LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who boasts a four-star military record but concedes he has gaps to fill on domestic policy, told political advisers yesterday he will join the presidential race as the 10th Democratic candidate.
The Arkansan immediately displayed his potential to shake up the nomination fight, gathering party operatives from across the nation for a strategy session that overshadowed Sen. John Edwards’ long-standing plans to formally launch his months-old candidacy.
Senior officials close to Clark said he plans to announce his intentions today in Little Rock, Ark., at a boys and girls club. He enters the race late, against long odds.
Just four months before the first votes are cast, Clark has no formal organization in key states, little money and a patchwork staff culled from the political organizations of former President Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore.
Clark, 58, also has no political experience – not even a student council election to his credit – and he has never been pressed to produce a domestic agenda.
None of this deters Clark or his supporters, who point to his foreign policy credentials and television-tested charisma.
“It’s not too late to get in the race,” Clark told The Associated Press, adding with a wink and smile, “if I decide to run.”
Asked if he was ready to start telling Americans about his position on domestic issues, Clark said, “I’ll do my best, but there will be a lot of things that I don’t know right away.”
“I want to learn,” he said. “I’ve got a whole period of time. I’ve got to go around America. I want to talk to people about the issues.”
The Web site of Draft Clark for President 2004, one of several groups working for him for months, documents Clark’s positions on a range of issues. It says he:
* Favors abortion rights and affirmative action.
* Opposes Bush’s tax cuts, and would consider suspending some of them.
* Opposes drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
* Worries that civil rights were suspended after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“Not only does he bring military experience that President Bush wishes he had, but he also brings an impressive knowledge of domestic issues,” Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) said.