Wes Clark addresses "the defining struggle of our time"

Last night Charlie Rose had General Wesley Clark on as his guest for a half hour of his PBS TV show. At one point Rose asked Clark a blunt simple question; What's the defining struggle of our time? Immediately before that they had finished talking about the Middle East and were talking about the rise of China. I wonder if Charlie Rose expected the answer he got from Wes Clark:

Charlie Rose: What's the defining struggle of our time?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I, I think the defining struggle in America right now, in America, is the question of the distribution of income and whether we're going to keep the doors of opportunity open for all Americans regardless of what their family income status is, whether there's still a chance for ordinary Americans to make it to the top, or whether the screening process starts early with admission to preschool and, you know, and which elementary school you've gone to to determine-

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: -whether you're going to make the scores to get to Harvard, to get to Harvard Business School to end up at some elite financial institution or whatever.

Charlie Rose: The kind you consult with.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: The, the kind that I'm very familiar with.

Charlie Rose: (laughs)

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: And, you know, right now those institutions are filled with a bunch of really ordinary Americans, people who come from all across, with all kinds of family backgrounds. America is a wide open society. I hope it'll continue to be that in the future.

Charlie Rose: Mm.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I think that's the immediate issue really facing this country.

Both the video and transcript of the entire interview is available at


This was just a small part of a very interesting discussion.

Tags: Class Warfare, economics, Education, Wes Clark, Wesley Clark (all tags)



Re: "the defining struggle"

I was startled to hear Clark tie educational opportunities directly to the increasing disparity between the wealthy and average Americans, down to the level of preschools. But he is right, more and more educational advantages are linked to economic advantages at an earlier and earlier age. Clark is not only talking about the rapidly rising cost of collenge tuition that fewer and fewer families can afford. He is talking about the equivelent of an educational class tracking system, which rigs the system from a very early age to make sure that the children of the wealthy only are prepped to move up in well oiled grooves to later financial success. It really was a radical comment.

by Tom Rinaldo 2007-07-27 07:10PM | 0 recs
Re: "the defining struggle"

yes cold reality shivers; seeing the regressive nature of economy since Reagan years; understood that 0 to 5 critical years in child development from my edu/training; and seeing that the 21rst model for government is feudalism IMHO;

by dearreader 2007-07-28 05:27AM | 0 recs
Re: "the defining struggle"

Reading your post it just got me how Clark picked this as his answer to the question Rose asked him. The key is the word "defining". His answer, hyper wealth fast tracking to easy street vs the window of opportunity shutting down for more and more Americans at a younger and younger age, that discepency of choices and of opportunities, will define who we are as a people, which will define what we are as a nation.

by Tom Rinaldo 2007-07-28 05:40AM | 0 recs
Re: "the defining struggle"

Feudalism--I'm afraid I see the same thing happening. Lords and vassals, fiefdom, homage and fealty.

Back to the future.

by SusanCLE 2007-07-28 06:38AM | 0 recs
So admit it. You were figuring China too, right?

Would any of you have seen that one coming?

by Tom Rinaldo 2007-07-27 08:24PM | 0 recs
Re: So admit it. You were figuring China too, righ

You're right, Tom Rinaldo. I honestly was expecting it to be China!

That was a wonderful interview! You just don't hear the current candidates speak like this just off the cuff. I, at least, don't get the sense that any of them understand the depth of what they'd be getting themselves in to if they actually won.

As far as the preconditions that haven't worked out yet for him to run, I think if he doesn't believe he will win, he won't enter. His strategic, analytical mind may be too many steps ahead of himself on this though, because really how would he know if he doesn't just do it?

Unless there are definite signals he's getting from the media-declared "front-runner" or party insiders (same thing?) I don't think anything is certain. And if they are giving him definite signals that are essentially roadblocks for him to run, I wonder if we'll ever know?

by jen 2007-07-27 09:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Signals

Lord knows I am sure he is getting lots of signals, and probably a mixed bag of them also. There are probably more committed players in the Democratic Party with a vested interest in wanting to keep Clark out of the race now than there will be wanting to bring him in. Except for those who are supporting another candidate only because they had their arm bent behind their back, everyone who has signed on with one of the 8 campaingns current has a motive for not wanting Clark in, some much more than others. Politics is a team sport, it's not only the candidates, it's the teams that have assembled behind them.

by Tom Rinaldo 2007-07-27 09:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Signals

Right. But do you think he wouldn't run due to outside pressure (from the inside)?

If that's the case and he doesn't run because of pressure from our own side, then I'm afraid the party insiders have this whole thing wrapped up and we'll be looking at a Hillary defeat.

by jen 2007-07-27 09:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Signals

It's kind of a complex question, but I think no. Clark says that he is looking for a way to enter the race that can work, hence the pre-conditions. I don't think at this point in his career that he will give any party insiders that degree of say over what he chooses to do for himself, for his nation. He had to ultimately fall in line at the end of the day while he wore the uniform, he's through with that now.

But if party insiders have enough influence to be able to choke off the degree of support to him that Clark believes is a pre-requisite to running a competitive race, that could be a different story. If they scare away funders, or lean heavily on Democrats who hold office who Clark would count on to endorse him, making them pull back, that could end up taking a cumulative toll.

Charlie Rangel ended up falling in line behind Hillary, after holding out for awhile, and Clark and he are close. For example, if there were any reason why someone like James Webb, who Clark helped recruit, who Clark helped to win his primary, was being pressured not to support Clark (mind you this is all total specualtion - I have no real reason to think this is happening) that would be a way that party insiders could indirectly have a negative say in Clark's decision.

But we are just guessing. None of that may be happening, Clark may just want sufficient assurances of active support before he would enter the race.

by Tom Rinaldo 2007-07-28 03:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Why did this startle me?

OK someone who read this Diary here (you know who you are, heh) just asked me over at Clark Community Network:

"why were you startled to hear Wes tie directly to the increasing disparity between the wealthy and average Americans, down to the level of preschools"

My answer: I wasn't expecting either education or income distribution to be his "defining struggle of our time" although I know Clark feels strongly about each. So I was adjusting to the fact that Clark mentioned the increasing gap between the super wealthy and average Americans, and then he looped it back to focus on it's impact on education, a twist I didn't see coming, but I know he cares about higher education to keep America competitive, and with rising tuitiion costs...

But then I realized Clark was talking about preschools, and not even the fact that poor children need a "head start" of some kind. He was talking about the extra boost that children just past toddlers are getting which is available only to people with wealth. And the next thing you know I was getting my mind around the fact that Clark was warning that the window of opportunity to excell in life, for coming generations of Americans not born into wealth, is starting to close at age four. That startled me because I never had looked at it that way before. And it gave me a cold shivver.

Anyone else?

by Tom Rinaldo 2007-07-27 09:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Why did this startle me?

not really because it makes sense and i know too much about how real achievement happens in this society. its not just about what you know or how good you are but who you know. if you don't know the right people you could be einstein and never get anywhere. today it's not enough just to be the best, you have to be the best and savvy, and savvy means building relationshps with thos ein power.

by bruh21 2007-07-28 06:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Why did this startle me?

Yes, being savvy may have become a prerequisite to success, rather than ability, but this takes it one step further.

Four year olds are incapable of being "savvy" in that sense. It is moving rapidly beyond the realm of anything that an individual has meaningful control over. One can hope to become "savvy" by studying life and learning the right lessons.

But if class tracking is effectively locked in at the elementary school and pre-school level, by the time one has a chance to become "savvy" the sorting has already been done. We are moving toward the point where one must be born to partents who are sufficiently well connected, either through "savvy" or even through inherited wealth, to have any real opportunity. For all practial purposes that is predetermined before a child can do anything about it. It moves us towared fuedalism and elite bloodlines.

by Tom Rinaldo 2007-07-28 07:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Why did this startle me?

no it means the parents must also be savvy. its moving the bar- and i am not disagreeing with y ou, but i want you to understand that to me this is not shocking.

by bruh21 2007-07-28 08:16AM | 0 recs
Question is, who cares?

Serious problems and defining struggles, and what are people preoccupied with? What dominates the list of diaries on sites like this? Fawning "fan" diaries from loyalists to this or that "American Idol President" contestant.

Bread and circuses. This country is too goddamned dumb to save itself.

by SusanCLE 2007-07-28 06:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Question is, who cares?

there's a diary right now up about what is the best strategy for being president (the obama diary  is about that), one about whether we are having a global war on terror or should we think differently- and this one. I am not sure what more you want.

by bruh21 2007-07-28 08:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark's consulting business

There's a very annoying meme going out there right now where successful people aren't allowed to talk about less successful/rich people because that would make them hypocrites.

If the successful folks don't do anything, who will?    We need to judge people based on the value of what they say and can accomplish, not whether they're doing well financially.

It's great that we have entrepreneurs making lots of cash, and it's great that they want to turn around and give a hand to the less fortunate.

This whole thing is just another "gotcha" by big media.

by GavinBrown 2007-07-29 06:35AM | 0 recs


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