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. KT

    THE TRUTH SQUAD – geez, get real....too bad Obama feels it is necessary to distance himself from Clark, because Clark is right – just because McBush flew a plane, was in service, was a POW and has traveled – THAT makes him qualified to be President and an expert in foreign affairs – if that's all it takes, then tens of thousands of veterans are qualified – what it takes is DIPLOMACY and a willingness to TALK to people – not McBUsh and MCBully them into compliance – which never, ever works! Obama has all the right instincts to serve and to convince and to affect world peace. Just wait until his upcoming trip – watch BBCAmerica – the world is waiting for him!

    June 30, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  2. webster208

    The nerve of Obama supporters to question MCain's ability to lead. What has Obama shown in terms of exective leadership or bipartisan initiative? He has given speeches about change, but all he's done really is change his mind ...about NAFTA, the schedule of troop withdrawals in Iraq ( note that from "immediate withdrawal", he has now been using "responsible withdrawal"); public funding for campaign; AIPAC; capital gains tax... who knows whatever else will come to light. I can foresee that his next political move will be to give an elegant speech about the virtues of flip-flopping; and the media will hail this as the best speech given so far in the campaign. Give me a break!

    June 30, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  3. Doug T

    This story did not even mention the actual quote Clark said regarding McCain being shot down. A little liberal bias maybe?

    June 30, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  4. Doug

    When exactly did John McCain say that being a POW would make him a better president? I never heard him say it. What makes Obama and his supporters think that Obama is more qualified to be commander in chief?

    Being a POW does not, on its own, make one qualified. With that said, it is certainly more than what Senator Obama has in this area which is absolutely nothing.

    One poster mentioned that working at Walmart doesn't qualify him to run the company. I agree, but it does make one more qualified than someone who has never held a job.

    June 30, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  5. Ashley Hastings

    I think McCain is a little over the top when he claims that his experience as a prisoner of war is enough to qualify him to be president. Sure, he probably understands the life of a POW as well or better than anybody else in public life, but there's more to the job of president than that!

    June 30, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  6. ChicoSez

    being a half term senator and a community organizer qualifies Obama to be the president(god/king) but captain of a fighter squadron and over 25 years in congress isn't enough for McCain. I must be missing something here. Oh, he running against Obama, that means he must be evil or he wouldn't dare to challenge Obama's godgiven right to be president(god/king). The terrible slurs against McCain and his wife are the same tactics that Obama ran against Clinton and her husband. Its the same tactics of divisiveness that won Bush his presidency. This is the new politics of hope. Thats why I left the dem party, PUMA. McCain/Clinton 08

    June 30, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  7. 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 doesn't give them the authority on national security or to be president of the United States.

    June 30, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  8. Sherry

    I don't see that General Clark's comment was in any way showing lack of respect for Senator McCain's service to his country. McCain's service to this country has never been disputed, however General Clark has a right, as an American citizen and voter to express his personal opinion...as we all do. while I honor John McCain for his service to our country, he seems to play on his being a POW in attempt to gain sympathy votes, for all he went through. Too bad he wasn't as loyal to his first wife and ditched her after her serious accident for his current rich wife. Now there is integrity for you.

    June 30, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  9. Trang, Fremont, CA

    Senator Obama,

    How can you bring people together when you keep rejecting people when they say things you don't like? There is some truth to what General Wesley Clark say? He didn't question John McCain's patriotism? He just said being a prisoner of war does not gives one the qualification to be commander in chief. Senator McCain is the one who makes jokes about 'Bomb bomb bomb Iran', at least I hope that is a joke. Bombing a country is a serious matter, and he makes a joke out of it.

    I am still a supporter of you, but I must say, I am a bit disappointed by your response. If you feel you must defend Senator John McCain, you too must find a way to defend General Wesley Clark. General Wesley Clark actually has the executive experience in exercising a war, making decisions that affecting life and death, and he just expressed his views, and it's unfortunate that you choose to reject him in favor of defending Senator John McCain.

    Would you please stop w/ this denoucing and rejecting stuff? If you are to bring the people in this country together – how does denouncing and rejecting people help your cause?

    June 30, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  10. di from ri

    The media has lost so much credibility already, this doesn't surprise me. They are taking a true statement and turning it into an insult. It wasn't. Unbelievable. How come some people can be smeared into the dirt, but others cannot speak candidly. That's what Gen. Clarke's statement was-candid and blunt. What is the problem? Sen. Obama shouldn't have backed down. The media pundits and hosts have too much power over eveyrthing. I'm sick of them all. They're allowed to destroy people they don't like, but kiss up sickening to ones that are on the 'good' list – for the moment.

    June 30, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  11. Shelly in IL

    Senator Obama needs to get it together and stop apologizing. The statement is true...get a backbone man stick up for yourself and the Democratic party. McCain would not have backed down from this statement and furthermore he flat-out called you a lier because you opted out of public financing.

    Stop aplogizing man, you can't please everyone.

    June 30, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  12. mac

    the dems need to grow a back bone. please stand up for yourselves

    June 30, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  13. ki-jana carter

    General Clark is absolutely right! I'm tired of people acting like McCain is somehow entitled to the Presidency because he had his arms broken. That sucks for him, but I've gone through some bad stuff too, I guess I deserve to be Secretary of State....oh wait, I have no executive experience. Kind of like McCain.

    Being shot out of the sky doesn't make you a good President.

    June 30, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  14. K

    This is the problem (1 of many ) that the United States has and that is they are a bunch of war mongers. Your entire history is from war, with other countries and with itself. When will the madness stop? must we always be at war to run this country? (I think not) it would be more beneficial for us as a nation to sit down and try to understand our percieved enemy instead of launching war against them because in the end they are going to hit back. Countries are much like individuals, they don't like anyone to impose their will upon them so instead of approving billions of dollars to pursue war why not approve billions of dollars for peace.

    June 30, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  15. kcmookie

    Obama never ceases to amaze me. Rising above the false rhetoric I see on these message boards, I would clearly like to say I find his responses to be refreshingly honest, well thought out, and respectful. I would surprised if many of his advisaries eventually feel a lot of respect for him. Unlike Hillary who took every opportunity she had to cast as negative a light as possible on her adversary, Obama repeatedly treated her with respect, dignity and fairness. No I am not drinking the kool-aid, but just like this dialogue, instead of piling on McCain and using this at an attemp for political gain, he instead rejects it flatly and speaks to all of us the importance and need to always treat those who have made the greatest sacrifice in protecting our country and way of life with the respect they deserve. Well said Obama, I am so proud of you.

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

    Hey Ross, how is being a community organaizer is a credential to be President?

    June 30, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  17. jim - phila.

    You almost got it right but you forgot Obama is a Marxist and a friend of mad bombers.

    June 30, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  18. D.Johnson

    Obama is weak and throw everybody under the bus quickly. I like Obama but I am starting to believe that Obama is a fraud. Why can he stand for somethign?

    June 30, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  19. N Waff

    We only know that Clark show loyality to one person – himself.

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

    Hasn't General Clark also earned the right to say what he wants as a high ranking member of the military and a respected veteran and hero? I'm disappointed in the McCain campaigh for making General Clark a target. Certainly he is a better judge of who possesses executive decision making on military issues then some McCain flunky! Shame on McCain for always putting his sevice out there but then making it an issue if anyone dares to say that this isn't enough for him to be President. Sorry but you just don't get it both ways.

    June 30, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  21. Sean

    I'm not sure I get it. What's wrong with Clark saying he respects McCain's military service, but that being a POW is not in itself a qualification to be President? I'd say that's true.

    June 30, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  22. Alex- New Jersey

    Obama nailed it, respect and value McCain's service. Period. I do not think it is a shame, it's been what Obama has been saying all along. I think Clark took it upon himself to launch this attack, mostly because I remember how much of a horrid interview this guy gives. When he ran for president he was completely clueless as to what the right thing to say was or how to say it. He may have the military know how but not a great guy for the morning talk shows.

    June 30, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  23. Dr. Vincent Petrosino

    Regardless of what McCain says and how Obama wishes to soften Gen. Clark's words, Gen. Clark is 120% correct. While it is laudable to have a war hero like McCain among us, his personal experiences do not make him a great potential commander-in-chief! Beware of the Truth Squad and remember too what they did to John Kerry. McCain has approved of them because he hopes they do for him what they did for Bush. Bud Day et al. are racists pure and simple who would rather die a thousand deaths than see an African-American in the White House. So while it is very fine for Obama to take the high road once again, I hope he will not eliminate Gen. Wesley Clark from consideration in his cabinet or even as VP because he spoke and continues to speak the truth!

    June 30, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  24. CB

    Clark was right.

    June 30, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  25. Nunya

    I interpreted Clark's comments as a response to those who attack Obama as having no executive experience – sort of a 'well if it comes down to it neither do you'.

    I'm going to get really disappointed in this campaign really quickly if it degenerates into expectations that the candidates have to make public statements denying third party comments simply because someone on the other side complained about how someone really must be a surrogate. If they want to start playing that game, neither one is going to be doing anything *but* that.

    June 30, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
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