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Clark makes presidential run

Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark
Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark

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Retired General Wesley Clark tells CNN's Judy Woodruff: "I have had incredible experiences." (September 16)
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(CNN) -- Former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark announced his presidential candidacy Wednesday, becoming the 10th Democrat to seek to unseat President Bush in 2004.

"We're going to march forth across the United States, and we're going to have a vision that helps transform this country to meet the challenges of the 21st century," Clark told CNN. "And I believe I can lead that."

Clark's entry into the race will take the Democratic field to 10 with most candidates having been in the running for months giving them a head start in terms of organization and fund raising

But Clark told CNN: "The conversations I've had and the judgments I've made say it's not too late."

Clark has not officially announced his decision but he told reporters Tuesday the country is "hungry for dialogue and looking for leadership."

He is expected to launch his candidacy in Little Rock with an announcement at noon (1 p.m. ET) Wednesday, and has assembled a team of campaign operatives that include veterans of the campaigns of former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

An outspoken critic of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, Clark said the country "is in significant difficulty, both at home and abroad."

"I think it needs strong leadership and visionary leadership to take it forward," Clark said after meeting with Democratic officials in his hometown of Little Rock. "So that's what's drawn me to this prospective point right here."

Clark, 58, is a West Point graduate, Rhodes Scholar and former CNN military analyst who led U.S. and allied forces in the 1999 air war in Kosovo.

He retired from the Army in 2000 after a 34-year career that included combat in Vietnam and leading the military negotiations in the peace talks that ended the war in Bosnia in 1995.

"I've got a broad background of leadership experience -- executive leadership, diplomatic leadership and political leadership -- and I think that's what the American people are looking for at this time," he said.

Clark became NATO's supreme commander in 1997, but reportedly clashed with Pentagon officials during the Kosovo campaign and was relieved of command after the war. Clinton, a fellow Arkansan, said last week that Clark would "serve our country well."

Clark convened a meeting of his political advisers and friends Tuesday in Little Rock to discuss his decision. Among those in attendance were George Bruno, a former Democratic Party chairman in the early primary state of New Hampshire, and former Clinton White House spokesman Mark Fabiani.

In previous interviews, he has said he considered President Bush's tax cuts inefficient and unwise and would consider suspending or rescinding them if elected president.

He said years in the Army had persuaded him to support affirmative action "in principle," although he suggested its benefits could be cut at a certain income level. And he said he would reconsider the Clinton administration's "don't-ask, don't-tell" policy on gays in the armed services, saying he considered it ineffective.

-- CNN correspondent Jonathan Karl contributed to this report.


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