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HUDSON, NEW HAMPSHIREIn a rather bizarre appearance before about 500 townspeople in this southern New Hampshire town's high school last night, General Wesley Clark joked that we might as well send George Bush to Mars and claimed that lobbyists keep America safe (video).
This capped an hour-long gathering that arranged mostly middle-class citizens in a large circle in the high school's auditorium. Before Clark could come onstage there was the obligatory showing of a dreadful documentary film on the general's brilliant career. The film, made in the style of Clinton's lugubrious campaign flicks, touches all the bases: How young Wes helped his mom after his dad died. How he was an ace swimmer in high school, went to West Point, and married a strong woman from Brooklyn. How he was shipped to Vietnam, where he was badly wounded. You know the rest.
As the flick mercifully came to an end, the general strode into the room and started off by telling the cheering crowd that whoever really wants to know his programs should check out the website. He also said that one important factor in being president is your faith, listing all the denominations he's dipped into over the years: His dad was Jewish. His mom, a Methodist. He joined the Baptist Church, and in addition to attending church two or three times every Sunday, went back during the week for another service and a first-class spaghetti dinner. Anyhow, this is where he learned the basic tenet of Christianityyou've gotta help those less fortunate than yourself.
Moving on to other topics, the general said he was so galvanized as a child by the Sputnik challenge and Jack Kennedy's desire to get a man on the moon that he tried to build his own rocket in the backyard, experimenting with different fuels till he got a decent bang. The general-to-be was sitting in an Arkansas barber shop when Kruschev threatened to bury America. That didn't seem right, and sensing the first stirrings of patriotism, Clark got real mad.
People began to ask him questions: How come you got relieved of your command? Clark said he wasn't relieved, but in the interests of helping the Kosovo people, he quit his job as supreme NATO commander. (Actually, he called them "Albanian people," though people in Kosovo do not consider themselves part of Albania.)
A woman said she was plenty pissed at the Iraq war and didn't want to send any of her sons over there unless there was "a damn good reason." Clark agreed and said he hoped the draft wouldn't return. "I promise you I won't get us into another mess like this," he said at one point.
Clark claimed we had to do something about health care and suggested building a national system modeled on the federal employees' health insurance systema plan long promoted by the right-wing Heritage Foundation.
After the army, Clark said he jumped into the private sector because he wanted to make money that he could give away. He became a lobbyist for a company that had put together a neat software system for catching hijackers. He said there was no reason to dump on lobbyists per se, because they help get things done.
Clark said losing American jobs to third-world countries was a big problem, especially sending thousands of software jobs to India. The general said he had learned there is a trapdoor in a lot of software programs, and for national security reasons alone he didn't want foreigners stashing anything in software that's crucial to our national defense.
When someone asked whether it was true he had been a Republican only a year ago, Clark said: "I was never a Republican," adding he had voted for Clinton and Gore. "I live the values of the Democratic party," he claimed. "There's only one party for me."
Additional reporting: Ashley Glacel