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  The General's New Stripes: He had a rough entry. But Wes Clark is a quick study. A rookie finds his stride
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Last EditedArmyDem  Jan 04, 2004 03:28pm
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News DateSunday, January 4, 2004 06:00:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionBy Evan Thomas and Daniel Klaidman

Newsweek Jan. 12 issue - Gen. Wesley Clark has never quite learned how to behave like a politician. Before Christmas, he was asked at a town meeting in Derry, N.H., how he would respond if President Bush or Clark's own Democratic rivals questioned his patriotism or military record. Failing to see that he was being followed by a television camera, he answered, "I'll beat the s—t out of them." Clark's aides later joked that the candidate should have put out an apology, acknowledging that he had misspoken—that what he really meant to say was, "I'll beat the living s—t out of them."

The political professionals who handle Clark are learning that sometimes the best thing to do with the candidate is to let him be himself. After all, Clark's mantra is "I'm a leader, not a politician." If he lacks a seasoned candidate's carefully honed skill to say nothing well and to avoid controversial answers, then so much the better. Not long ago, a Fox News anchor pointedly asked if Clark was putting down U.S. troops by suggesting that Iraq was a "sideshow" to the more vital war on terrorism. Clark angrily lit into the newscaster for "playing politics with the men and women in uniform." Aghast, Clark's media adviser, Chris Lehane, took him aside and warned him that a national politician could not afford to fly off the handle that way, that the general's diatribe had been "too hot" for TV. Then the Clark campaign noted a sudden spike in campaign contributions. Voters apparently liked his righteous outburst.
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