Clark 1, Russert 0

Appearing on Meet the Press with Tim Russert is basically mandatory for presidential candidates these days (though I think Bush will only do so again if he’s forced to do so by very close polls). Dean tried and didn’t do so well, though the attacks on his performance were largely unfair. Clark, on the other hand, didn’t really seem to give much meat to his critics, and came across appearing much more knowledgeable on the issues than Russert (transcript here). Russert would throw out a quote and Clark responded ably. A quick check of the conservative National Review’s blog, The Corner, and Instapundit support this take — neither has posts criticizing Clark’s appearance (though perhaps they are still waiting for the faxes from the RNC).

In any case, the following exchange was amusing and it illustrates the general give and take (and who was doing most of the taking) of the interview:

MR. RUSSERT: After the war was commenced in April, you did write an article for The London Times and you said, “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. Statues and images of Saddam are smashed and defiled. … President Bush, Tony Blair should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt.”

GEN. CLARK: But, Tim, do you have the rest of the article with you?

MR. RUSSERT: I’ve read…

GEN. CLARK: The rest of the article you should show because what it says is: “You can have your victory parade. You can have the soldiers parade up and down. You can be proud of the fact that you commanded these troops and they crushed this Army, but you must recognize that the job isn’t done. It may be only beginning. You haven’t found the weapons of mass destruction. And you’ve got a long way to go to put anything in place in the postwar.”

I’m writing as a commentator. I’m fair, and I respect the men and women in the armed forces. I love them, I’ve spent my life there, and I’m proud of them. And they did, in their military duties, a fabulous job in following the orders of the commander in chief. I simply wouldn’t have given those orders at that time. Those weren’t the right orders. Diplomacy hadn’t been exhausted, we hadn’t brought our allies on board, and we didn’t have an adequate plan for what would happen next. You cannot go to war in those circumstances and be successful. In Kosovo, we had exhausted diplomacy. We had our allies on board and we had a plan for what we would do when the fighting stopped. It was exactly the opposite situation.