Subject: When Clark came to Oklahoma 11/29/03

 Unbeknownst to (and him to me), I attended retired Gen. Wes Clark's visit to
 south Oklahoma City Saturday afternoon, November 29th.  I arrived at the VFW hall
 uncharacteristically early, in part because of  reconnaissance I'd done earlier in the week
 ...around the corner from the rally site, my barber enthusiastically had asked what I thought about
"our President's" Thanksgiving trip to Iraq.  I said I thought it was a politically-motivated stunt,
 but at least now the deserter had been in a war zone . . . .

 ha ha
After pining for an energetic re-election campaign from Al Gore, I was supporting those with
unquestionable military credentials:  Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Gen. Clark (D-AR).  My sense
of the demographics of  Clark's supporters (southern, male, and white), my desire for coattails reaching
into Congress, and his demonstrated ability to stand up and fight had led me to lean strongly to Clark.

I was there to experience Clark for myself (and to help bulk up the crowd).  When I arrived, I saw
I needn't have worried about the crowd.  At least a hundred people were already seated around a
triangular floor, providing an in-the-round stage.  As TV and print photographers set up across from
a veteran-packed venue, people continued to pour in, bringing attendance to over 300--not bad for
an event with just a few days' notice!

I signed in and looked around for attendees I knew.  After finding a seat, I located a couple of people
from my church, including a former state house candidate.  I saw another pair of men I'd worked with
in various campaigns.

Then I spotted Debbe Leftwich, whose husband, the late state Sen. Keith Leftwich, was in large part
responsible for presidential candidates' newfound interest in the Sooner State.  Keith carried the bill to
move up Oklahoma's presidential primary.  His untimely death (from cancer) opened the seat, which
Debbe was now seeking.  As I wrote her a contribution check, I heard a large ovation.

Gen. Clark had arrived!

I hurried back to my seat, saved by another friendly Democrat, to take my measure of the man I hoped
would unseat W.

He spoke briefly, upbeat and feisty, taut and energetic.  He thanked the crowd and organizers for pulling
the event together so quickly.  He praised the late Sen. Leftwich, brought Debbe up again (she had spoken
briefly before Clark's arrival), and wished her well in her race.  He spoke about his background, introduced
his wife, laid into Bush, and outlined some of his plans as President.

Frankly, I don't remember too many specifics--mainly, I was listening for anything that made me cringe.
I didn't hear any.  After about 15 minutes, the floor was opened for questions from the audience.

With Clark being a military man, with Tinker Air Force Base being the largest single employer in Oklahoma,
and by holding the event in a VFW hall, it was no surprise that several of the early questions dealt with defense,
veterans, and national security issues.  Clark answered as only someone who's "been there" and "done that" could.

A couple of later answers stood out to me.  First, a familiar-looking man I finally recognized as former state
representative and corporation commissioner Jim Townsend asked about what Clark would do about the
lucrative, no-bid contracts awarded to Halliburton, Bechtel, and other well-connected Republican donors.
Clark first remarked that he had many friends administering the contracts for the contractors and said
that's what retired generals and colonels DID-unless they were mad enough to run for office.

It got a big laugh--and laid the groundwork for Clark to rip Bush a new "Clymer" for Bush's lack of integrity
and transparency.  Clark pulled in evidence from Bush sealing his gubernatorial records in Texas (for which
the Republicans are now attacking Gov. Howard Dean . . .pot, meet kettle...),  sealing Ronald Reagan's and
Poppy Bush's presidential records, and Vice-pResident Cheney's secret energy task force meetings.  Clark
certainly showed me a sense of humor--but one with an edge and a purpose.

There was another question or two, which Clark used to emphasize the Commander-in-Thief's penchant for
using troops for his own purposes while failing to actually provide material support for them or their families.
Then, a woman asked if Clark would support federal funding for stem cell research "so my brother could
get out of his wheelchair".  Clark knocked that softball--which reminded attendees of the costs, to real people,
of turning health decisions over to anti-abortion activists--out of the park with a quick "YES".

After the applause died down, he clearly wanted to say more.  He paused a moment, as if searching for the
right word, and then fairly blurted out, "This administration is ANTI-SCIENCE!"

This earned an even BIGGER round of applause, as he laid into Bush and his administration for stacking
scientific boards and commissions with ideologues, pulling us out of the Kyoto (anti-global warming) and
other treaties, and falsifying New York City air quality reports after the 9/11 tragedy.

It was a thoughtful answer that really rang true for me.  It showed an understanding of how even seemingly
minor government agencies can have a significant impact, for good or ill, on everyday lives.

That did it:  I'd found my candidate!

December 4, 2003

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