June 30th, 2008
08:41 PM ET
6 years ago

Obama rejects Clark's statement

Obama rejects Clark's comments, his campaign said.
Obama rejects Clark's comments, his campaign said.

(CNN) - Barack Obama formally rejected Gen. Wesley Clark's recent comments Monday that questioned whether the John McCain's military experience qualified him to be commander in chief.

"As he's said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain's service, and of course he rejects yesterday's statement by General Clark," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement.

The comments came in an interview on CBS Sunday when Clark suggested McCain's experience as a prisoner of war did not alone provide the necessary experience to set the country's national security policies.

"I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in the armed forces as a prisoner of war. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility," said Clark, a former NATO commander who campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004.

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis told CNN the comments were "the lowest form of politics," and the Arizona senator himself expressed disappointment with the comments on Monday.

"I know that General Clark is not an isolated incident but I have no way of knowing how much involvement Sen. Obama has in that issue," he told reporters. "I know he has mischaracterized some of my statements in the past including our involvement in Iraq but I'll let the American people decide about that. "

Watch: McCain upset over Clark's comments

Responding to the Obama campaign's rejection of Clark's comments, McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said, "We've learned we need to wait and see what Senator Obama actually does, rather than take him at his word."

Meanwhile, in what appeared to be an attempt to soften Clark's comments, Obama said in speech Monday that "no one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign, and that goes for supporters of both sides."

"We must always express our profound gratitude for the service of our men and women in uniform. Period. Full stop," Obama said.

Update, 8:40 p.m.: Gen. Wesley Clark (Ret.) issued the following statement Monday night:

"There are many important issues in this Presidential election, clearly one of the most important issues is national security and keeping the American people safe. In my opinion, protecting the American people is the most important duty of our next President. I have made comments in the past about John McCain's service and I want to reiterate them in order be crystal clear. As I have said before I honor John McCain's service as a prisoner of war and a Vietnam Veteran. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in Armed Forces as prisoner of war. I would never dishonor the service of someone who chose to wear the uniform for our nation.

"John McCain is running his campaign on his experience and how his experience would benefit him and our nation as President. That experience shows courage and commitment to our country – but it doesn't include executive experience wrestling with national policy or go-to-war decisions. And in this area his judgment has been flawed – he not only supported going into a war we didn't have to fight in Iraq, but has time and again undervalued other, non-military elements of national power that must be used effectively to protect America But as an American and former military officer I will not back down if I believe someone doesn't have sound judgment when it comes to our nation's most critical issues."


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (381 Responses)
  1. NELSON Colorado Springs, Co

    Gen Clark spoke the truth whether John McCain's military experience qualified him to be commander in chief at lease John McCain has Some military experience, Sen McCain is one of the few preisdent canidate that has been to war and live to talk about. Go Obama

    June 30, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  2. RAY IN NJ

    THIS rejection was a mistake on Obama's part, because Gen. Clark was absolutely correct! I'm telling you, the republicans are slowly making Obama look "weak" when at their every criticism and demand of a rejection, he capitulates! As an Obama supporter, I'm completely disappointed in Obama's repudiation of this great American, Gen. Clark, whose instincts and insight I truly respect! I certainly hope the Gen. Clark doesn't take offense (as he should) and leave Obama's campaign. Obama needs to stop allowing McCain to push his buttons!

    June 30, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  3. The Truth

    THE DEMS NEED TO UNLEASH THEIR 527 ATTACK DOGS TO DISCREDIT McCAIN"S SO-CALLED HEROIC RECORD.

    GETTING KNOCKED OUT IN A FIGHT DOES NOT MAKE YOU WORLD CHAMPION...WHY SHOULD GETTING SHOT DOWN AND CAPTURED BE ANY DIFFERENT????

    McSAME SPONSORED THE SWIFT BOAT VETERANS THAT SMEARED JOHN KERRY, WHY SHOULDN't DEMS RETALIATE????

    June 30, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  4. SARA

    OBAMA HAS ALMOST ENOUGH EXPERIENCE TO BE COMMANDER AND CHIEF OF HARDEES.

    June 30, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  5. joe

    Its crazy how MCsame left clerk and started attacking OBAMA over what clerk said and after OBAMA had publicly rejected the statement...if this man dont even know how to play a simple politics then he probably will be a very bad commander in chief....
    OBAMA THE VOTE !!!!

    June 30, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  6. Ula Nejad- Sacramento Ca

    Senator Hussein's response is why flying a FIGHTER plane with the American emblem sets McCain and the republicans aside from make-believe presidential seal.

    June 30, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  7. Believer in God

    Why is it you never hear Barack Obama speak about God. God is the
    backbone of this world and mankind. Our country is based on
    "IN GOD WE TRUST".

    June 30, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  8. Kirsten

    I find it hilarious that Obama's supporters say that McCain has no experience. They should not bw talking about a candidate and his experience when their own has FOUR YEARS of national experience, FOUR YEARS. If anyone is not qualified, it's Barack Obama. He doesn't hve a quarter of the experience that McCain has, and suddenly he's more qualified?

    June 30, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  9. David

    Obama said McCain doesn't care about the families in Iraq when McCain's own son 19 year old son served in Iraq.

    June 30, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  10. charles

    ok so wats gona hapen if obama chooses clark fr vp grandpa wont be able to attack clark. so lf my guess is right l wait to see who is the loser on this one.

    June 30, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  11. point

    Thank you general clark for stating the truth. But it should be mentioned that Obama cannot afford to agree with you yet.... A lot of potential voters might get negative opinions of Sen. Obama if he were to come off as not recognizing the sacrafices made by his opponent for the country

    June 30, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  12. Bill, Covington

    I would appreciate it if retired General Wesley(Ashley Wilkes) Clark
    would inform me of the " executive responsibiliyy" that the obama has had that qualifies him for the oval office. What a freeking idiot.

    June 30, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  13. Independent man

    General Clark spoke very accurately. Being a solder doesn't automatically qualify you to be Commander-In-Chief. His statement in no way made negative darts at McCain. From what I gleaned from General Clarks interview, he was simply making an observation as an Experienced Military Leader commenting about a position that he is fully qualified to comment on. If he (General) can't make that type of observation, then who can – no military experience commander in chief President George Bush!!!!!

    June 30, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  14. True

    Being in the military does NOT make you "better" than any other person that has not served. How can someone compare armed services as a career and someone that helps the homeless as a career? Both equally have purpose.

    June 30, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  15. lance coardill

    IF WE ANALYZED WHAT OBAMA TRULY ACCEPTED, PURSUANT TO THE LUNATIC FRINGE SUPPORTER AND WOULD BE CABINET MEMBERS OF HIS ARE SPEWING, YOU'D HAVE TO CONCLUDE THAT HE'S SURROUNDED BY MORONS. CHANGE IN WASHINGTON UNDER OBAMA? YEAH, RIGHT

    June 30, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  16. Mary

    Sitting in a racist church in Chicago and having criminals and terrorists supporters does not make you a better candidate, Senator Obama.
    And when I hear such inapproiate remarks from one of Obama's supporters, I believe it reflects on his judgment.

    June 30, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  17. Sally, San Antonio, TX

    Clark got it right!!!

    June 30, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  18. D.C.Mataya

    Clark was absolutely right about McCain!~ His war experience was not in a leadership role- the opposite was true!

    Unfortunately, McCain spent the war years as a prisoner.
    He is an American hero- but, this does not give him the experience as a military leader!

    McCain claims spending the war years as a prisoner- gives him military leadership- it does not!

    He, along with many others, suffered as prisoners- and they are to be honored. McCain does not have the right to exploit this event- in to something it was not. He has our sympathy, along with so many others.

    June 30, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  19. Steve

    Don't care who wins they are all the same.

    Obama people.....If Clark is correct about McCain not having executive experience.....then I guess that really leaves Barak out in the cold.

    Just a thought. Guess we get to choose from two inexperienced neophytes.

    June 30, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  20. Mike Kaplan

    What exactly was wrong with what Clark said? He didn't devalue McCain's service in any way. I think Obama was wrong to disown this statement. (But I'm still voting for him, of course.)

    June 30, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  21. Doug from Antioch

    How many times will Obama have to reject his supporters' remarks?

    This is a weekly occurrence. Maybe CNN can create a special column for this?

    June 30, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  22. vw

    That is Obama's politic trick, a typical chicago's-dirty politics..

    June 30, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  23. Osmondb

    This is so stupid. this has nothing do with how barack will run the country. and this complety takes away from what his speech today was about. Good ole mainstream media favoring the war hero john mccain. i wonder how long this will be a story? i bet longer than charlie black, longer than norquist and longer than lieberman.

    June 30, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  24. Matt

    CNN's handling of this story is despicable. Back in 2004 when the Swiftboaters where spreading lies about John Kerry's war record, CNN repeated those lies as if they had some merit.

    Where were all the pearl clutching pundits when the Democrat's service was being attacked? I don't remember ever seeing Rick Sanchez rush to John Kerry's defense - even when chickenhawk Republicans mocked John Kerry by wearing purple heart bandaids.

    But in this instance we don't even have a swiftboat-style attack, because Gen. Clark DID NOT attack McCain's service and nothing in his statement was untrue. He made a fair point that's worthy of discussion instead of all this phony outrage from McCain's BBQ eating supporters in the media.

    June 30, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  25. Kevin Leo (Jonesboro, GA)

    This is getting crazy!!!!! Black's statement gets a mild rebuke from McCain but when General Clark, a former NATO commander, says that McCain's military experience did not meet executive responsibility, he throws a hissy-fit?! Can we say hypocrit?!?! Especially when what Gen. Clark said was true! No one can take anything away from McCain's service record but nothing about it is strong enough to say that it is presidential. And for those who rightly point out that Obama does not have military experience, I would also point out that Barack is not running for president based on muilitary service as McCain is.

    June 30, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
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