Ballot Box

The Agenda of Wesley Clark

What he’d do as president.

Slate has been running several series of short features explaining who the 2004 presidential candidates are, what they’re saying, and where they propose to take the country. The “Agenda” series outlined what each candidate would do as president. Candidates take positions on many issues, but once in the White House, a president tends to focus on the few issues he or she really cares about. The purpose of this series is to identify those issues and clarify how the candidate, as president, would address them. Today’s subject is Wesley Clark, who entered the race on Wednesday.

1. Internationalize U.S. foreign policy. Clark strongly favors collaboration with allies, even if he has to get 19 nations to approve individual bombing targets, as he did during NATO’s war in Kosovo. In a speech to the New Democrat Network on June 17, 2003, Clark proposed a foreign policy based on three ideas. The first is idealistic engagement: “We started the ball rolling, the ball of revolution that’s passed across the Atlantic and is sweeping across the world. … We proselytize. We sell our ideas.” The second is reliance on international organizations. Even when the United States had a monopoly on nuclear weapons and half the world’s gross domestic product, said Clark, we nurtured the United Nations because “America wasn’t strong enough to go it alone.” Third, force should be used “only as a last resort” because it has vast “unintended consequences.” Clark cited postwar Iraq as an illustration.

2. Stimulate the economy. On June 15, 2003, Clark said on Meet the Press that he opposed Bush’s tax cuts because they “weren’t fair,” “were not efficient in terms of stimulating the kind of demand we need,” and ran up the deficit. Two days later, Clark called for a “demand stimulus,” which he said should be targeted at people in need and should be limited in order to keep the deficit under control. He also proposed to stimulate small-business investment “through tax incentives where necessary.”

3. Invest in the environment, education, health, and retirement. In his June 17 speech, Clark extrapolated from the supervision of soldiers to the supervision of civilians. Under the rubric of “investing in human potential,” he said he had worked to give his troops better housing, better health care, better schools for their children, and time off to be with their families. In the civilian realm, he called for environmental protection, investment in education (especially better pay for teachers), and sounder long-term financing of retirement and health care.