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 Midweek

I know, I know: So far this week I'm like, "Josh Marshall this," and "Josh Marshall that." But aside from being right on top of the White House Leak (latest task: "Deconstructing Scott McClellan":http://talkingpointsmemo.com/oct0301.html#100103404pm), he has a good "interview with Wesley Clark":http://talkingpointsmemo.com/oct0301.html#1001031244pm up today. My first observation is that, at least in print, Clark speaks very well. He recites diplomatic history readily, speaks well about economics, and he has a long history of thoughtful political experience. I don't know, sounds pretty presidential to me. More presidential than Bush's proud "I don't read the news" line, anyway.

A couple of good excerpts. The first has to do with schools, and it's a little long. But it's good:

bq. I mean this is just sort of basic principles. I think most Americans understand and appreciate it. For some reason, this administration can't. This administration has crafted an ideology that basically is designed to roll back the institutions that have helped this country. They promote the ideology through sloganeering, through labeling, name-calling, talk radio. But when you really get down and scratch it, there's not much there.

bq. For example, take the idea of competition in schools. OK now, what is competition in schools? What does it really mean? Well, competition in business means you have somebody who's in a business that has a profit motive in it. It's measured every quarter. If the business doesn't keep up, the business is going to lose revenue, therefore it has an incentive to restructure, reorganize, re-plan, re-compete and stay in business.

bq. Schools aren't businesses. Schools are institutions of public service. Their job--their product--is not measured in terms of revenues gained. It's measured in terms of young lives whose potential can be realized. And you don't measure that either in terms of popularity of the school, or in terms of the standardized test scores in the school. You measure it child-by-child, in the interaction of the child with the teacher, the parent with the teacher, and the child in a larger environment later on in life.

bq. So when people say that competition is-this is sort of sloganeering, "Hey, you know, schools need this competition." No. I've challenged people: Tell me why it is that competition would improve a school. Most of them can't explain it. It's just like, "Well, competition improves everything so therefore it must improve schools."

bq. If you want to improve schools, you've got to go inside the processes that make a school great. You've got to look at the teachers, their qualifications, their motivation, what it is that gives a teacher satisfaction, what it is a teacher wants to do in a classroom. We've got to empower teachers. Give them an opportunity to lead in the classroom. Teachers are the most important leaders in America. All that is lost in the sloganeering of this party. And the American people know it's lost. So you asked me to give you one thing about this party that's in power -- it's the sort of doctrinaire ideology that doesn't really understand the country that we're living in.

On the administration's ideological blinders, Clark says

bq. Well, you know, nobody gets to be president of the United States without conspicuous strengths. But the ability to conduct foreign policy draws not only on the president himself but on the leadership of the administration. If you were to start here and work backwards, you'd say this administration was doctrinaire. You'd say that it didn't have a real vision in foreign policy. It was reactive. Hobbled by its right-wing constituency from using the full tools that are available -- the full kit-bag of tools that's available to help Americans be in there and protect their interests in the world.

Clark doesn't come across like a rabid leftist. He comes across as smart.