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Senator decries Clark's votes for GOP

Senator John F. Kerry took a swipe at the Democratic Party credentials of Wesley K. Clark yesterday because the retired general voted for Republican presidents in the past.

Kerry, highlighting a new poll that showed he and Clark each would beat Bush in theoretical matchups, drew an implicit contrast with his Democratic rival by noting his own longtime party membership and by making a vague reference to his past political battles with Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, both of whom Clark supported for president.

"I think that Democrats are going to look for somebody that has a record of accomplishment on issues that matter to them," said Kerry, who has been in the Senate since 1984. "I think it matters that I've been there fighting for education reform. I think it matters I've been fighting for health care and to protect the environment, and that I have fought against the very people that General Clark and others have supported. I think that's important to Democrats."

Clark, who was NATO commander under President Clinton, has acknowledged he "probably" voted for Richard Nixon in 1972 and supported Ronald Reagan.

Kerry first came to national attention in 1971 as a Vietnam veteran opposed to a war that Nixon was then prosecuting. As a freshman senator in the 1980s, Kerry was one of the first Democrats to link the Reagan administration with covert aid to the contras in Nicaragua. Mark Fabiani, a Clark spokesman, said he did not think Clark's earlier support for Republicans would hurt him with Democratic primary voters."Wes Clark is prochoice, pro-affirmative action, pro-health care, antiwar, " Fabiani said. "If that's Republican, we could use more of them in this country."

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