sure sounded good to me.
2. He is 100% opposed to the draft. If you are 18-25 years old and reading this right now, I have news for you -- if Bush wins, he's going to bring back the draft. He will be forced to. Because, thanks to his crazy war, recruitment is going to be at an all-time low. And many of the troops stuck over there are NOT going to re-enlist. The only way Bush is going to be able to staff the military is to draft you and your friends. Parents, make no mistake about it -- Bush's second term will see your sons taken from you and sent to fight wars for the oily rich. Only an ex-general who knows first-hand that a draft is a sure-fire way to wreck an army will be able to avert the inevitable.
3. He is anti-war. Have you heard his latest attacks on Bush over the Iraq War? They are stunning and brilliant. I want to see him on that stage in a debate with Bush -- the General vs. the Deserter! General Clark told me that it's people like him who are truly anti-war because it's people like him who have to die if there is a war. "War must be the absolute last resort," he told me. "Once you've seen young people die, you never want to see that again, and you want to avoid it whenever and wherever possible." I believe him. And my ex-Army relatives believe him, too. It's their votes we need.
4. He walks the walk. On issues like racism, he just doesn't mouth liberal platitudes -- he does something about it. On his own volition, he joined in and filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the University of Michigan's case in favor of affirmative action. He spoke about his own insistence on affirmative action in the Army and how giving a hand to those who have traditionally been shut out has made our society a better place. He didn't have to get involved in that struggle. He's a middle-aged white guy -- affirmative action personally does him no good. But that is not the way he thinks. He grew up in Little Rock, one of the birthplaces of the civil rights movement, and he knows that African Americans still occupy the lowest rungs of the ladder in a country where everyone is supposed to have "a chance." That is why he has been endorsed by one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Charlie Rangel, and former Atlanta Mayor and aide to Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young.
5. On the issue of gun control, this hunter and gun owner will close the gun show loophole (which would have helped prevent the massacre at Columbine) and he will sign into law a bill to create a federal ballistics fingerprinting database for every gun in America (the DC sniper could have been identified within the first days of his killing spree). He is not afraid, as many Democrats are, of the NRA. His message to them: "You like to fire assault weapons? I have a place for you. It's not in the homes and streets of America. It's called the Army, and you can join any time!"
6. He will gut and overhaul the Patriot Act and restore our constitutional rights to privacy and free speech. He will demand stronger environmental laws. He will insist that trade agreements do not cost Americans their jobs and do not exploit the workers or environment of third world countries. He will expand the Family Leave Act. He will guarantee universal pre-school throughout America. He opposes all discrimination against gays and lesbians (and he opposes the constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage). All of this is why Time magazine this week referred to Clark as "Dean 2.0" -- an improvement over the original (1.0, Dean himself), a better version of a good thing: stronger, faster, and easier for the mainstream to understand and use.
7. He will cut the Pentagon budget, use the money thus saved for education and health care, and he will STILL make us safer than we are now. Only the former commander of NATO could get away with such a statement. Dean says he will not cut a dime out of the Pentagon. Clark knows where the waste and the boondoggles are and he knows that nutty ideas like Star Wars must be put to pasture. His health plan will cover at least 30 million people who now have no coverage at all, including 13 million children. He's a general who will tell those swing voters, "We can take this Pentagon waste and put it to good use to fix that school in your neighborhood." My friends, those words, coming from the mouth of General Clark, are going to turn this country around.
Now, before those of you who are Dean or Kucinich supporters start cloggin' my box with emails tearing Clark down with some of the stuff I've seen floating around the web ("Mike! He voted for Reagan! He bombed Kosovo!"), let me respond by pointing out that Dennis Kucinich refused to vote against the war resolution in Congress on March 21 (two days after the war started) which stated "unequivocal support" for Bush and the war (only 11 Democrats voted against this--Dennis abstained). Or, need I quote Dr. Dean who, the month after Bush "won" the election, said he wasn't too worried about Bush because Bush "in his soul, is a moderate"? What's the point of this ridiculous tit-for-tat sniping? I applaud Dennis for all his other stands against the war, and I am certain Howard no longer believes we have nothing to fear about Bush. They are good people.
Why expend energy on the past when we have such grave danger facing us in the present and in the near future? I don't feel bad nor do I care that Clark -- or anyone -- voted for Reagan over 20 years ago. Let's face it, the vast majority of Americans voted for Reagan -- and I want every single one of them to be WELCOMED into our tent this year. The message to these voters -- and many of them are from the working class -- should not be, "You voted for Reagan? Well, to hell with you!" Every time you attack Clark for that, that is the message you are sending to all the people who at one time liked Reagan. If they have now changed their minds (just as Kucinich has done by going from anti-choice to pro-choice, and Dean has done by wanting to cut Medicare to now not wanting to cut it) -- and if Clark has become a liberal Democrat, is that not something to cheer?
In fact, having made that political journey and metamorphosis, is he not the best candidate to bring millions of other former Reagan supporters to our side -- blue collar people who have now learned the hard way just how bad Reagan and the Republicans were (and are) for them?
We need to take that big DO NOT ENTER sign off our tent and reach out to the vast majority who have been snookered by these right-wingers. And we have a better chance of winning in November with one of their own leading them to the promised land.
There is much more to discuss and, in the days and weeks ahead, I will continue to send you my thoughts. In the coming months, I will also be initiating a number of efforts on my website to make sure we get out the vote for the Democratic nominee in November.
In addition to voting for Wesley Clark, I will also be spending part of my Bush tax cut to help him out. You can join me, if you like, by going to his website to learn more about him, to volunteer, or to donate. To find out about when your state's presidential primaries are, visit Vote Smart.
I strongly urge you to vote for Wes Clark. Let's join together to ensure that we are putting forth our BEST chance to defeat Bush on the November ballot. It is, at this point, for the sake of the world, a moral imperative.
P.S. To register to vote visit www.yourvotematters.org.
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