Saturday, August 30, 2024
By Steven Taylor

A comment by PoliBlog’s resident Troll sparked some further thought on the issue of Generals seeking the presidency, specifically what would have been the likely fortunes of Colin Powell, had he sought his party’s nomination in 1996 or 2024.

My most recent posts on Clark are here and here.

Powell would have had similar troubles with the Republican primary voters that Clark is likely to have with Democratic ones, while Clark is more moderate than the Democratic base, so, too, is Powell too moderate for the Republican base. If one doubts, consider that Powell is pro-choice, and pro-affirmative action, two non-starters with hardcore conservatives. Further evidence can be found in looking at the current dynamic in California, where it is likely that a large number of conservative Republicans would rather lose the governorship to Cruz Bustamante than to vote for the moderate Schwarzenegger. Additional evidence to support the contention can be easily found by observing some of the stinging criticism that Powell has received from conservative element in the Republican Party during his tenure at Secretary of State.

I do think that Powell would have fared somewhat better than I am predicting Clark will do should he enter. I think that in 1996 Powell would have had a real shot at besting Dole. For one thing, Dole was not (to say the least) a very exciting candidate, and Republicans where quite interesting in beating Clinton (and yes, Democratic voters are quite interested in besting Bush, but 2024 has Dean, 1996 had Dole-in terms of energizing voters, two rather different candidates). I think it is possible, precisely how likely is hard to judge, that there would have been enough conservatives willing to vote for Powell in 1996 for the nomination that he might have beaten Dole.

2000 is more complex. First there would have been the McCain factor-a lot of Powell-likely Republicans would also have been McCain voters. This would have split the opposition to Bush. Further, Bush was a very popular candidate with a large percentage of the Republican base. Still, it would have been more of a fight than I am predicting for Clark.

Aside from scenario-specific issues (i.e., who the other candidates are, and the timing problem Clark will have), there are two important differences between Powell and Clark that both favor Powell. The first is found in their political careers and how that translates to politics. Powell had served in political positions before, when he was Reagan’s National Security Advisor, but most especially as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the first Gulf War. His association with the Reagan administration was a plus with conservatives, and his high visibility in a successful, and highly televised war meant that he was a well-known figure nationally.

Indeed, Mr. Powell ranked highly in polls as a top admired Americans after his retirement in the early goings of the Clinton administration.

Clark, despite an impressive resume, and even with his exposure on CNN, simply does not have that kind of relationship with the public at large and was never the kind of public presence during his military career that Powell was. Quick! Who’s the current Supreme Allied Commander Europe? Don’t know? Me, neither, and that was the case for even the informed American public during most of Clark’s tenure at that position. The conflicts in the Balkans raised his profile, but hardly to the degree that would come anywhere close to matching Powell’s during the Gulf War.

(It’s General James L. Jones, Marine Corps, actually. The internet is a wonderful thing).

A second factor that highly worked in Powell’s favor was race. On the one hand, his race would result in some initial blunting of criticisms, given the delicate nature of racial politics in the US. Second, and in some ways more importantly, is the fact that many in the Republican Party might have been willing to overlook some of Powell’s moderateness to have the opportunity for the first black president to be a Republican. Such things are very difficult to measure, but I think it would have been a factor.

In terms of fanciful predictions well after the fact, I would say that Powell had a serious shot at the Republican nomination in 1996, but probably would have lost to Clinton in the election, and had a lesser shot at the nomination in 2024. He likely would have been competitive against Gore.

Powell shares a key characteristics with Clark, however, and that is that out of power partisans found (in Powell’s case) and find (in Clark’s case) a semi-blank slate upon which to project their views. The problem with such blank slates, however, is that once the person in question starts filling in the blank spaces on their own, they inevitably disappoint someone.

Mr. Clark has had an impressive career and is, no doubt, a capable individual, but I stand by my analysis below-he won’t fare well in the Democratic nomination process, and even if he managed, somehow, to be nominated his rookie-status in terms of national politics will put him at a disadvantage in running against a sitting president.

Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments/Trackbacks (10)|
The views expressed in the comments are the sole responsibility of the person leaving those comments. They do not reflect the opinion of the author of PoliBlog, nor have they been vetted by the author.

10 Responses to “More on Generals in Politics”

  • el
  • pt
    1. JadeGold Says:

      Much better, Steven. Much, much better.

      Many of your premises and conclusions are inaccurate but at least you’re now attempting to justify some of your assertions. And that’s a good thing.

      First problem with your analysis is you’re apparently basing much of your analysis on the stipulated fact Clark simply doesn’t (or didn’t) have the name recognition of Powell. This is a weak argument when you consider a Bill Clinton or a Howard Dean also didn’t enjoy a lot of name recognition outside of their own regions. Name recognition is over-emphasized; it only matters if the candidate in question has no real qualifications or accomplishments or notoriety.

      More to follow..electrical storm

    2. JadeGold Says:

      Second, WRT Colin Powell and moderation. You’re quite correct Powell is far removed from the GOP base; we all recall how he was booed at a GOP convention for saying he was pro-AA and pro-choice. The GOP likes Powell because he’s a beard for them on racial issues. OTOH, they don’t care a whit for his politics as evidenced by recent attempts to make Powell the scapegoat for the ongoing Iraq debacle.

      Whether Powell could have secured the GOP nominAtion in 96 or 00 is up for debate. Personally, I don’t believe the GOP is ready for a black man at the helm. But Powell would have done better against a Bush Jr. than against a Dole if for no other reason than Powell would then not be available to bolster Bush’s campaign in the areas of foreign policy and the military. It is also quite possible, without a Powell, Bush may not have received 9% of the black vote.

      However, Clark is far more aligned with the base of the Democratic Party. Believe it or not, Dems care just as passionately as anyone on national security issues–we just believe you should be honest and open about the reasons for going to war. Even Dean, who opposed the war, doesn’t favor abandoning Iraq.

      Clark negates Bush’s most powerful campaign theme: national security. Pictures of Bush on the CV(N) all of a sudden look like Dukakis riding around in a tank. And as Steven noted, Bush now has a record to run on–a not very good one; Clark should be able to put together a platform which exploits this.

    3. JadeGold Says:

      Steven: I save my “smug taunting” for cogent analysis. For you, I offer “acrid derision.”


      Again, you’re foisting the canard that being Governor of a state automatically translates into national name recognition. Ain’t necessarily so. Most people would be lucky to be able to name 3 or 4 state Governors. Quick! Who is the Governor of Maine? Of Iowa? Of North Dakota? Of Oregon?

      Moreover, the power wielded by Governors varies dramatically. As we know, Texas’ Governor wields very little power. While the Governor of a state such as California has a great deal of power.

    4. Steven Says:

      That wasn;t what I said. As usual your reading comprehension must be called into question.

    5. JadeGold Says:

      Steven also makes a lot of wild hand gestures about constituencies as if constituencies were something a person is born with, like red hair or big feet.

      Constituencies form around candidates with whom voters agree with on certain issues. IOW, when a Bush Jr. proclaims abortion to be wrong and against the Constitution–he obtains the anti-choice constituency. When a Dick Gephardt votes pro-union on every issue, he gets the labor constituency.

      Similarly, any candidate with an opinion is going to garner a constituency. We know Clark is pro-choice–so it’s not a stretch to imagine he’ll get that vote. He’s pro-AA–he’d get that.

    6. Steven Says:

      You spend an awful lot of time hanging around my blog for someone who only wishes to spew derision.

      And just being pro this or pro that that doesn’t mean you get anything vote-wise. All nine Dems are pro-choice, will they all get the pro-choice vote? And now you are reducing the conversation to single issues.

      And no, anyone with an opinion isn’t going to garner a consituency, at least not one big enough to get nominated, WHICH IS THE ISSUE.

      Again, as i said the other day, we will see how this pans out. When Clark gets the nomination, you can gloat. I shan’t spend much time worrying about that happening, however.

    7. JadeGold Says:

      For one who claims not to be worrying about something that will never happen–you spend an awful lot of time reprinting GOP watercarriers’ opinions of GEN Clark.

      Do you really believe George Will would ever write a favorable opinion column about any Democrat candidate?

      Steven, I’m beginning to believe you don’t understand constituencies. For example, Dick Gephardt–in the early going–will probably suck up most of the labor union endorsements. According to you, this means when a Gephardt doesn’t secure the nomination, those labor endorsements are lost to the eventual nominee.

      Do you really believe NOW is going to abandon the Dem nominee if it’s not Mosely-Braun? Are they going to stay home come Nov of 04?

      Come on, Steven–I’m giving you credit for knowing better.

    8. Steven Says:

      Listen, my anonymous friend, what you don’t understand is the nomination process.

      Clearly all the relevant Democratic constituencies will coalesce around the eventual nominee. That isn’t the issue. The issue is, especially given the highly compressed nature of the nomination process, that to get nominated one needs a clear constituency immediately. If one does not, garnering the nomination is difficult, because one will lose the early primaries.

      Indeed, you make part of my point: if Gephardt does, initially, “suck up” the labor vote the labor vote initially, it isn’t available to other candidates. Again, you are conflating the nomination process with the general election.

      If one loses the early primaries one loses precious media coverage, one loses contributions (people don’t give money in large quantities to losers) and one loses voters (the downstream, so to speak, primary voters tend to be less inclined to vote for someone who won 3% of the vote early on than someone who won 30% or 40%).

      There’s a reason why these candidates spend so much time in Iowa and New Hampshire, and, to a lesser degree, South Carolina. It certainly isn’t because of their vast populations. Think about it.

      Such observations have precious little to do with carrying anyone’s water. They have to do with understanding this process.

      And aside from your somewhat obnoxious partisanship, it is rather unclear as to what your qualification are to argue otherwise.

      I challenge you to 1) demonstrate how the above has anything to do with my particular partisan leanings, and 2) demonstrate how it is empirically incorrect.

      Ranting is not allowed, but research is. Grades will be issued at the end.

    9. Steven Says:

      Also, I would note, that again you are relying on a flawed debating tactic–rather than respond to the content of the post you rant that George Will would never write a favorable column about a Democrat and that I am carrying partisan water.

      However, such assertions do nothing to actual deal with the content of either Will’s column nor of my posts.

      In short: try again.

    10. Anonymous Says:

    blog advertising is good for you

    Visitors Since 2/15/03

    Wikio - Top of the Blogs - Politics



    Powered by WordPress