Two months ago, I defended Wesley Clark against a coy smear by Gen. Hugh Shelton, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Shelton had told an audience that Clark was forced to step down as commander of U.S. forces in Europe because of “integrity and character issues.” Shelton declined subsequent opportunities to elaborate. This was vicious and unfair, I argued, because “until Shelton clarifies the charge, Clark can’t rebut it.”
Clark seems to have learned a lesson from that smear tactic. He’s learned how to copy it.
A few days ago on Meet the Press, host Tim Russert engaged Clark in the following exchange:
Russert: You then later, in Phoenix Radio, talked about the White House trying to get you kicked off CNN, but you said, “Well, you know, it was only rumor.” … But there’s no evidence the White House tried to get you removed from CNN as an analyst?
Clark: Well, I haven’t presented any evidence, because were I to present that evidence, people would be in trouble. So …
Russert: There is evidence?
Clark: Well, I mean, there’s what I know, and the person that told me about it. But I’m under no obligation to present that evidence. I know what happened, and if I hadn’t been confident that that had happened, I wouldn’t have said it.
Did Clark recognize any hypocrisy in this? Not at all. Russert’s next question was about Shelton’s smear. “What is Gen. Shelton referring to? Why were you given the ax as NATO commander?” asked Russert. Clark replied, “I don’t know what he’s referring to.”
Neither do the people in the White House, Gen. Clark. You owe them better than what was done to you.