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By Gary D. Halbert
September 23, 2003


1.  General Wesley Clark Becomes Instant Frontrunner.

2.  Why Bill & Hillary Clinton Have Anointed Clark.

3.  Will Clark Ask Hillary To Be His Vice President?

4.  Can Clark Really Snuff Out Howard Dean?


Three surprises: two that should have surprised no one, and one we need to think about...  First, retired General Wesley Clark entered the Democratic presidential race last week (he said as much over a month ago).  Second, he immediately became the front-runner (like that took much!).  Third, Clark apparently has the full support and backing of Bill and Hillary Clinton and the DNC political machine (this one requires some explaining).  

The embrace of Clark by the Clintons has many wondering why.  I’ll tell you why.  In short, they are scared of Howard Dean who is a threat to their defacto control of the Democratic party.  So they have shoved Clark, who they can control, into the race.  The question is, will it work?

Polls released over the weekend and since show that Clark has vaulted to the front of the Democratic pack in just a week.  Republicans must admit, this is impressive, relatively speaking.  However, other polls showed that President Bush would beat Clark 47-43 if the election were held today, as compared to polls that showed Bush would trounce former Dem frontrunner Howard Dean by 47-38. 

This week we look at the facts, the rumors and the likely goings-on behind the scenes in Wesley Clark’s latest coming-out party and why the Clintons have jumped on his bandwagon… Can you say, Hillary for Vice-President?   Hum……

The Clintons Back Clark – Why?

Some of my conservative friends and colleagues are scratching their heads over why Bill Clinton, and to a lesser extent, Hillary would come out in support of Wesley Clark.  It has been widely reported that former president Bill Clinton actually urged Clark to get into the race and promised to support him.  The question is, why would the Clintons come out in support of Clark, who some feel is the only candidate that might actually have a chance against President Bush?

It is no longer any secret that Hillary is eyeing a run for the White House in 2008.  I am certainly not alone in thinking that the Clintons would just as soon see Bush win in 2004, so that Hillary would not have to unseat a Democrat incumbent president for the party nomination in 2008.  So again the question is, why would the Clintons come out in support of Clark?

The answer is, Howard Dean.  Former Vermont governor Howard Dean was clearly the frontrunner among the Democratic contenders.  If Dean were to win the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary in January, which looked very likely before Clark got in the race, he would be well on his way to wrapping up the nomination as early as February.  This would be a major problem for the Clintons.

The Clintons maintain control of the Democratic party by way of Terry McAuliffe, their long-time friend and chairman of the DNC.  Howard Dean and McAuliffe are said to despise each other.  Thus, it is widely believed that if Dean gets the nomination, and perhaps even before, he would replace McAuliffe and the other Clinton cronies in the DNC with anti-establishment types within his crowd.

So, while the Clintons might just as soon see Dean get the nomination, and then be beaten handily by Bush next year, thus leaving the door wide open for Hillary in 2008, they do not want to relinquish control of the party.

A friend asked me why the Clintons wouldn’t throw their support behind one of the other candidates such as Gephardt or Kerry, either of whom might be content to leave McAuliffe and the Clintons in power.  The problem is, the Clintons can’t control Gephardt or Kerry – they don’t owe the Clintons anything. 

Wesley Clark does.  Bill Clinton anointed him and he has soared to the top in less than a week.  Several polls released over the weekend, and since, show Clark ahead of all the other Dem candidates.

It would be most interesting to know if the Clintons really believe Clark has a chance against Bush.  Some observers believe that the Clintons think Clark is strong enough to snuff out Dean, but not formidable enough to beat Bush.  If so, that works for the Hillary in 2008 scenario, which is now being referred to as the “Clinton Restoration.”

A Smart Political Move?

It has been noted frequently by the politicos in the media that none of the Democratic wannabes have raised any serious money from the deep pockets in the party.  Howard Dean, for example, has raised most of his loot on the Internet in the way of mostly small donations.  The big money in the party has been waiting on the sidelines to see if anyone else gets in the race.

The Clintons hosted a dinner two weeks ago at their Chappaqua mansion for, reportedly, 150 or so of the party’s largest potential donors.  It has been widely reported that Hillary told the guests to hold their donations “for my next campaign, whatever that might be.”  This quote has been out there for two weeks, and to my knowledge, Hillary has not denied making it.  It is curious indeed.

Now that they have anointed Clark, we should expect to see the Clinton money machine kick into high gear.  Clark should have no trouble raising a lot of money if the Clintons really get behind him.  But one wonders, as noted above, if the Clintons merely want Clark to beat Dean and lose to Bush, or whether they really want him to win. 

Former Clinton advisor, Dick Morris, stated in a New York Post column today that he is certain the Clintons do NOT want Clark to win the election.   Morris believes the Clintons have rallied behind Clark only so that he takes out Dean but loses to Bush.

Hillary As Vice President?

There is some speculation that Clark will ask Hillary to be his running mate in the VP slot if it looks like he has a chance to win.  Let me say that I have no idea if this is true or not, but it does have some interesting implications.

There would be some clear advantages to a Clark/Hillary ticket, assuming Clark gets the nomination.  First, as much as conservatives hate to admit it, a Clark/Hillary ticket would be formidable, relatively speaking.  Remember that Hillary still dwarfs all the Democratic contenders in the polls.   Second, if Hillary vaults into the national scene as Clark’s running mate, it would allow them to air all of her “dirty laundry” later this year and next year – instead of in 2007 and 2008.

Certainly, there would be some disadvantages as well, assuming Hillary plans to run in 2008.  The obvious question is, what happens if Clark wins in 2004 and wants to run again in 2008?  That would mean that Hillary would not have a shot until 2012 when she would be 65 years old.  Or would Clark agree to step aside after one term and let Hillary take the nomination? 

There are many interesting questions swirling around the candidacy of Wesley Clark and whatever plans Hillary may have.  Of course, all the latest talk of Hillary getting the VP slot may be nothing more than gossip.

And, let us not forget, Hillary could still jump in the 2004 race for president.  Yes, she continues to deny it, but if Bush’s approval ratings should fall below 50% (currently 52% in the aggregate), she may not be able to resist.  Her husband has been dropping some interesting hints along this line, reportedly saying at their recent dinner party that there are only “two stars” in the Democratic party – Wesley Clark and Hillary… So much for the wannabes!

Clark Is Not Without Some Baggage

Wesley Clark has an enviable resume: four star general; supreme NATO commander; onetime head of the U.S. Southern Command; first in his class at West Point Rhodes Scholar; etc.  That’s not to mention he is handsome, vibrant and an outsider.

From Clark’s speeches and writings over the last year, it appears he is pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, pro-immigration, supports a progressive tax policy (read: higher taxes), is wary of the US Patriot Act, doesn't support drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, and supports a broad social safety net.  He’s a rare liberal general.

Clark waffled over the war in Iraq.  One day last week, he said he probably would have voted for it had he been in Congress.  The next day, he said he would have never voted for it.  In any event, he would have preferred a multinational coalition with United Nations oversight.

There are some questions about his military career, especially in the later years prior to being fired (early retirement) by Bill Clinton in 2000.  You can read more about this in the link below to a column by Robert Novak.

Clark has some other obstacles as well.  While he has spiked to frontrunner status in just a few days, he is still a late entry to the party.   He has never held any political office before.  He has never been under the microscope.  He is also reported to be “thin-skinned” and has quite a temper.  The Clintons and the various ex-Clinton/Gore advisors Clark has hired will no doubt speed him up the political learning curve, but it may not be as easy as some currently think.

Will Clark Wear Well?

Many in the Democratic leadership feel Clark is the perfect candidate to bring the fractured party back together.  He’s liberal; he’s anti-war (sort of); he’s intelligent; and he could be the one man who could revive the party’s tattered image on national security.  Some even believe that because Clark has no domestic agenda yet, he is free to stake out only the most popular domestic positions.  Could be.

Yet there are others who believe that General Clark’s popularity will fade fast, and that we should not count out Howard Dean.  I was surprised to see this morning that the first four editorial columns on were actually negative on Clark. 

[I’ve told you about in the past.  It’s one of the few websites I visit every day.  It includes a dozen or more selected editorials every day from various newspapers around the country.  I highly recommend it.]

Dick Morris had the following to say in his New York Post column today:

QUOTE: “Clark’s rise is clearly a media-inspired flavor of the week. When Dean graced the front pages of Time and Newsweek, he was similarly honored with a first-place rating. Clark’s surge is not so much a testament to his strength as to the weakness of Bush on the one hand and the Democratic field on the other.

Clark will not wear well. His early gaffes show his inexperience. He would be a bit like a latter-day Dwight D. Eisenhower, except that nobody can quite recall what war it is that he won. The initial enthusiasm for his candidacy really came from Europe, where this general-who-opposes-war is the kind of guy only the elites of Paris can truly love. The only primary he has locked up is Democrats abroad.

But then Bill Clinton picked up the Clark banner and had his staff rally around his fellow Arkansan. Why? Hillary and Bill support confusion, chaos and consternation as their preferred strategy for Democrats in 2004. Determined that nobody but they capture the White House - or even the Democratic Party - the Clintons are opposed to anyone who gains momentum.

In the long run, Dean’s momentum will prove real and Clark’s will be seen as bogus. Dean has amassed a base of grassroots (or cyber-roots) support by tapping into two groups - gays and peaceniks. His message spread among them not as a result of top-down advertising but by the new Internet style of viral, horizontal marketing. Gays and their supporters and anti-war zealots spread the word among themselves that Dean was their man.   The result was a genuine outpouring of backing from small donors and local activists.

The Dean candidacy is the first creation of the Internet age. By contrast, Clark’s is perhaps the last of the media-created candidacies. Dean’s support will carry him through the early primaries. He will likely score one-punch knockouts in Iowa of Gephardt, in New Hampshire of Kerry, and in South Carolina of Edwards.”  END QUOTE.

If Morris is correct, the Clintons lose big-time!  Also, if he’s right, it will be interesting to see how fast the Clintons jump ship from Wes Clark.   And does that mean that Hillary has to get in the race to stop Dean?


It is going to be very interesting to see how this political battle plays out between Clark and the Clintons against Howard Dean.  The most recent polls on the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary show Dean ahead, but these were taken before Clark got in the race. New polls should be out in the next week or so when we will know more about Clark’s popularity in these early primaries which will be pivotal.

As for Hillary’s intentions, I wouldn’t make a bet either way at this point.   The keys to her decision (assuming there is one) will be: 1) Bush’s approval ratings; and 2) whether Clark can snuff out Dean.  Also, keep in mind that the filing deadline for the New Hampshire primary is November 21.  If she wants to run in the primaries, she needs to file by then.  We’ll see.

Bush’s approval ratings seem to have stabilized in the low-to-mid 50s.   While they could drift lower, they could also go up.  Economic news should be very encouraging for the 3Q; some economists expect the GDP number to be above 5%, maybe even 6%.  If true, the media can’t ignore that.  Plus, Bush has not begun to campaign yet.  When he does, his ratings should go up as well.

One thing is for sure: the battle between Clark and Dean is for the heart and soul of the Democratic party.  It will decide, once and for all, whether the Clintons maintain their control of the party, or they fade into the sunset.  It may also decide whether Hillary runs for president.  Not surprisingly, most Republicans are quietly pulling for Dean.

All the best,

Gary D. Halbert


The Clintons anoint Clark.

Why Hillary might agree to be Clark’s VP.

Clark may have picked the wrong battle.

Questions about Clark’s military past.

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Forecasts & Trends E-Letter is published by Halbert Wealth Management, Inc. Gary D. Halbert is the president and CEO of Halbert Wealth Management, Inc. and is the editor of this publication. Information contained herein is taken from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed as to its accuracy. Opinions and recommendations herein generally reflect the judgement of Gary D. Halbert (or another named author) and may change at any time without written notice. Market opinions contained herein are intended as general observations and are not intended as specific investment advice. Readers are urged to check with their investment counselors before making any investment decisions. This electronic newsletter does not constitute an offer of sale of any securities. Gary D. Halbert, Halbert Wealth Management, Inc., and its affiliated companies, its officers, directors and/or employees may or may not have investments in markets or programs mentioned herein. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results. Reprinting for family or friends is allowed with proper credit. However, republishing (written or electronically) in its entirety or through the use of extensive quotes is prohibited without prior written consent.

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