Garfield's Political AdReview: Clark looks to leverage silver stars

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The primaries are still months away. These are the good times. Enjoy them while you can. Case in point: Wesley Clark's introductory ad.

Soon enough, most campaign advertising will be accusing opponents of voting to give tax breaks to child molesters, or some such perversion of decorum and truth. But now it's still the high-toned meet-the-candidate phase, filled with lots of stuff like Clark's: black-and-white photographs of the candidate heroically beating the odds and standing up for what's right.

"The first bullet shattered his hand," the narrator reverently intones about Clark's Vietnam heroism. "The second and third hit his shoulder and leg. As he hit the jungle floor, he rallied the troops and directed the fire fight."

The spot documents Clark's wartime valor and his subsequent command leadership: "A quiet, real American courage." And, damn if it doesn't sound pretty good. Bombed the Serbs into submission and speaks four languages! Plus he's, like, totally adorable.

JFK, Bob Dole and current Clark rival John Kerry all at various points in their political careers redeemed their Silver Stars for votes. But not since Eisenhower has a presidential candidate so flaunted his military credentials. No wonder; the idea has been unheard of since Vietnam.

But not only is Clark leading with his chinstrap, he is using his credentials to question the capacity of the sitting president to get us safely and triumphantly out of Iraq. It's the only sharp edge in this well-crafted feel-good hit of the autumn.

Be patient, though. The montages will soon give way to bayonets, and you won't be feeling good for long.

Wesley Clark

Joe Slade White Co.

East Aurora, N.Y.

3 stars

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