Pubdate: Mon, 06 Oct 2003
Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (AR)
Copyright: 2003 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.
Author: Paul Barton
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Retired Gen. Wesley Clark of Little Rock said Sunday it is time to reopen 
the cases of death-row inmates across the country and use new technologies 
to help determine whether the convictions were just.

Clark made the comment while engaging in questions and answers with a crowd 
of more than 350 at Philander Smith College, a historically black school in 
Little Rock.

The hour-long session prompted Clark, one of the newest Democrats in the 
2004 race for the White House, to express views on at least a few social 
and foreign policy issues that are not standard parts of his campaign 

Clark will hold a similar session tonight with voters in Iowa, site of 
Democratic Party caucuses on Jan. 19, a key step on the road to the 

Many members of the audience, including state Rep. John Lewellen, D-Little 
Rock, predicted afterward that Clark would do well in attracting black 
votes in the presidential race.

Lewellen said he was impressed with the selection of economic and social 
issues that Clark spoke about.

On capital punishment, Clark told the crowd at the event, organized by the 
Arkansas Black Legislative Caucus, "I'm very uneasy about the death penalty."

He called for "unpacking all those cases" to see if death sentences were 
wrongly applied.

Clark said he is concerned by mounting evidence that legal mistakes are 
often prevalent in capital sentences. But Clark said that he believes 
government should retain the right to apply the death penalty in clear and 
compelling cases. He cited the possible capture of Osama bin Laden as such 
a case.

On other hot-button issues, Clark said he doesn't condone widespread use of 
marijuana but would consider allowing it for pain relief. "We need to look 
at that and make some allowances one way or another," the candidate said of 
so-called medicinal marijuana usage.

Clark also said the only hope of winning the drug war is dealing with 
demand, and that he is concerned about criminal sentencing policies, saying 
that American prisons seem to be overflowing with prisoners serving time 
for relatively minor crimes.

For the most part, Clark got an overwhelmingly friendly reception as the 
crowd applauded almost everything the former NATO commander said, and gave 
him and his wife, Gert, several standing ovations.

Clark appeared at ease before the crowd as he made several remarks 
including a shot at President Bush that drew laughter.

Clark's biggest jab at the president came after a member of the audience 
asked him to identify his personal qualities that would make a good 
president. "I'm reasonably intelligent. I read," Clark said, prompting a 
loud burst of hoots and chuckles.

He quickly added, tongue-incheek, "I didn't draw any comparisons."

Other qualities that would make him a good president, he said, are his 
willingness to be a listener, his considerable life experiences both at 
home and abroad, and his willingness to empathize and sympathize with others.

Clark, who has charged ahead of his rivals for the Democratic nomination in 
national polls, is expected to issue additional economic-policy proposals 
soon. He said "ordinary Americans" need to receive a greater share of the 
nation's economic prosperity. "It is ordinary men and women who have made 
the wealth of this country, and they deserve more of the benefit of it," he 

He added: "We're going to look at the tax code. We're going to look at 
other things."

Clark has already called for taking back tax cuts that those making more 
than $200,000 a year have received since President Bush took office in 2001 
and using the money saved -- $100 billion over two years -- to fund a 
variety of job-creation initiatives, including projects related to homeland 

An abundance of jobs helps in dealing with a wide range of social problems, 
he said.

Meeting with reporters afterward, Clark said he would soon announce 
specific proposals for improving the nation's health care system.

On international issues, Art English, political science professor at the 
University of Arkansas at Little Rock, asked the general a question on 
behalf of his 16-year-old son, who was not with him.

English asked Clark to clarify once again his views on the war resolution 
that Congress debated a year ago this fall.

Clark, who was accused of a flip-flop on this issue shortly after he 
entered the race Sept. 17, said the only resolution he would have supported 
were proposals giving the president the support of Congress to go to the 
United Nations and seek a war resolution. But the same resolution also 
would have required the president to come back to the Congress to seek 
final permission on going to war. "I would have voted for leverage to get 
the problem internationalized," he said, adding the world would have been 
better off with 40,000 soldiers in Kuwait to monitor Iraq while a force of 
more 10,000 weapons inspectors were inserted into the country to search for 
weapons of mass destruction.

But now that we're in Iraq, "We need to make the best of it." No quick exit 
strategy is available, he said. But Clark said the United States should 
turn over all political and economic issues there to the United Nations 
while keeping Americans in charge of necessary military forces.

More soldiers may be needed to help reduce the steady casualties American 
forces are experiencing from week to week, he added afterward.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens