Retired Army general Wesley Clark, who has questioned the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy and given lukewarm support to the idea of gay civil unions, officially entered the race for president on Wednesday. Clark, an investment banker from Arkansas with a lengthy military career who did not announce his Democratic Party affiliation until age 58, has been lauded by many Democrats as a potentially strong challenger to President Bush. Clark was first in his class at West Point; a Rhodes scholar; a four-star general; recipient of a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart; NATO supreme allied commander; and commander in chief of the United States Southern Command. During the last six months Clark has repeatedly appeared in the news denouncing the Bush administration's failure to build an international coalition in Iraq.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Clark has never run for public office. An examination of his statements to the press suggests he is a moderate on social issues, placing him in the middle of the Democratic ideological spectrum. He opposes Bush's tax cuts, is pro-choice and pro-affirmative action, supports an assault weapons ban but opposes most federal gun control, and opposes drilling for oil in the Alaska wilderness. On gay issues Clark has said he is against gay marriage but might support civil unions. He also has said he favors gay men's and lesbians' serving openly in the military. "We've got a lot of gay people in the armed forces, always have had, always will have," Clark said in June on NBC's Meet the Press. "And I think that...we should welcome people that want to serve." But asked by host Tim Russert if that meant he would open the military to gays, he said, "We need to charge the men and women responsible for the armed forces to come forward with that answer."