PDT Staff Writer
Former Ohio Governor and Scioto County native Ted Strickland and four-star general Wesley Clark were in town Saturday morning to act as responders to the upcoming speech that day by Mitt Romney on the campus of Shawnee State University.
Strickland went after the Romney-Ryan view on domestic issues.
“We have students who are trying to go to Shawnee State and other places,” Strickland said. “The Paul Ryan plan slashes Pell Grants and work-study money.”
Clark addressed the differences in the two campaigns on foreign affairs.
“What we have going on is an effort by a candidate (Romney) to re-invent himself, and to conceal what he really stands for,” Clark said. “And that’s true in foreign policy just as it is on the domestic side. His repeated attempts to re-define himself, they don’t change the fact, and I’m sorry to be a little bit negative on this, but Americans have to make a choice in this election. And we’re making a choice between a man who is a proven commander and chief, and someone who wants to be commander and chief.”
Clark attacked what he perceives as Romney’s lack of understanding of the military.
“Mr. Romney hasn’t served in the military,” Clark said. “He doesn’t have veterans experience. He didn’t grow up abroad. He doesn’t understand foreign affairs, except insofar as it is working with China to outsource American jobs.”
That drew a laugh and applause from those in attendance at the Scioto County Democratic headquarters on Chillicothe Street.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Times, Clark was asked about the controversy surrounding early administration information following the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi last month. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in that attack. Early response was that the attack was caused by an American film depicting the prophet Mohammed in a bad light. Later the administration said it was a concerted attack and not a mob that got out of hand.
“It’s hard to know what the original intelligence was,” Clark said. “First reports are always wrong. There was a big demonstration in Cairo (Egypt), and I think that the people that were reporting it just didn’t understand exactly what was happening, so they thought that this film had created this series of demonstrations across North Africa. But, in fact, it hadn’t. We’re sorting through those facts now. We know that in Libya there was no demonstration. We didn’t know that at the time.”
Clark said now government sources are looking at the footage from the TV cameras.
“So, day by day this is unfolding,” Clark said. “The truth behind this is that nobody has been stronger on embassy security than President Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton.”
Clark said House Republicans “under Paul Ryan’s leadership,” had a plan to cut $300 million from embassy security. He said Obama’s foreign policy in that region is quite strong.
“We have been very effective in working with local governments and helping them change, transition from dictators to democracy,” Clark said. “To do that they have to build a whole new set of institutions. They have to build a new police force. They have to build a new system of justice, to clean out the old intelligence service, because all of those were dedicated to keeping the autocrat in power. So now you’ve got to build a new system. And that’s what’s going on in places like Cairo and Libya. And we’re working with them and they want our help.”
Clark said he knows Al Qaeda is still a threat in that region and that the president has his agencies focused on that fact.
Clark was asked if it is good policy to announce in advance a pull-out date in Afghanistan.
“Absolutely,” Clark said. “We have to do that because it’s not just the military that’s over there. It’s the Afghan government. It’s relief agencies. It’s non-governmental organizations. Everybody has to plan. You can’t just suddenly whistle and say, ‘we’re leaving tomorrow,’ you’d have absolute panic, pandemonium over there. It was absolutely necessary to give a date several years in advance.”
Clark was asked if pre-announcing a pullout helps the enemy.
“Not really,” Clark said. “It only helps the enemy if you haven’t done your work. If you’ve done your work right it helps you.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org