Retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark, who was NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe from 1997 to 2000 and ran for president in 2004, came to Lexington Saturday to rally Kentucky Democrats.
Clark was the keynote speaker at the state Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson Dinner at the Red Mile.
Herald-Leader political reporter Jack Brammer interviewed him.
Question: What is your primary message to Kentucky Democrats?
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Answer: Stay on course. The American people last year said "yes, we can" to Barack Obama and said we want change and want to bring jobs and prosperity back to this country. The country finally is headed in that direction.
Q: How is the president doing?
A: I think he's doing great. I'm very much excited about what he is doing.
Q: Outside the urban areas, Obama appears to be a political liability for Democrats in Kentucky. Would you advise Kentucky Democratic candidates to distance themselves from him?
A: Absolutely not. As Democrats, we have to stand up for what we believe in. We believe in jobs, jobs, jobs. Of course, we have to have a strong national security. But it's really about the economy. And this economy is turning around. It's coming our way, thanks to the leadership of all our Democrats in Washington.
Q: Should Obama change his message or policies to try to increase his appeal to Blue Dog Democrats and independents?
A: We have to stay on course on what all Democrats believe. All of us believe in about the same thing. We are Democrats because we believe in taking care of people — making sure they have jobs, making sure they have an opportunity for education, providing health care for everyone and having a strong national security. That's what Barack Obama believes in. That's what all Democrats believe in.
Q: Former President Jimmy Carter recently said that much of the opposition to Obama is because he is black. Do you agree?
A: I have the greatest respect for President Carter, but I think where we are in this country is that we are moving forward. We are trying to put behind us the divisiveness of some who see politics as about dividing us.
Q: Should the United States add troops in Afghanistan?
A: When the commanding general over there says he needs more troops, we had better listen very seriously.
Q: President Obama last weekend renewed his pledge to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military but didn't offer a timetable. Should the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military be ended?
A: He said he will do it in the appropriate time, and I think that's the right answer.
Q: When is the appropriate time?
A: He's the commander of the armed forces, and he, not me, will set that time.
Q: Should this country have a mandatory military draft?
A: I would love to see every young American volunteer ... . However, I wouldn't want to change things right now.
Q: Do you still have aspirations to be president?
A: I'm in business right now. That's working fine for me.