“Hatchet job” was the term most often used by readers to describe Matt Taibbi’s “Clark’s True Colors” [Dec. 15]. We received hundreds of letters (some seemingly part of an organized campaign) denouncing the article. A few found it “witty” or “simply hilarious.”     –The Editors

Manchester, NH

We were stunned to read Matt Taibbi’s “Clark’s True Colors.” This article has nothing to do with Wes Clark’s candidacy or, for that matter, with investigative reporting. Taibbi alleges to have infiltrated a volunteer meeting disguised as an injured adult-film director just to get a rise out of a group of hard-working volunteers. He clearly lacks professional ethics–and talent.

Throughout the article, Taibbi confuses our names, our words and even our identities. He refers to us as campaign staffers, but at the time we were volunteers and had never presented ourselves otherwise. The quotes attributed to us were either fabricated or taken wildly out of context. Most absurd is Taibbi’s story about General Clark showing us a picture of himself in a tight T-shirt, which Taibbi claimed Clark called his “drool shot.” Military hero, peace negotiator, leader–those titles describe Wes Clark. Wannabe teen idol certainly does not.

Taibbi’s motive is most likely his vendetta against General Clark for leading the Kosovo campaign. In spring 1999, Taibbi wrote an article for his now-defunct tabloid in Russia, eXile, in which he subtly denied the infamous massacre of Kosovar Albanians at Racak. Human Rights Watch investigated and verified the massacre, which is a prominent allegation in the indictment against Slobodan Milosevic.

Taibbi also wrote an analysis of the Kosovo campaign, cunningly titled “101 Reasons Why NATO’s War Sucks,” for eXile in April 1999. Reason 72: “The Serbs are one of the tallest, most beautiful European tribes. Somalis, too, are tall and elegant, as are the Tutsi, who actually call themselves ‘The Tall People.’ Why are the most beautiful tribes being wiped out by the squat and ugly?” Taibbi’s attempt at humor falls very flat.

A hatchet job like this is not worthy of The Nation. It should have been shopped around to the tabloids, or better, chucked into the trash where it belongs.


Escondido, Calif.

What has happened to my Nation? Who is this Matt Taibbi? A mole sent by Karl Rove? Seems like the nasty, dirty-tricks game he likes to play. Taibbi shows such contempt for the general and dismisses those who support him as silly, naïve Bush-haters. I’ve been in his campaign since the Draft Clark days, and I have never heard anyone say they hate Bush. True, we have little respect for the man’s leadership and actually fear his Administration. Clark offers proven leadership, intelligence and a chance to repair the damage we’ve inflicted on the world these past three years.

If The Nation is for Dean, so be it–but let it not be at the price of such a meanspirited attack on one of his rivals.


Lexington, Mass.

I’ve been a Nation reader for more than fifty years, and I cannot remember ever reading an article as sleazy and unjournalistic as Matt Taibbi’s. Isn’t a reporter supposed to report facts, describe a candidate’s statements and opinions and analyze their significance? Or does journalism consist of taking a false identity, going undercover in a campaign, assuming asinine disguises to provoke silly responses from underlings and starring (with his girlfriend, yet) as the comic relief of his story? You don’t have to be a Clark supporter (I’m for Dean) to find this offensive. Shame on The Nation!


Mercer Island, Wash.

I read “Clark’s True Colors” with an open mind, figuring that if The Nation had criticism of General Clark, it was of interest. But after reading it, I had the same opinion of Wesley Clark but a much lowered opinion of The Nation. I’m disgusted to see you using the gossipy smear tactics used by the radical right to discredit Anita Hill in the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas. Since you’ve demonstrated that your journalistic standards are down there with Fox “news,” which I boycott, I’ll boycott The Nation as well.


Basel, Switzerland

We were very disappointed in your article about Wes Clark. We think he is in the best position to win against Bush–his command of the international scene is far, far superior; he has great credibility here in Europe and the world; and America needs to build a better reputation. His personal style may be a bit formal, but I’d trade it any day for the “down home” illiteracy of Bush. From what we’ve seen of the other candidates, there is no one else who could beat Bush. First and foremost we need to get out of this international disaster and get back our world reputation. You have done Clark and your country a great disservice.


New York City

I find the reporting and columns in your fine magazine first-rate. I’m giving gift subscriptions to friends and family this holiday season. However, I will terminate my subscription and recommend that to everyone I know if you run more articles like the one on General Clark–one of the most idiotic pieces of shoddy journalism I have ever come across. I cannot begin to understand why a journalist would attempt a puerile prank like posing as an injured pornographer and then try to extrapolate something meaningful from it. These are the actions of a brainless frat boy, not a journalist.


North Hollywood, Calif.

Your hatchet job on Wes Clark is beyond vile. It is black-ops propaganda. The personal animus your writer brings to his “analysis” is palpable. He is clearly wrong. I have spoken with the general. He is one of the warmest, most real, intelligent and inspiring people I have had the honor to meet. That is a feeling shared by virtually everyone who has had a moment with him or heard him speak live. That The Nation would endorse this scabrous attack says more about you than him. Clark’s candidacy will be a renaissance for our nation (not The Nation) and for a world waiting for America to retake its vital position of moral leadership. I support the next President of the United States, Wesley Clark.



I am, frankly, shocked at this yellow journalism in The Nation. Matt Taibbi’s article is a biased piece of fiction, from his baiting of campaign workers to his inflammatory language. Funny how he is an apologist for war criminals like Milosevic, a man brought to justice by Wes Clark. Amazing that he worms his way into the campaign and then trashes it for his own reasons, none of which have to do with informing your readers. I have long supported The Nation, but I will look elsewhere for my news now–if I wanted “fair and balanced,” I would have turned on Fox News.


Osterville, Mass.

I have been a reader/subscriber to The Nation for the better part of forty years and must say that the Matt Taibbi article is the least compelling, most poorly written piece I have ever read in a publication noted for its persuasive and literate writing. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen when he put the callow Dan Quayle in his place, “I have read and enjoyed Hunter Thompson for years, and, Matt Taibbi, you are no Hunter Thompson.”

Whatever Clark’s virtues or shortcomings, he and his campaign deserved serious treatment by one of The Nation‘s established writers. A metaphor for this dubious piece is Taibbi’s claim that his reporting follows “the old adage: Don’t run down the hill and screw one of the cows, walk down and screw them all.” I’m sorry, but that’s an “adage” I have never encountered.


San Antonio, Tex.

Matt Taibbi is undoubtedly correct about Clark’s “true colors.” But considering the true colors of the Bush regime, if Clark is the only Democrat left standing in November 2004, he’ll certainly get my vote. In fact, if Genghis Khan were running, even that mighty Mongolian would be preferable to the present disaster in the White House.



Buffalo, NY

As pleasant as it has been to read all these letters, I’m going to respond only to Rubin and Yoken. First things first: It is absolutely untrue that I had a “vendetta” against Wesley Clark entering into this assignment. Yoken and Rubin falsely accuse me of misquoting them (more on that in a moment), and even within the space of their short letter, repeatedly portray my past writings inaccurately. There are several notable factual errors. Among others, they are:

§ In the April 22, 1999, article I co-wrote with Mark Ames, “Meet Mister Massacre,” I do not assert that the alleged massacre at Racak did not happen, only that the American version of events there might have been, according to many observers, unreliable. The piece is only parenthetically about the Racak incident. Instead, it was almost solely about how Russians would react to the presence on the verification team of a shadowy American diplomat named William Walker, a former deputy chief of mission in Honduras in the 1980s and a figure in the Iran/contra scandal. Wesley Clark was not mentioned in this article at all.

§ The article “101 Reasons Why the Kosovo War Sucks” was written by some six people, and I did not write the section about the Serbs and Somalis being “tall tribes.” That was written by my co-editor, Mark Ames.

§ Despite writing tens of thousands of words about the Kosovo war, which I did oppose, I never mentioned Clark. The only time he was ever mentioned in an article with my byline was in a September 14, 2000, article about the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in which I quoted Sunday Times reporters Tom Walker and Aidan Laverty as having noted that some KLA leaders had Clark’s mobile phone number.

§ As for the eXile being “defunct,” that is certainly news to Mark Ames, Konstantin Bukarev and the rest of the eXile staff, who have published the paper continuously since 1997. I left as editor in 2002, but the paper remains in business.

Now for the “fabricated” quotes: One of the reasons I always bring someone along with me on undercover-type assignments is to insure that I do not misquote people in situations where tape recordings are not possible. To that end, I made sure that none of the quotes from the Clark piece were ones made outside the presence of my partner at the meet-ups, Emily Dahmen. And both of us, frankly, are amazed that Yoken now claims, among other things, that he did not tell us the “drool shirt” story. We agree, and my notes confirm, that Yoken not only told that story with great enthusiasm but elaborated in a manner I did not describe in print. As Emily now points out: “The only thing you left out is how [Yoken] talked about Clark’s biceps, and how big they were.” The other allegations about inaccuracies were equally baseless.

Contrary to what Yoken and Rubin may think, I did not enter into the Clark assignment with the intent of writing a “hatchet job.” In fact, my original idea was to do a largely humorous account of a volunteer experience of escalating absurdity. It was only after my exposure to the candidate that I formed definite impressions of the general, which clashed with the natural humor of that undertaking. I stand by my story.