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Wesley Clark on Civil Rights

NATO General; Democratic Candidate for President


8th grader in Little Rock during Central High desegregation

For me the eighth grade was a watershed year, when a lot of lessons came together. Little Rock was in the national news because Central High School was going to be desegregated. The plan had been to start from the top down: high schools first, then elementary schools. There was a large crowd of angry whites at the school, and only one black girl showed up, & she was chased away. It was on the evening news that night, in black & white. Throughout the country the reputation of our town was tarnished.
Source: A Time To Lead, by Wesley Clark, p. 25-27 & 42 Sep 4, 2007

Full inquiry into torture & our ignoring Geneva Conventions

To restore the legitimacy of America’s aims and methods, we will need to conduct a full inquiry into how we could have gone so wrong [with secret detentions of suspected terrorists & mistreatment of prisoners], and why, and hold accountable those who so abused the authority of America. This includes not only addressing the Administration’s misuse of intelligence in the run-up to war in Iraq, but also determining who misled our armed forces and intelligence agencies into believing that our international obligations under the Geneva Conventions and the 1996 Treaty on Torture weren’t legally binding and applicable. Holding a few scapegoat soldiers accountable in military trials isn’t enough. Their actions represented a broadened tolerance for reprehensible acts of mistreatment of our prisoners, all performed in violation of international law, and the responsibility for which must be sought at the highest levels of the Pentagon, Justice Department, and White House.
Source: A Time To Lead, by Wesley Clark, p.251-252 Sep 4, 2007

Exposed early to prejudice, so supports affirmative action

For years, I struggled to make sense of the conflict [regarding the desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High]. I loved and respected my stepfather, but like so many others, he was wrong [in his opposition to school desegregation]. He was a good man, but good people can be wrong. Wrong, utterly wrong, despite their sincerity, their fervor, and their wisdom in other areas. It was simple prejudice against black people that they felt. There’s just no other term for it.

I saw prejudice at an early age, and came to dislike it in all its forms. Maybe I was acutely sensitive to it since I’d come to Little Rock from Chicago. Over the years I’ve seen prejudice against blacks by whites, prejudice by Northerners against Southerners, and by Southerners against Yankees.

I believe no one should be denied a crack at a team, a neighborhood, a school or a job because of race, ethnic group, gender, religion, or any other unfair discriminator. Because of this, I am a strong believer in Affirmative Action.

Source: A Time To Lead, by Wesley Clark, p. 27 Sep 4, 2007

Equal pay for equal work

Where is the equality in America when a woman still only makes seventy-seven cents on the dollar to a man?
Source: Speech at Democratic National Committee winter meeting Feb 2, 2007

Narrowly protect the American flag

Q: Should the Constitution be amended to prohibit burning the American flag?

A: I support measures to protect the American flag. The flag is deeply personal to me. I have led men into battle and combat under that flag. I believe that a very narrow protection for the flag will not undermine anyone’s ability to express the full range of their views about America.

Source: Associated Press policy Q&A, “Flag Amendment” Jan 25, 2004

Patriot Act was passed in haste-end sneak-and-peek

Q: How would your administration revisit the Patriot Act and strike a balance between national security and personal liberties?

CLARK: I’m very concerned about the Patriot Act. It was passed in haste. It’s very long. What we would do is suspend all the portions of the Patriot Act that have to do with search and seizure: sneak-and-peek searches; library records; and so on. If they want a wiretap, they can do it the old-fashioned way, go to a judge with probable cause.

And then, bring the whole act back into the Congress. Lay it out. Ask former Attorney General John Ashcroft to come and testify on his use and abuse of the Patriot Act. What provisions were used, for what, for what good? Why couldn’t it have been done another way? And then we’re going to put together the right kind of authorities for law enforcement to keep us safe. We cannot win the war on terror by giving up the very freedoms we’re fighting to protect.

Source: Democratic 2004 Primary Debate at St. Anselm College Jan 22, 2004

Eliminate wage gap for women

We need to take steps to ensure that women have equal opportunities in the workplace. As a start, we need to eliminate the pay gap. Until women in this country earn 100 cents on the dollar, all of us are being shortchanged.
Source: Campaign website, Clark04.com Nov 20, 2003

Strong enforcement of Civil Rights Act including hate crimes

We should make sure that the Civil Rights Act bans discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and sexual orientation. Strengthen federal protections against hate crimes.
Source: Campaign website, Clark04.com Nov 20, 2003

Constitutional amendment against flag desecration

Clark supports a proposed constitutional amendment that would make it illegal to desecrate the American flag by burning or other means. The general expressed his view in response to a question from a World War II veteran at a Veterans Day visit to an American Legion post. “I’m absolutely in favor of anything that strengthens the American flag,” General Clark said. “I’m in favor of the American flag amendment.”

Opponents say such an amendment violates free speech rights. General Clark repeated those concerns, even as he expressed support for the amendment. “The respect that the flag is due is not because of a constitutional amendment,” he said. “It’s really because of what we believe in our hearts and the way we act as Americans.” He added, “No administration should ever say that if you disagree with it that you’re not being patriotic.”

The flag amendment bill in 2000 fell four votes short of the necessary 2/3 required for a constitutional amendment to be sent to the voters.

Source: Edward Wyatt, New York Times Nov 12, 2003

Constitutional Amendment against flag desecration

Clark he supports a proposed constitutional amendment that would make it illegal to desecrate the American flag by burning or other means, a position that puts him at odds with many constituencies in the Democratic Party. At a visit to an American Legion post, Clark said, “I’m absolutely in favor of anything that strengthens the American flag. I’m in favor of the American flag amendment.” Opponents say such an amendment violates free speech rights. Clark responded to those concerns with: “The respect that the flag is due is not because of a constitutional amendment. It’s really because of what we believe in our hearts and the way we act as Americans.“ ”I’ve seen a new spirit of patriotism, and it goes a long way beyond the American flag,“ he added. ”If you’re really patriotic it’s not just the American flag, it’s the idea that even in a time of war the right thing to do is present your ideas. No administration should ever say that if you disagree with it that you’re not being patriotic.“
Source: Edward Wyatt, New York Times Nov 12, 2003

Equal opportunity for homosexuals in armed forces

Q: What’s your personal comfort level with homosexuals?

A: There are gays who serve in the US armed forces, and they do a very good job. But when they acknowledge who they are and their sexual preference, they leave. So I’ve got a very good comfort level with it. I think everybody deserves the right to serve. And when I’m president, I’m going to make sure that we treat every man, woman and child in America with dignity and respect. And that includes the opportunities to serve in the US armed forces

Source: CNN “Rock The Vote” Democratic Debate Nov 5, 2003

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” needs to be reviewed

Q: Does “Don’t ask, don’t tell” work?

A: I’ve seen it work in some units, but I get a lot of reports where it doesn’t work. And I think it depends on the service and the unit. It depends, to some extent, on the commander. The policy needs to be reviewed because there are so many indications that it’s not working. You start a review with the presumption that it isn’t. Let the armed forces leadership go back through it and give us a better policy so that every American who desires to serve can.

Source: CNN “Rock The Vote” Democratic Debate Nov 5, 2003

Gays deserve the same rights as everyone else

Q: What can you do to help make sure that gays and lesbians have an opportunity to build and love their families?

A: One of my Army friends came to me. He said, “Sir, I’ve got a little bit of trouble with your position on gays in the military.” I said, “Well, let me explain it to you this way. If you had a son or daughter who was gay, would you love them? And he said, ”Well, yes.“ I said, ”And wouldn’t you want them to have the same rights and the same opportunities in life as everybody else?“

Source: CNN “Rock The Vote” Democratic Debate Nov 5, 2003

Come up with something better than “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell”

Q: Your answer about the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been somewhat murky. Would you please clarify it; do you support a policy allowing gays and lesbians to serve OPENLY in the military?

A: I don’t believe sexual orientation is a matter for the military to worry about, so long as behavior is appropriate. I will challenge the military to review the existing policy, and if it doesn’t work, which all evidence suggests is the case, will ask the military to come up with something more fair and better for the people concerned and the country. In my view, every person who is qualified should be given the opportunity to serve, and each person should be treated with dignity and respect. There are other models, like don’t ask/don’t misbehave which some armies have adopted, and they should be looked at.

Source: Concord Monitor / WashingtonPost.com on-line Q&A Nov 5, 2003

Confederate flag is a divisive and racist symbol

The Confederate flag is a divisive and racist symbol of American history. I am proud to have served and fought under the American flag. That’s what I want to see waved and supported. Perhaps some of those who have used the Confederate flag in the past don’t realize how offensive it is to others. We have to take account of its association with practices that all America regrets. It is time to put that past behind us and move on into a future where we are all united.
Source: Concord Monitor / WashingtonPost.com on-line Q&A Nov 5, 2003

Homosexuality is not a sin

Clark, who said he does not consider homosexuality a sin, said the military needs to reconsider the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gay service members. He suggested the military should consider the “don’t ask, don’t misbehave” policy the British use. “It depends how you define misbehave. That’s what has to be looked at,” he said.
Source: Jim VandeHei, Washington Post, p. A5 Sep 19, 2003

Don’t compromise freedom for problems like terrorism

We will assure in meeting the near term challenges of the day - whether they be terrorism or something else - that we don’t compromise the freedoms and rights which are the very essence of the America we are protecting.
Source: Campaign website, AmericansForClark.com, “100 Year Vision” Sep 18, 2003

End glass ceilings for women

I’m a believer in full equal opportunity. I don’t believe in glass ceilings for women. We need that talent and that energy and that creativity in America in whatever way that women want to live their lives. You know, I’m for it. If they are stay-at-home mothers, I think that’s wonderful. If they’re career professionals, that’s great.
Source: WCGU-FM interview on “Sound Off With Sasha” Jun 27, 2003

Separation of church and state is fundamental

I grew up believing that one of the basic principles in our country is that we would keep church and state separate. Freedom of religion is why people came to America in the first place. And we learned that in order to have freedom of religion, you’ve got to protect the state from the church. That it is a wonderful thing for people to have-values and their religious faith, and I certainly have mine. But I think that it is better for our democracy and better for our religion if we keep the two separate
Source: WCGU-FM interview on “Sound Off With Sasha” Jun 27, 2003

Full sunshine review of PATRIOT Act

The Patriot Act ought to be pulled out and given a full sunshine review. You’re not going to win the war on terrorism if you destroy who we are as Americans and take away our rights and liberties.
Source: WBUR Public Radio interview Jun 19, 2003

Supports affirmative action; acknowledges racial discrim.

I’m in favor of the principle of affirmative action. what you can’t have is a society in which we’re not acknowledging that there is a problem in this society with racial discrimination.“
Source: Meet The Press, reported on DraftWesleyClark.com Jun 15, 2003

Replace “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” with Don’t Misbehave

I’m not sure that I’d be in favor of [the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’] policy. I supported that policy. That was a policy that was given. I don’t think it works. It works better in some circumstances than it does in others. But we also have to maintain consistent standards of discipline; we have to have effective units. So I think that’s an issue that the leaders in the armed forces are going to have to work with and resolve.

The British have a system called, ‘Don’t ask, don’t misbehave.’ I think the leaders in the armed forces will look at that some day. I think we need to charge the men and women responsible for the armed forces to come forward with that answer. I think that has to come from them based on what we need for the armed forces, as well as, you know, their concerns about society as a whole.

Source: NBC-TV, Meet the Press interview Jun 15, 2003

Supports University of Michigan’s affirmative action plan

I’m in favor of the principle of affirmative action. Whether [the University of Michigan’s affirmative action plan] is the right plan or not, and whether that should be 10 points, not 20 points, whether it should be, let’s say, an income level cutoff there at which you don’t get the points if you’re above a certain income, you can [rearrange] the plan. But you can’t have a society in which we’re not acknowledging that there is a problem in this society with racial discrimination. There is, there has been and the reason so many of us filed [an amicus brief in support of the University of Michigan’s affirmative action plan] is we saw the benefits of affirmative action in the United States armed forces. It was essential in restoring the integrity and the effectiveness of the armed forces.
Source: NBC-TV, Meet the Press interview Jun 15, 2003

Disturbed that we suspended habeas corpus for War on Terror

One of the things about the war on terror that I am disturbed about is that we’ve essentially suspended habeas corpus. Which is something that’s only been done once in American history and then only for a very brief period. When I go back and think about the atmosphere in which the PATRIOT Act was passed, it begs for a reconsideration and review.
Source: Salon.com interview by Jake Tapper Mar 23, 2003

Supports affirmative action, including in college admissions

“He told me in an interview that he favors affirmative action. We spoke just after the Bush administration filed its brief against the University of Michigan’s admissions policy, and Clark said he was ‘surprised and dismayed’ by the president’s decision.”
Source: The American Prospect, “Meet Mr. Credibility”˙ Mar 1, 2003

Experienced racial prejudice in 1950s Little Rock H.S.

I went to local schools except for a year at a Tennessee military school when the high schools closed in Little Rock in the late 1950s because of disputes over racial integration. I saw first hand the racial prejudice, the civil disobedience, the intolerance. I’ve often gone back to that experience. It’s something I’ve related to.
Source: Waging Modern War, p. 20-21 Jul 15, 2001

Other candidates on Civil Rights: Wesley Clark on other issues:
Nominees:
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP V.P.: Gov.Sarah Palin
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden

Third Parties:
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader
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Page last updated: Dec 07, 2008