LITTLE ROCK, ARK. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who boasts a four-star military record but concedes he has gaps to fill on domestic policy, told political advisers Tuesday he would join the presidential race as the 10th Democratic candidate.
The Arkansan immediately displayed his potential to shake up the nomination fight, gathering party operatives from across the nation for a strategy session that overshadowed Sen. John Edwards' long-standing plans to formally launch his months-old candidacy.
Senior officials close to Clark said he planned to announce his intentions today in Little Rock at a boys and girls club. He enters the race late, against long odds.
Just four months before the first votes are cast, Clark has no formal organization in key states, little money and a patchwork staff culled from the political organizations of former President Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore.
Clark, 58, also has no political experience. None of this deters Clark's supporters, who point to his foreign policy credentials and charisma.
"It's not too late to get in the race," Clark told The Associated Press, adding with a wink and smile, "if I decide to run."
Asked if he was ready to start telling Americans about his position on domestic issues, Clark said, "I'll do my best, but there will be a lot of things that I don't know right away."
The Web site of Draft Clark for President 2004, one of several groups working for him for months, documents Clark's positions on a range of issues:
- Favors abortion rights and affirmative action.
- Opposes Bush's tax cuts and would consider suspending some of them.
- Opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
- Worries that civil rights were suspended after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Clark, wounded in the Vietnam War, believes his military service would counter Bush's political advantage as a wartime commander in chief. Clark is a Rhodes scholar, first in his 1966 class at West Point, White House Fellow and head of the U.S. Southern Command and NATO commander during the 1999 campaign in Kosovo.
His potential has caught the attention of some lawmakers and at least one important labor leader, Gerald McEntee of the 1.5 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Clark also is considered a potential vice presidential pick by his rivals.
The former general, a regular on cable news shows, has been critical of the Iraq war and Bush's postwar efforts -- positions that would put him alongside announced candidates Howard Dean, Sen. Bob Graham of Florida and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio as the most vocal anti-war candidates.