Robert Novak

After Clark's meeting with Mladic, the State Department cabled embassies throughout Europe that there was no change in policy toward the Bosnian Serbs. The incident cost Victor Jackovich his job as U.S. ambassador to Bosnia, even though he protested Clark's course. The upshot came months later, when Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, in bitter negotiations with Holbrooke, handed Clark back his Army hat.

After such behavior, Clark was never on the promotion list to full general until he appealed to Defense Secretary William Perry and Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He got his fourth star and became commander in chief of the Southern Command. His last post, as NATO supreme commander, found this infantry officer leading an air war against the Serbs over Kosovo. Clark argued with NATO colleagues by insisting on a ground troops option and complaining about the slowly graduated bombing campaign. He was pushed out abruptly by Defense Secretary William Cohen.

Since retiring in 2000, Clark has not been less contentious. Secretary of State Colin Powell was furious that a fellow four-star general in his CNN commentary would criticize U.S. strategy in Iraq, without much information and with the war barely underway. Clark attributed one comment to a Middle East "think tank" in Canada, although there appears to be no such organization. After claiming that the White House pressured CNN to fire him, Clark later said, "I've only heard rumors about it."

Nevertheless, liberals who gathered Thursday night at the Manhattan home of historian Arthur Schlesinger agreed that a general is just the right kind of candidate to oppose President Bush and that they never had seen any general so liberal as Wes Clark. They chose to ignore past performance, which may be cause for regret.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

©Creators Syndicate