Jewish World Review Jan. 16, 2004/22 Teves, 5764

Wesley Pruden

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Is there another inevitable nominee? | Suddenly the inevitable doesn't look so inevitable.

Howard Dean is still the front-runner this morning, but Iowa Democrats may be about to prove once more that a "front-runner" before anyone actually votes is largely a concoction of the pundits, the pollsters and the talking empty heads.

John Zogby, the pollster with the best recent record in political polling, now says those battered body parts strewn along the side of the road may not be John Kerry's after all. Mr. Kerry, regarded as the living dead only a fortnight ago, has pulled into a three-way tie with Mr. Dean and Dick Gephardt in Iowa. In fact, he may be running slightly ahead of the other two. Some corpse.

Meanwhile, back in New Hampshire, Wesley Clark is thought to be gaining dramatically on the doc, and now, with actual voting about to begin, we're in the "red zone" at last, where the Pundit Primary is exposed once more as meaningless.

The asterisks are still crucial, of course. The Iowa public-opinion polls are particularly unreliable because the pollsters can't be sure who they're talking to. They think they have polled actual voters, who will actually caucus on Monday night, but there's no way they can be sure. A blizzard or a bout of freezing rain could knock all expectations awry.

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If Mr. Dean actually loses Monday night, he must expect to pay dearly. The pundits and the correspondents who have been telling us that he's the inevitable nominee will suck the air out of his balloon overnight, leaving him to tumble into New Hampshire in free fall, flat, frightened and fatigued.

Another asterisk: Now there's a horsefly in Mr. Clark's soup: the Drudge Report yesterday put up a copy of his op-ed in the London Times of only eight months ago, and the transcript of Clark testimony to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, given 18 months ago. The transcripts render his claim that he has "always" been against the war in Iraq a spectacular lie. Ah, the cruelty of the remorseless record, cruelty magnified by the Internet.

"President Bush and Tony Blair should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt," he wrote last April 10. "Can anything be more moving than the joyous throngs swarming the streets of Baghdad? Memories of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the defeat of Milosevic in Belgrade flood back."

That's bad enough, but there's more. Barely a year after 9/11, Mr. Clark testified to the House committee that George W. not only does the right thing by making war on those deserving it, but has a continuing responsibility to do so, and the United Nations be damned. George W., he suggested, could do worse than take Wesley Clark as a model.

"There's no requirement to have any doctrine here," he told the congressmen. "I mean this is simply a long-standing right of the United States and other nations to take the actions they deem necessary in their self-defense. Every president has deployed forces as necessary to take action. He's done so without multilateral support if necessary. He's done so in advance of conflict if necessary. In my experience, I was the commander of the European forces in NATO. When we took action in Kosovo, we did not have United Nations approval to do this and we did so in a way that was designed to pre-empt Serb ethnic cleansing and regional destabilization there. There were some people who didn't agree with that decision. The United Nations was not able to agree to support it with a resolution.

"There's no question that Saddam Hussein ... has chemical and biological weapons. He's had those for a long time. But the United States right now is on a very much different defensive posture than we were before September 11th of 2001. ... If he were to acquire nuclear weapons, I think our friends in the region would face greatly increased risks as would we."

The White House couldn't have put the president's case more eloquently than this. Mr. Clark even cited Richard Perle, the dark prince of the left's most fervid nightmares. "I want to underscore that I think the United States should not categorize this action as pre-emptive. ... As Richard Perle so eloquently pointed out, this is a problem that's long-standing, a decade in the making. It needs to be dealt with and the clock is ticking."

John Kerry inflicts the fatal wound on Howard Dean in Iowa. Wesley Clark does the deed in New Hampshire, but makes himself fit only as the running mate of ... who else? She's the only nominee who could run a sacrificial race and enhance her credentials for '08. Someone might say she's inevitable.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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