General Clark New To This Game

This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, September 17, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: Wesley Clark (search), Rhodes scholar, Four-Star general, supreme NATO commander during the Kosovo War (search) has many admirers. But he also has critics who claim, not always publicly, that he's an abrasive man, extremely ambitious man whose priority has always been his career. So what about that?

For answers, we turn to a man who was a classmate of his at West Point and has known him ever since. Retired Army General Bob Scales, who is also a FOX News military analyst.

Bob, welcome. Nice to have you. What about Wes Clark? And what about these sometimes whispered criticisms of him?

MAJ. GEN. ROBERT SCALES, FOX NEWS MILITARY ANALYST: Well, first of all, they are whispered. You know, Brit, Wes Clark led a 19-nation coalition, he fought a war and he won it. If you are a general in war and you have to command such a disparate organization, there are times when you have got to be hard and you've got to be decisive. I mean no one complains about Jack Welch (search) running the best…being the best CEO in the country and he was tough.

HUME: You're talking about G.E.'s?

SCALES: Yes. Sure. There were times when Wes was hard when he had to be. But I've known Wes for 40 years; he's also a passionate, committed, empathetic individual. So, soldiers in wartime have to lead soldiers into battle and the lives of men and women are at stake. And sometimes that requires a degree of flintiness that you don't need in other professions.

HUME: What about those who suggest that his character reflects a kind of unbridled ambition that puts his career above all things, fair?

SCALES: No. No. Unfair. Again, like I say I've known him all my adult life. He is an individual who is committed to a higher calling. I mean he's got three holes in him and a Silver Star from Vietnam. He has a…the word patriot only partially describes his commitment to public service. And for as long as I've known him, he's always looked, you know, beyond himself and he's been committed to serving the nation. And I think what you are seeing happen here recently is an example of that.

HUME: Now, you differ with him on politics because...

SCALES: Well, obviously we have differences in our views of the war. We have obviously...

HUME: The Iraq War?

SCALES: Well, to some degree. But I will say this. From the very beginning, Wes supported the war; he saw Saddam Hussein as an evil influence in the Middle East and he believes that Iraq is better off with him gone.

HUME: He said recently in a kind of announcement that he's a Democrat. To your way of thinking or to your understanding of him, hasn't…wasn't he always a Democrat, or did you not know?

SCALES: That's an interesting question. Someone asked me that the other day. And I said, you know, this may sound mildly oxy-moronic, but in a way he's a sort of a Powell Democrat, if that makes sense to you. That's kind of how I know him. He is a…he appears to be a centrist. And it's not totally unusual that an Army officer would be a Democrat. There are more Democrats in uniform out there than perhaps most people realize.

HUME: On his departure from his post at NATO (search).


HUME: He was fired; it appeared, after disagreeing with Secretary Cohen and others in the Pentagon over the need for ground troops. As it happened, he won the war without ground troops. Who was right or wrong in that dispute?

SCALES: I think he was right. I think Wes was right in this case. I think had ground troops been introduced earlier in the campaign, there would have been far less suffering on the part of the 'Kosovoers' and the war would have been ended earlier. And he fought to have ground troops over there. I was with him…I was actually with him in his headquarters when those key decisions were made. And he was passionate about ending the war by putting boots on the ground to protect the refugees who were being persecuted by the Serbs.

HUME: Then when he was…after he was…I mean what's unclear to me is he disagreed, the war ended and he won it. Why was it…why did they find it necessary to fire him?

SCALES: First of all, they didn't fire him. He was retired early. You know, that all has to do with Wes' commitment. Wes is a man of passion. And he passionately believed on how that war should have been fought. He was outspoken about it, as he's been all of his life. And members of the Clinton administration probably took that wrong. Took his passion…mistook his passion for disloyalty.

HUME: One last question. He's new to this game.

SCALES: Right.

HUME: How do you think, based on his personality and his experience, he will cope with the vicissitudes of a political campaign, which you've got to do some things like kissing babies. We saw him do and you normally don't have to do as a General of the Army. Quickly.

SCALES: Well, I think he's going to do fine. If you can lead solders in combat and if you can deal with the lives of young men and women, you have put up with just about as much stress as any human being can be asked to put up with. I think he's going to be OK.

HUME: Bob Scales, great to have you as always. Thank you very much.

SCALES: Good to be here, Brit.

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