Former Candidate Clark Endorses Kerry

Clark announced the endorsement at a campaign rally with Kerry in Madison, Wis.

“I ask you to join me in standing up for an American who has given truly outstanding service to his country in peace and in war,” Clark said.

Clark said Kerry has the “right message and right character to bring the nation forward.”

The former general also said Kerry has the strength to defeat President Bush and to “stand up to the Republican attack dogs and send them home licking their wounds.”

During Friday’s rally, Clark, the former NATO supreme allied commander, asked Kerry, a former Navy lieutenant, for “permission to come aboard,” as the audience laughed and applauded. Both men were decorated for combat service in Vietnam.

“Both John and I served in Vietnam — and know what it is to be tested on the battlefield, fighting for your country,” Clark said. “John Kerry never quit fighting for his country.”

For his part, Kerry lauded Clark’s career and presidential campaign before launching into an issue-by-issue critique of President Bush’s policies.

“General Clark is not going to stand behind me he’s going to stand beside me in this great battle to take America back,” Kerry said, inviting Clark to the front of the stage.

“I have true admiration for the extraordinary career Wes Clark has led on behalf of his country,” Kerry said.

Clark withdrew from the Democratic race on Wednesday, following disappointing third-place finishes in Virginia and Tennessee on Feb. 10. Clark won Oklahoma’s Feb. 3 primary, but never seemed to gain broad support among Democratic voters nationwide.

During his withdrawal speech, Clark praised both Kerry and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

“They are good men, good Democrats and real patriots — and they’ve run great campaigns,” Clark said.

While Clark stood nearby, Kerry accused President Bush of not providing proper funding for homeland security, while overextending U.S. resources abroad.

“We should not be opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them in the United States of America,” Kerry said.

Kerry also criticized Republicans for using what he said were negative advertisements and campaign tactics, telling the crowd “they can’t talk to you about issues.”

Kerry then outlined his own platform, promising to provide better health care and education for Americans by using funds gleaned from a partial rollback of Republican tax cuts.

Kerry further said he would reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil by supporting alternative energy research.

The Massachusetts senator also lambasted the president’s economic record, saying that the administration is only interested in the stock market, not the finances of ordinary Americans.

Kerry said he would work to create jobs and would penalize companies that “outsource” jobs to overseas markets.

As Kerry campaigned with Clark on Friday, Edwards, who is also attempting to woo Wisconsin voters, sought to dispel notions that Kerry is assured victory in the race for the Democratic nomination.

“First of all, the nomination process is going to go on for a while, well into March,” said Edwards, who spoke to voters at a Milwaukee union hall on Friday.

Edwards also criticized the president over the outsourcing of jobs and the relocation of companies overseas.

“These trade agreements have been absolutely devastating,” he said. “I know what it means to you personally. The jobs that supported middle-class families are disappearing.”

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, once considered the front-runner in the race, earlier said if he did not win Wisconsin he will withdraw. Dean later said that supporters have asked him to remain in the race even if he is defeated in the Dairy State.

On Friday Dean, campaigning in Durand, Wis., said, “There are an enormous amount of people who do want to continue.”

Dean said he believes he is gaining ground on Kerry, but his campaign will “regroup” in Vermont after Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary.

Dean urged Wisconsin voters to think independently and vote to “take back the White House for ordinary Americans.”