The Blog

As Good As It Gets

John Kerry comes back from the dead, John Edwards shines, and Wesley Clark calls for regime change in the Middle East.

1:30 AM, Jan 21, 2004 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

The crowd at the Palace is stirred up, although it's not clear if it's Clark or the specter of George W. Bush that's responsible. Either way, Clark gets his first standing ovation of the night by questioning the president's patriotism: "I don't think patriotism is a president dressing up in a flight suit and prancing around on the deck of an aircraft carrier."

So it's hardly a surprise that the audience isn't on its best behavior once the general retires to the wings and the State of the Union begins. (For those keeping score, the Clark campaign chose the ABC broadcast.) There are the obligatory boos and hisses whenever Donald Rumsfeld, Tom DeLay, or Dick Cheney appear onscreen, but the crowd also expresses disapproval for Colin Powell and Lynne Cheney. During the course of the speech, audience members bay at the screen. For instance, when the president reports that since September 11 there have been no terrorist attacks on American soil, one fellow yells angrily, "And you're taking credit for it!?!" When the president lists the countries taking part in the coalition in Iraq, the crowd laughs derisively. When Bush says that "the people of Iraq are now free" one person in the balcony claps tentatively. The rest of the hall sits in silence.

AFTER THE SPEECH, Clark returns to a big ovation. He speaks briefly and then takes a few questions. The crowd is so worked up that they don't even notice when the general stakes out a more hawkish position than the president. "We're going to go to the Saudis and the Pakistanis and we're going to end the hatred, the invective, the funding, the madrassas, and help change those regimes in the Middle East," he says.

The question is whether Clark has just decided on regime change in those countries, or if they've been on his list since he first decided to run for president.

Jonathan V. Last in online editor of The Weekly Standard.