Wed, Jan 14, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Wesley Clark says democracy is at risk in America

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , DALLAS

Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark talks with reporters as a group of school children look on at the Museum of New Hampshire History on Monday in Concord, New Hampshire.

PHOTO: AFP

General Wesley Clark unleashed his most blistering attack yet on the Bush administration in the president's home state Monday, vowing to win Texas in November if he is the Democratic nominee.

"I think we're at risk with our democracy," Clark told an audience of about 500 people at a fund-raiser at the Westin Galleria hotel. "I think we're dealing with the most closed, imperialistic, nastiest administration in living memory. They even put Richard Nixon to shame. They are a threat to what this nation stands for, and we need to get him out of the White House. And we're going to do it."

When a supporter yelled out, "Give it to him!" Clark responded: "We're going to give it to him, and you're going to have to take him back, right here in Texas. Let him chop cedar." The reference was to one of President George W. Bush's favorite leisure activities on his ranch in Crawford, about 190km southwest of Dallas.

Clark has been emboldened in recent days by a surge in polls measuring voter preference in New Hampshire and across the country. He has drawn growing crowds to town hall meetings in New Hampshire, which holds the nation's first primary on Jan. 27. He attracted groups of more than 500 supporters in trips to North Dakota and Wisconsin over the weekend. He is not competing in the Iowa caucuses next Monday.

Clark's attacks on the Bush administration have grown stronger since articles began to be published over the weekend about a new book in which Paul O'Neill, the former Treasury secretary, is critical of the president.

Clark said Sunday that he believed the book validated his charges, made almost daily on the campaign trail, that the Bush administration began planning for a war against Iraq immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, if not sooner.

To rousing cheers, Clark asked supporters here to help him win the Democratic nomination by voting in the state's March 2 primary. The campaign raised about US$250,000 at the event, a campaign official said. Before the fund-raiser, Clark received the endorsement of Representative Martin Frost, a Democrat who is the senior member of the Texas congressional delegation.

If the fight for the Democratic nomination is not settled by March 2, as many Democrats think it will be, it almost certainly will be decided on that day, when California, New York, Ohio and Massachusetts also hold their primaries.

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