June 30th, 2008
08:41 PM ET
10 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. Big Bill from Brooklyn

    Many years ago I had a conversation with a woman whose husband had been a pilot in the U.S. Airforce and had been shot down and captured in Vietnam. He had spent six (6) years in prison, including the so-called Hanoi Hilton. When I told her how proud I was of his service and that I was sure he would be made a General, she shook her head. "No," she said with a sad smile. "He will never be considered." When I asked why, given that her husband had never broken, remained in the military, and was one of the healthiest - mentally and physically - men I knew, she said: "Because he was out of the political loop too long." I did not understand what she meant: until I read General Clark's comments about Senator McCain. Sadly, I believe General Clark was accurately reflecting a shameful reality about promotion, politics and warfare that has little to do with this current campaign and everything to do with the service Senator McCain so nobly served while defending this country.

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

    I don't see anything wrong with Clark's statement. It's true. Being shot down or being a war hero absolutely DOES NOT qualify him to be President. His military service was magnicent, and all of us as Americans appreciate his great sacrifice. But that just does not qualify him to be Commander in Chief. There are more requirements for President which he does not possess.....such as good judgement, even temperament, understanding the economy, etc. Understanding Foreign Policy does not qualify him for the Presidency!!!

    June 30, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  3. Perplexed

    If we extrapolate from McCain's position then anyone who has been a prisoner of war is qualified to be commander in chief, right? So then why not have the RNC find a younger POW and make him the presumptive Republican nominee? After all, any POW is qualified, right? Give me a break.

    June 30, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  4. Barry In Las Vegas

    It is obvious Obama had Gen Clark go out on Sunday and attack McCain to set up his "Patriotism"speach for today.

    Obama is one smart cookie. McCain and the Republican Party better start figuring this out quick.

    As to Clark – he has been looking for a job in any Democrat administration and will go out and say anything about anyone to get one.

    He did this for the other loser he backed the unhonerable Senetor Kerry who lied about the men he served with and trashed the U S Medals he was awarded under false pretenses.

    I don't need a speech on "Patriotism" from a guy who refused to place his hand over his heart when the Pledge of Allegiance was been recited or who quit wearing a U.S. Flag pin until he couldn't take the heat any more.

    The candidate of change? Obama is proving by the day that he is just another slick politician and his Chicago creds are showing.

    June 30, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  5. RENEA

    Let me see: It ok for Mccain to link Obama as the candidate of Hamas,Revard Wright , Future terror attacks,not liking the Constitution and the Elitist candidate! All of those things are signs of respect and truth coming from the Mccain camp!

    June 30, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  6. Kaye- Jacksonville FL

    What's the problem with Clark's comment?? Military service, even as a POW, does not in fact qualify anyone to serve as Commander-in-Chief, much less President. Yes, John McCain served his country honorably but, Clark's comment did not dispute that stature. If someone said that owning a baseball team didn't qualify W as CEO of America, they would have been spot on!

    Could we please not let either of these campaigns dissolve completely into the ridiculous!

    June 30, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  7. Tom

    "So McLame says this the lowest form of politics and then he suggests that Obama was behind the statement? Is that just a wee bit contradictory?

    Anyways, all McLame does is repeat a thounsand times that he was a POW when his military service is brought up. Even when it has nothing to do with question. Does this mean that McLame thinks that only former POW's are able to make "straight" decisions?

    When is this guy going to stop using scripted answers! I appreciate what has given my country, but I am sorry to say this, he is 100% lame."

    June 30, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  8. candi California

    The thing here is that what Clark said is true. Why does being shot down and spending as a prisoner of war make you presidential? Obviously it does not. The press however fails to see this. Thank you Gen Clark for saying waht the media types won't.

    June 30, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  9. totally neutral

    How many times is Obama going to have to renounce the truth to get elected? Sad.
    "The truth? Young man, you can't handle the truth."
    Bombing innocent civilians, aiding and abetting the enemy, divorcing your wife for convenience. That makes you qualified to be what? Mr. McCain – speak up.......
    We don't hear you.

    June 30, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  10. Susan, CA

    Finally, someone with enough backbone to utter the truth. He is not knocking McCain's military service. He is simply pointing out that sitting out the war in a POW camp does not give him the experience needed to be President. It certainly does not give him any more experience in security matters than Obama. Also, the McCain camp should remember that Bush and his cronies actually swiftboated him and tried to make light of his military service, something that Clark is NOT doing. Clark is doing nothing more than telling the truth. Maybe if there were more of that, we wouldn't be in such dire trouble.

    June 30, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  11. Dick/NH

    The McCain campaign is trying to have its cake & eat it, too....if I were Barack, I'd not comment when being baited.
    Any Navy pilot who loses 5 Navy planes, three of which were a direct result of incompetence, should NEVER be in a position of leadership, so General Clark is NOT way off base here....that doesn't even mention McCain's serious character flaw....a repeat adulterer!!!

    June 30, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  12. Walt

    As someone who will vote for Obama in November but who has become very disenchanted by Obama's recent statements and positions, all I can say is that Clark was right. And Obama should be ashamed of himself for caving to ridiculous pressure from the John McBush campaign.

    June 30, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  13. Chris, Denver CO

    McCain and his apologists are a bunch of big babies. I've yet to hear a convincing explanation of how a horrible and traumatic experience like being a POW prepares one to be president. My grandpa was a POW, and I loved him very dearly. But in all honesty, he would have been a pretty lousy president.

    June 30, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  14. Carlos

    Clark is correct. Just read the transcript of the interview carefully and pay no attention to the editorials. He is right.

    It is the same as saying that being the son a former president did not by itself qualify George W. to be a president.

    You need more than just been a POW to be a good president and that fact does not diminish McCain's sacrifice.

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

    heh, i like how Obama and McCain have spokesmen speak for them... honestly why not do the talking yourself? if you're such great candidates (which neither of them are) why not speak for yourselves? Don't be sucked in by words or likability, please listen to the issues and see who's better. One very charismatic and likable leader was behind one of the most evil atrocities that humanity has ever seen. These squabble of words only makes this election even more disgraceful than it already is. I swear, if Reagan were alive and endorsed someone, that person he endorsed would be the republican nominee in a heartbeat, and i know it would not have been McCain.

    June 30, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  16. Erika, KS

    Ok. So, McCain doesn't have "executive" experience. Neither does Obama. Obama supporters are hypocrites to say this about McCain. McCain has been around the block a time or two. More than Obama. I'll take experience, thank you very much. We're going to need real action, not just talk of "change" to get us out of the mess that Bush created.

    June 30, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  17. Easy Rider

    Senator Obama does not need to feel responsible for what other people say about anything. He only needs to provide his own opinions, and not worry about which pastor said what, or which general said what.

    I will say that I do agree that getting shot down and being a POW, while an honorable thing to have on your resume, does NOT qualify you automatically for President. If that were the case, maybe some of our YOUNGER military personnel should be running, instead of someone that might kick the bucket at any time.

    If McCain did not have this POW/fighter pilot on his resume, please tell me what would make him more qualified against Obama for anything. He cannot even keep illegals out of his own state, nor keep FLDS folks from collecting welfare in their baby factories.

    June 30, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  18. mary

    General Clark, the last time I checked, Senator Obama has not held "executive responsibility" either. Unless for some unknown reason you count a few years as a US Senator and another few years in the Illinois State House, teaching Con Law, as executive experience.

    June 30, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  19. Rodney

    I'm so tired of people being attacked when they actually speak the truth and don't blow politically correct smoke up our derrieres. While I feel bad for McCain and him becoming a POW during the Vietnam War, it has nothing to do with executive experience as far as the military is concerned.

    If you're going to have people in the Swift Boat campaign try to bring down Kerry's lack of military executive leadership, then you have to give the same consideration to McCain unfortunately.

    This extreme PC society that we are becoming is very dangerous and very irresponsible.

    June 30, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  20. John in Binghamton NY

    It is sad when someone can't state the truth bc it offends McCain. That is crazy. McCain has talked about how even his own father wasn't proud of him for caving under torture. People have a right to question his record if he is going to hide behind it.

    June 30, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  21. Bukky

    Clark was right. there is nothing to repudiate. Being a POW while honorable is not enough to be president.

    June 30, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |

    It's not that it qualifies him to be President but it does give him an insight on WAR that no one eles can bring to the table. So if he becomes President and the flashbacks start getting to him maybe he will make a better decision as far as IRAQ is concerned. I've been there it doesn't qualify me to be President but I sure know that I would think twice about sending troops somewhere to die unless I they have a dang good reason to be there.

    June 30, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  23. Paul

    Obama has about as much experience to be President as a dog catcher. Period!

    June 30, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  24. Earl

    There was no need to reject those statements. As an Obama supporter, I am totally tired of rejecting statements. Obama should not have to be held to such a high level. This is sad. I guess my mother told me correctly when I was a young boy. She said, "Son, as a black male you HAVE to be twice as good in order to be considered equal". Just sad.

    June 30, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  25. Xavier, Saint Louis, MO

    I understand why Obama said what he said; however, I have to agree with General Clark. Just because a person was a POW does give them the authority on national security or to be president of the United States.

    June 30, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
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