September 25, 2003


A Fairy Tale:
The latest presidential candidate arrives in shining armor (David Corn, SEPT. 26 - OCT. 2, 2003, LA Weekly)

Deliver us a white knight, a true and brave soul who can rid us of scoundrels, scalawags and in-it-for-themselves special interests. That’s the cry that periodically
arises within American politics, as would-be voters disgusted (rightfully) with business-as-usual politicians call for a non-politician to rescue the system from itself. At the moment, two candidates in the national spotlight are trying to capitalize upon this save-us-from-politics sentiment.

First came Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then, last week, retired Army General Wesley Clark made a late airdrop into the Democratic presidential contest. Clark, who was supreme commander of NATO before being canned in 1999 by Defense Secretary William Cohen, can boast he is the only Democratic contender whose campaign was preceded by an authentic grassroots movement
urging him to run. The Draft Clark movement recruited 258 regional coordinators nationwide and operated a Web site that drew more visitors than the site of any of the already-running Democratic candidates, except ex–Vermont Governor Howard Dean. Clark has never sought nor held elective office. He cannot recall precisely who he voted for in years past (but assumes he voted for Ronald Reagan at least once). He only recently declared himself a Democrat. Yet plenty of Democrats — and some independents — see him as their white knight.

White-knight politics has had a bumpy time in recent years. In 1992, millions of Americans in search of political salvation looked to tycoon Ross Perot, who claimed that the country’s sputtering economy could easily be fixed if only experts — not politicians — were drawn together to fashion a solution. He turned out to be a bit too eccentric and erratic, more Don Quixote (or Don Knotts) than Lancelot. But he managed to pull 19 percent of the presidential vote. Then, in 1995, Colin Powell pondered a presidential bid, as admirers across the country pined for an above-the-fray/free-of-politics contender. Powell disappointed his fans but persuaded them to buy his memoirs and became a best-selling author instead. In 1998 in Minnesota, former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura, a crash-the-party independent, was surprisingly elected governor. But he was more of a black than a white knight.

Clark’s candidacy may be the best test of white-knightism. He’s neither nutty (like Perot) nor reluctant (like Powell). He has been hailed by anti-Bushies of various ideological inclinations. Populist filmmaker and hero-of-the-left Michael Moore wrote an open letter to Clark pressing him to
run. (He praised Clark’s support of affirmative action, gun control, abortion rights, and his opposition to Bush’s tax cuts, the Patriot Act and the war in Iraq.) The investment bankers at the Blackstone Group — not quite a populist outfit — have been squiring the general. Members of the Blue Dog caucus — conservative Democrats in the House — are expected to sign on early. A Moore–Blackstone–Blue Dog alliance? That’s wide appeal.

Here's a sure sign you've been inside the Beltway too long: you think that three Democratic groups that no one's ever heard of rep[resent a wide range of opinion. Here's another: you think there's a national constituency outside the confines of the Democratic Party that's looking for a candidate who's: pro-gun control, pro-quota, pro-abortion, pro-taxes, anti-war, and against rounding up illegal immigrant Arabs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 25, 2003 9:18 PM
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