"Today" co-anchor Meredith Vieira interviewed the retired general and former Dem presidential candidate on this morning's show.
MEREDITH VIEIRA: He wants Congress to pull Rush Limbaugh off the Armed Forces Radio Network, which is funded by taxpayers . . . You started this email campaign to get Limbaugh off the Armed Forces radio. It is a drastic step. Why do you think it is necessary?
WESLEY CLARK: Because I think that his comments just cross the line. I think there's a lot people serving in Iraq, a lot of veterans who served, a lot of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who have thoughts about the war that aren't necessarily in agreement with President Bush. That's their right as American citizens, it doesn't mean they weren't great soliders, it doesn't mean they weren't or aren't doing their duty to the best of their ability. I just think when you characterize the qualities of these people it crosses the line. Now, I think that when it crosses the line and it's free speech, that's fine. When it crosses the line, it's put on and paid for by the U.S. taxpayer, I think that's another matter.
VIEIRA: You know, to make it to general, you have to be a pretty tough cookie. I'm sure there are some people who would ask you, why don't you just brush off these comments by Limbaugh like an annoying gnat instead of legitimizing them and bringing more attention to them?
CLARK: I don't think it legitimizes them. I think it's a matter of balance. I think it's a matter of balance. And after what happened with the MoveOn ad, which I didn't support, they didn't check with me and I don't condone that kind of name-calling about General Petraeus. He's a fine officer; he's doing the best he can with a difficult job. But I think it has to apply on both sides of the political debate. I always hear politicians saying "gee, you know it's too bad, we're going to improve the quality of the discourse in America." Well, here's a chance to do something about the quality of the discourse. But you have to grasp the issue. It's a time for leadership. And yes, it's distasteful to have to worry about this kind of quibbling. But this goes to the heart of why the discourse is so ugly.
Just listen to the point that you quoted Rush as saying about an American senator. Fine, that's politics. Senator Harkin is a big man, he can take care of himself. But our soldiers aren't. They're over there putting themselves in harm's way. And they deserve a little bit of respect. And that respect should be in the dialogue of people who are broadcasting on Armed Forces Radio Network to our soldiers.
Did Clark just say that Harkin is a "big man," but "our soldiers aren't"? Harkin, who misrepresented his own military record? And please, general, spare us the bragging about your "leadership." Relying on utterly false premises to call for the removal of a political opponent from the airwaves isn't leadership. It's incipient totalitarianism.
Balance? Is that really what Clark's interested in? He alluded to Rush having called Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) "Dung-Heap Harkin." But Clark made no mention of the fact that Rush did so in response to Harkin having speculated on the floor of the Senate that Rush was on "high on drugs." Some balance.
And speaking of balance, why don't we check the line-up of Armed Services Radio. Yes, Rush is there, along with Sean Hannity and James Dobson. But they are more than balanced by Alan Colmes, Jim Hightower, NPR, Katie Couric's Notebook and lots of CNN and AP.
Clark says our soldiers "deserve a little bit of respect [from the] people who are broadcasting on Armed Forces Radio Network to our soldiers." Please. Does Clark actually believe that many soldiers feel Rush disrespects them, or that they would want him pulled off the air? The people disrespecting our soldiers are those like Jack Murtha and John Kerry, who have accused our soldiers in Iraq of being terrorists who killed civilians in cold blood. Would Clark yank C-SPAN off the air, too?
And note that Vieira, far from challenging Clark's false assumption that Rush intended to criticize all anti-war soldiers, merely strategized with the retired general on how best to delegitimize America's most popular talk radio host.
Update 11:08 | Matthew Sheffield. In a related disgrace, Air America is now calling for Limbaugh's removal from AFN.