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Inside Politics

Clark blasts Bush at fundraiser

From Phil Hirschkorn

Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark greets supporters at a fund raising dinner Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2003 in New York.
Clark greets supporters at a fund raising dinner in New York.

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Wesley Clark
Fund Raising

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Wesley Clark raised over a million dollars in his presidential campaign Wednesday night, as he tried to keep pace in the money chase with Democratic front-runner Howard Dean.

Clark's campaign predicted that year-end fundraising reports will show him pocketing more than $10 million in the final quarter of 2003.

"We'll be in double digits for sure. Our goal is $12 million," said campaign communications director Matt Bennett.

The retired four-star general served political red meat to the $2,000 a plate audience. In his speech he criticized President Bush's policies and offered his own military credentials as an alternative.

"When it comes to national security, well, he's all bully and no pulpit," Clark said of Bush. "He said he was gonna have a humble foreign policy, but he's alienated with his arrogance nearly every one of our partners and allies."

Clark, wounded in Vietnam, criticized Bush's two trips to the Iraq war zone, calling his May landing on the USS Lincoln to declare an end to major hostilities "trying to cover himself with the reflected glory of the men and women who actually have risked their lives in combat."

Clark contrasted Bush's trip to serve Thanksgiving dinner to troops in Baghdad with his policy of not attending funerals for any casualties of the war.

"This is a guy who will fly halfway around the world for a photo opportunity, but he won't halfway across town to honor American servicemen being buried in Arlington National Cemetery," Clark said.

Campaign premiers film

Clark, who led a 19-nation NATO campaign to rollback Serbian genocide in Kosovo, said his military experience set him apart from his rival for the Democratic nomination.

"I'm the only person in this race who's ever laid awake at night after approving the target list and ordering the aircraft to penetrate enemy airspace," he said.

Later, in an interview with CNN, Clark added: "I'm the only person among the field of candidates who has really negotiated peace agreements, and really directed large forces in major combat operations. That's my background. In war and peace, I've been a leader."

The fundraiser unveiled a new 17-minute biographical film, "American Son," produced by Linda Bloodworth Thomason, who produced a memorable biopic for Bill Clinton that introduced him to the Democratic National Convention in 1992.

The Clark film will be shown in future campaign events, including a night of nationwide house parties on December 18.

It highlights Clark's 34 years in the U.S. Army during which he met his wife of 36 years, Gert, at a USO dance at Manhattan's Commodore Hotel, now the Hyatt, where the fundraiser occurred, and raising his son, Wesley Jr., in 31 different homes wherever his assignments led.

"It wasn't exactly the road to riches, but it was a road rich in good lessons for life and leading," Clark later told the crowd.

Clark jokes over Gore's endorsement

Joking about the contrast between the southern hospitality of his native Arkansas with the directness of New Yorkers, Clark made light of former Vice President Al Gore's endorsement this week of Dean.

"Here, someone actually shoved me out the way to get to my own fundraiser, and no it wasn't Al Gore," Clark said. "Actually there is only one endorsement I care about, and it's from all of you."

Actors Meryl Streep and Anthony Edwards were among the 600 guests at the dinner, co-chaired by the dean of New York's congressional delegation, Rep. Charles Rangel, who will publicly endorse Clark Thursday in Harlem, the heart of his district.

In his interview with CNN, Clark said despite the conspicuous presence of former Clinton-Gore aides on his staff, he isn't banking on an endorsement from the former president or first lady.

"I'm happy when people do endorse me. But, no, I never planned that President Clinton would endorse me. He's the national leader of the Democratic party," Clark said.

"And I think Senator Clinton said it exactly right, when she said she'd let the primaries [decide] who the nominee is going to be."

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