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. Maria L. English

    Please I have being hoping that somebody ask Senator McCain why being shot down in Vietnam and being a prisoner for several years gives you experience to be a commander of troops he has never command troops or anything

    June 30, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |

    Now "experts" can't even make statements in their expert opinions anymore. Why did Clark's statements have to be rejected. He is a high ranking general. If anyone knows what represents "commander service", it would be a guy like him.

    I'm disapointed that Barack rejected.

    There are more serious things going on in the world right now and worse comments being made by McCains EMPLOYEES as opposed to regular supporters.

    June 30, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  3. Shane


    June 30, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  4. Swift

    McInsane has no chance- his ways are out of date, so he and his mindless republican followers make issues out of non-issues.

    Guess what, McSame's ability to crash five plans and get captured, along with giving up military information to the enemy for better treatment, does NOT make him qualified to be the President.

    The fact that he is an American-hating republican should be reason enough.

    June 30, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  5. Patrick

    There goes Clark's VP chance..lol

    June 30, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  6. Truth and Justice in Politics

    General Clark's comments are completely fair and logical. Also, he was very respectful to Senator McCain in how he phrased it. It's disappointing how both the McCain and Obama camps are handling this ... Just more games.

    June 30, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  7. Tom

    After waiting way too long to see what, if any, fallout there would be and finally recognizing that it was strongly against himself and his buddy Mr. Clark's statements, Mr. Obama decides to comment instead of taking the immediate high road. I see the McCain camp has already gotten used to Obama's same old garbage type of dirty politics. Good for them! Of course Obama supporters will support this dirt. So much for unity and change.

    June 30, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  8. GeneK

    If made in response to some attempt by McCain or his supporters to present McCain's military service and POW experience as somehow making him more qualified to be president, then Clark's remarks were entirely appropriate. But if Clark just pulled them out of his hat as a reason to consider McCain "unqualified" they were probably uncalled for even though they are factually correct, and not of much help to Obama, who doesn't really have any particular advantage over McCain in this area of experience..

    June 30, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  9. Robert Vanderveer

    John McCain spent five years as a prisoner of war. General Clark is a life long military officer who rose to the rank of general and was NATO commander. According to the McCain campaign, this does not give the general the authority to actually question McCains 'extensive' millitary expertise. Let John McCain prove his 'executive' experience instead of milking his prison years with his flag waving phoniness. How would you like a commander in chief, who at a rally last year was 'jokingly' singing 'Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran' to the tune of a Beach Boys song. Don't you see the the similarities between 'W' and Mc Cain? Both are from influential families, both were party types when young, both were poor students but the family name secured graduation and both used their family name to get into politics because they had no other talents.

    June 30, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  10. Mike - Texas

    And Obama served in the US senate for 1 1/2 years before announcing thet he was running for president.

    Let's see when McCain was in his 20's he was serving his country and was a POW.

    Obama stated that when he was in his 20's that he was smoking dope! Those were Obama's words.

    Lete's see, 1 served his country and the other smoked dope.


    It is such a hard decission.


    June 30, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  11. proud army and navy mom

    why isn't anyone concerned that mccain won't be able to run his country because he was a pow.

    i have many relatives in the armed forces and war is mentally and physically draining.

    this man was held captive, there is no telling what kind of psychological problems he has. we know he has a fiery temper, what else could be lingering?

    June 30, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  12. White woman for Obama

    Clark was right!
    Obama needs to stop listening to the spin of the neo-cons.
    We need to go after the right as hard as they went after John Kerry.
    I wish Obama had some advisors with a little moxie.
    Quit backing down from these guys, it is making us all sick.

    June 30, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  13. John in Binghamton NY

    Correct me if I am wrong here, but doesn't Clark know something about military service??? Doesn't Clark know something about commanding an army? Didn't he used to do something like that being a general and all???

    McCain should shut his mouth when a general speaks about military service. He is out of his league.

    June 30, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  14. Obama-Junkie, IL

    How fast did Wesley Clark become a "military adviser" for Obama when he was a strong supporter of Hillary only 3 weeks ago?!?!

    I think I can strike Wesley Clark off the Obama V.P. list now.

    June 30, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  15. Belle

    This is TOOO reminiscent of what he did to Senator Clinton....try and take the high road while your surrogates crawl in the muck, then claim you don't have anything to do with it!

    What....does Senator Obama think all voters are stupid?????

    He can talk about unity while twisting the arms of those around him...but that is not change...that is what politicians have been doing for years. Unfortunately, I am a Democrat that ALWAYS votes for the best person, not the party. Senator Obama better START detailing his policies and how he is going to pay for them. I'm tired of the crap he and his campaign keeps dishing out.

    June 30, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  16. NC4Obama

    Being a POW is not a qualification for being President. There were many POW's does that mean they are all qualified to be President?

    June 30, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  17. pp

    why question past? Past is a buried corpse? only perverts dig it.. You are what you are now and if u are committed u can become what u are...the key is to commit and enroll others in what we all are going to get by it.

    Old politics never leaves LOL.. thinks takes more than 3-4 generations i think?

    June 30, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  18. Steve in AZ

    Reply to Ross in MD: "What Clark said was factually obvious. How is flying a plane a credential to be President? I think the Republicans are grasping at straws."

    Exactly. Bush flew jet fighter planes too, sort of, in that TX ANG draft dodging champagne unit. Look how well that skill set carried over & applied toward being a successful POTUS.

    But in this day and age, criticizing our sainted faultless military and its veterans in any way, shape, or form is strictly taboo, unless you happen to be talking about a Democrat who fought in a war and then turned against it. Then it's OK to be viciously 'Swiftboated' and hounded into obscurity.

    Interesting to note now that the Army published it's detailed study on how and why the Iraq war went South after the invasion, how thoroughly FUBAR it was. That also happens to vindicate everything Obama and other war critics said from the get-go. Oops, 4100 dead. Our bad. Oh well.

    The upshot of this episode is, if Wes Clark was ever on Obama's VP short list, he ain't now. I'm still rooting for Jim Webb for VP.

    June 30, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  19. Michelle

    I'm so tired of Obama and McCain being held responsible for what everyone else says. If a person were to be held responsible for whatever else says then ever other statement would be rejected. Stop the insanity!!!!!

    But on another note, McCain is a hypocrite. His campaign will cry foul for Clark's statements but not reject Lieberman’s or Blacks statements. So please...just stop already.

    June 30, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  20. David Illinois

    Of course he will try to deflect the whole patriotism issue. When he doesn't have any he sure as heck can't point to anyone else. This man is such a flip flopping salesman. Toss in his wife's comments and then just watch the Republicans tear him apart. This will be the first time in 30 years I have voted for a Republican. We can live through 4 more years of a bad Republican the country could not take 4 years of a worse Obama. To all the party leaders who tried to shove this liar down our throats...talk to us when the election is over and you are crying for us to come back and save it once again from the super liberals who destroyed it the first time around.

    June 30, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  21. Tony C.

    Having been a POW does NOT qualify McCain to be president.

    Pay attention people!

    June 30, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  22. Rachel

    Under the bus you go Mr clark, wow must be crowded their with all of obama's casualties.

    June 30, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  23. katiec

    Clark is correct. The ONLY thing McCain is running on is being a prisoner of war. While we all respect him for that, his record as
    a republican, supporting all decisions that have gotten our
    country into the worse mess it has ever been in are what
    voters need to be looking at.
    And "my friends" Bush, cheny and the war mongers are now
    setting us up for WW111. They are planning on Israel attacking
    Iran and the U,S. supporting them. Then because Russia will
    support Iran. Heaven help us.

    June 30, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  24. Janet Jacme

    The General was asked a question by Bob Shieffer on Face The Nation. He answered it honestly and truthfully on the fly. Clark didn't attack McCain. He didn't lie.

    He stated an unspoken truth that many American's held.

    There is nothing for Barack to repudiate.

    Indepedent voters though should contrast the way Barack managed this "little dust up" to that of McCain on the subject of 527 political action committees.

    REmember McCain said " I can't be referee for the [527 gorups ... i.e. swiftboaters]. What he was saying was that he had no authority nor intent to influence people that would violate his stated principles for the campaign.

    Obama, on the other hand, had enough leadership influence such that MOVEON.org said that it would follow the wishes of Obama and not run 527 ads.

    Which of these two candidates has the right stuff?

    I believe this speaks to the issue of LEADERSHIP capabilitie and MORAL FOUNDATION.

    June 30, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  25. Ken Pittsburgh

    . This war over words is getting out of hand why should any one walk away from what one military man thinks about another . If the McCain efforts is to twist every word then ladiies and gents you better hold on it going to be a bumping reide till NOV.

    June 30, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
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