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Ex-Gen. Clark to Announce Intentions Soon
By Duncan Mansfield, Associated Press
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, sensing growing support for a Democratic presidential bid, said Saturday he is days away from announcing a decision and launched into an attack on President Bush.

In a half-hour speech to 1,000 cheering Democrats in heavily Republican East Tennessee, Clark said Bush has failed the country on health care, education and foreign policy.

"The No. 1 responsibility of the commander in chief is what? The safety and security of the United States of America," Clark said, questioning the administration's efforts to avoid the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"What happened on 9-11, Mr. President? Why is it that eight months into your administration, why is it that there was no plan to deal with the number one threat that Bill Clinton's national security team warned you about when you took office?"

Clark charged the Bush administration with "obfuscation and slow investigations and memos and shenanigans and creating departments" in response to Sept. 11.

"Let's have some accountability, here," he said, recalling Harry Truman's credo that "The buck stops here."

Clark also challenged the president to explain the administration's strategy on the war in Iraq. "What is the intent, what is the plan, Mr. President? Because the commander in chief better have a plan and we haven't heard it yet."

Clark, 58, who headed the U.S. Southern Command and was NATO commander during the 1999 campaign in Kosovo, said his 34 years in the military taught him, "The highest calling of the armed forces is not to wage war, but to prevent war."

Supporters chanted "Draft, General Clark. Draft, General Clark."

"Now I haven't made up my mind whether I am going to run," Clark, in shirt sleeves, told the crowd. "But I have my jacket off. And you can figure this out."

In an interview earlier with The Associated Press on the front porch of actor David Keith's home, Clark said there was only one decision before him. "And that decision is, do you run for the office of president or do you stay in the private sector?"

Sounding like a candidate, he said without hesitation, "I think I have a tremendous amount to offer this country, a lifetime of public service and leadership."

He said a vice presidential slot is not on his mind, though he won't rule it out.

Clark, whose calendar includes a speech in Iowa Sept. 19, said he will announce his intentions within "the next few days probably," most likely in his home state of Arkansas.

"It just seemed to me if I was going to go to Iowa I probably ought to know what I was doing before I went there," he said.

Al Sharpton, one of nine Democrats already in the race, received a warm greeting in a speech to the Democrat dinner, but it seemed a warm-up to Clark.

Clark's candidacy "would only expand the field" and help the party, Sharpton said later. Clark said he would support Sharpton if the minister wins the nomination and Sharpton said he would do the same for Clark.

"If you can bring the Wesley Clark wing and the Al Sharpton wing of the party out, George Bush doesn't stand a chance," Sharpton said.
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