clark as the anti-dean?

Josh Marshall has an interesting post up about Wesley Clark’s (potential, but more and more likely) entry into the Democratic primary race.

Remember, Dean has been labeled the insurgent lefty. This is absurd if you take into account the whole of his policy record, which is largely centrist, but it’s going to cling to him because of a) his opposition to the Iraq war and b) his support for civil unions in Vermont.

So, the centrist, “Third Way” Dem establishment has decided that Dean needs to have the air let out of his tires. They’ve been sniping at him, saying stuff like this:

The fact is, “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean likes to call it, is an aberration, a modern-day version of the old McGovern wing of the party, defined principally by weakness abroad and elitist interest-group liberalism at home.

Like I said, it’s hard to identify any actual Dean positions in this caricature, but Marshall has an explanation for their bizarrely intense opposition to Dean: they don’t have a candidate of their own. Lieberman has no support in the rank and file; Edwards has gone nowhere; Kerry is a lackluster default front-runner.

Enter four-star General Wesley Clark: good-looking, smart as a whip, well-spoken, liberal where it counts, centrist where it helps, with built-in immunity on national security… seems perfect, no?

Maybe so.

The DLC has outlived its usefulness; it was by, for, and about Bill Clinton, and these are not Clintonian times. Winning this time around will be about more than triangulating; it will be about inspiring. This will be an election of competing visions, competing personalities, personas, characters, not policy details. The Dems need a big-picture candidate with some gravitas and passion, who can inspire trust and hope. Thus far, Dean is the only candidate who has demonstrated these qualities, and if I had to choose now, I’d go with him, DLC be damned.

But Clark… at this point all speculation about him amounts to projecting on an almost blank slate, but still… he really does have the potential to be all the pieces in one puzzle. I’m holding off on full enthusiasm for now–I want to see if/how he campaigns–but I think he might just be the myth-maker we need. I predict that if he jumps in and gets a few high-profile endorsements (Clinton has hinted he’ll support Clark), he’ll become the front-runner in the primary and, barring unforseen scandals or whatnot, win it. Then it’s Clark v. Bush: très intéressant.