The Note

-- The event had a "few rough patches"

-- "Many former top Clinton aides have roles" in the Clark campaign.

-- "General Clark did not discuss what are apparently his reversals on the war."

Democrats have chastised the president for allegedly appropriating the flag and the idea of patriotism, thus rendering any criticism unpatriotic. Party loyalists have chastised the Democrats for allowing the "unpatriotic" label be slapped on them.

Now Clark, a Southern (now) Democrat with a military background, is hammering back at the GOP juggernaut, attacking its definition of patriotism and going from there. Some Dems are betting the "SDWMB" alone will have the credibility to take the president on on this issue.

Another SDWMB, former Georgia senator and Vietnam veteran Max Cleland, joins Clark in taking on the president at what is supposed to be his strongest point: his support for the military. Is this the beginning of the emergence of the fight-hungry Dems? Under the headline, "Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President," Cleland writes: LINK

"The president has declared "major combat over" and sent a message to every terrorist, "Bring them on." As a result, he has lost more people in his war than his father did in his and there is no end in sight."

"Military commanders are left with extended tours of duty for servicemen and women who were told long ago they were going home. We are keeping American forces on the ground, where they have become sitting ducks in a shooting gallery for every terrorist in the Middle East."

"Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President. Sorry you didn't go when you had the chance."

Slate's Suellentrop outlines Clark's strategy on this front in his chronicle of the Citadel speech:

"On a campus where students march and chant in lines, not in puppet-brandishing crowds, Clark declares that dissenters are the true patriots: 'Patriotism doesn't consist of following orders — not when you're not in the chain of command. For the American people, for citizens in a democracy, patriotism's highest calling isn't simply following what the administration says. It's not blind obedience. It's not unquestioned adherence. The highest form of patriotism is asking questions. Because democracies run on dialogue. Democracies run on discussion. No administration has the right to tell Americans that to dissent is disloyal, and to disagree is unpatriotic. … '"

"'We need a new spirit, a new kind of, a new American patriotism in this country. … [T]his new spirit of patriotism should be dedicated to the protection of our rights and liberties. … In times of war or peace, democracy requires dialogue, disagreement, and the courage to speak out. And those who do it should not be condemned but be praised.'"

"No other Democratic candidate, not even John Kerry, could stand in front of two 75 mm howitzers on the quad of a nearly all-male military college and defend the antiwar left without looking faintly ridiculous. Wesley Clark is Howard Dean with flags."

The State picks up on the theme as well:

"Clark has been critical of the war in Iraq and its aftermath. Monday, speaking in front of two 75-millimeter howitzers, he also said it is not unpatriotic to be critical of the war." LINK

"'The highest form of patriotism is asking questions, because democracies run on dialogue; democracies run on discussion,' Clark said."

And notes some GOP anger at Clark's use of the military college:

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