By Joel Phelps
Speaking to a packed crowd of fellow Democrats, retired Gen. Wesley Clark on Saturday applauded President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better framework and urged the attendees to fully support the president despite what the media reports.
Saturday’s Clinton Day Dinner, hosted by the Clark County Democratic Committee, was held at Henderson State University’s Garrison Center and attracted more than 350 Democrats, many of them traveling to Arkadelphia from as far away as Little River County. Clark, known for his military achievements and presidential run, was the keynote speaker.
Reflecting on the Democratic Party’s principles regarding health care and education, Clark said the media’s coverage of Biden’s presidency isn’t fact-based but instead focused on the president’s apparent flaws. “The press just likes a good story,” Clark said. “Don’t pay attention to the New York Times and the Washington Post.”
Concerning Biden’s Build Back Better framework and the legislation required to enforce it, Clark said legislation is “like making sausage. You put a lot of ideas in it and work it to get a good product.”
Clark then highlighted several key aspects of the Build Back Better framework, from universal childcare and early education to increasing pell grants to make college affordable and lowering housing costs.
Clark also touched on environmental issues, saying that Arkansas isn’t invincible to climate change. “As the summers warm, agriculture will change,” he said. “Diseases will come in, forests will have difficulty.” The BBB program, Clark said, will reduce greenhouse gases by 2023 and create jobs to “advance environmental justice.”
The West Point graduate told the crowd the BBB policy will ensure pre-schoolers’ nutritional needs are met by providing school meals to an additional 100,000 students during the school year and to 300,000 students during the summer months.
Clark said the BBB program will close the Medicaid coverage gap and reduce health insurance premiums, and will help senior citizens get access to hearing aids. It is also set to expand access to home- and community-based care to more seniors and disabled citizens, Clark noted.
In urging fellow Democrats’ support of the president, Clark promised that Biden “is the perfect person to do this.” He spent the next hefty portion of his speech rallying against former President Donald Trump and his actions during his leadership before turning the attention back on his own party.
“The real challenge is Democrats,” Clark said. “We have to stand up for who we are. That means when those people at church or in the grocery store come up to you and say, ‘Did you see Biden stumble?! … He must be losing his marbles!” Clark said most Democrats will shy away from confrontation.
“That’s wrong!” Clark exclaimed. “Those people are looking to you for a different opinion. They want to hear you tell them the truth. Next time you hear about what Joe Biden does, tell them, ‘I just heard from General Clark that Joe Biden’s got 100 percent of his marbles!”
Clark also urged Democrats to stand behind their Democratic leaders on the state level. “Next time you see [state Sen.] Joyce Elliot and 29 other Democrats stand up on an issue, we’ve got to be there for them.” He encouraged Democrats to “bombard” the media with their opinions, whether it be letters to the editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette or calling Clear Channel radio stations.
“We’re not too good to be out there marching and demonstrating,” he said. “That gets the [press] coverage. That’s the way Dr. King did it.”
In closing, Clark referenced the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg and the conclusion of Abraham Lincoln’s response to it in his famous “Gettysburg Address”:
We resolve these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Clark said, “that battle’s not won yet. We Democrats have to fight.”