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. Marc

    Wow, Obama is throwing another supporter under the bus. Ah well, same old tired politics as usual.

    June 30, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  2. IAMWMD

    If being serving in the military and getting locked up makes one capable of being president, shouldn't our next president come straight from Ft Levenworth?

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

    Why is it Barack Obama never speaks about God. After all this is the
    United States and our country is based on 'IN GOD WE TRUST'. If
    Barack Obama can not find the time to speak of God in his speaches
    why should this man be elected president. I am sure he is probably a fine person however I find it offending to our country that you would elect a person who can not let the citizens of the United States know that he is a God believing man. If a person is now willing to stand up for God, how could you expect them to do anything for this country in a prosperous way. Another thing, why is it you always hear about his grandparents and not so much about his parents. Just to set the record straight, it doesn't matter if the person is african american or caucasian as long as we have a straight forward honest leader. All the dirt will come out in the wash. Seems to me, the negative of anyone can never be trutfully answered and so a mistake was made, admit it. I do hope this is published as I have sent in many comments before this one and they are not seen.
    May the best man win. God has already won.

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

    Poor uneducated Americans like ERIKA, KS talk about McCain's experience without understanding what his "experience" is. If you think GW Bush alone got us into the "mess" we are in then you have been asleep over the last 5 years!

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

    Clark is right and Obama should not reject it. Too much has been said and overrated about McCain's military experience. Yes he was a prisoner of war and he served his country very proudly, is that enough to make you a president?NO,No,NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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

    As a retired U.S. Marine who served from 1969 to 1991. living through both Vietnam and the first Gulf War, I feel comfortable in agreeing with General Clark. Although Sen. McCain should be praised for his sacrifice, being a POW doesn't qualify him for the highest office in the land. Furthermore, the leadership roles that he played in both the military and the senate are, at most, comparable to a "senior management" position. John Kerry got "swift-boated" out of an election. Al Gore's Vietnam service was totally ignored, while George Bush's service record is at best qustionable. And what was done to triple amputee Vietnam vet Max Cleland was the worst kind of gutter politics. So the belly aching coming from the McCain camp is, in my opinion, overly dramatic.

    June 30, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  7. A unknow black man from Canada help blogged 4 Obama since primary.

    It is a shame that American can't say what is true anymore. How is beeing a soldier makes one a commander in chief when you have not command any position in millitery before been shut down?

    Maccain can't win on any issue either, he doesn't know enough about economy and Americans need someone who will create jobs.

    Am still surprised that some republicans are still using Hillary Clinton name in a nagective manner. I don't know the reason behind this, but if it is to devide democrats? They should think again. Hillary is a srtong supporter of Obama presidency so do Bill and all the notable leaders that have initially supporter Hillary is nomination bid.

    So, Republiacn do not use Hillary's name to stage your fight against Obama.
    Democratic party is not dumb, we know those behind causing trouble by portraying that they Hillary's fans to instigate bitterness among democrats.

    Please stop the devision, blog for republican if you are a republican and blog for democrats if you a democrats.

    You know Maccain has no chance of winning the fall election, so they are trying to devide democrats against each other. I trust true democrats.
    God Bless Americans and save Obama.

    June 30, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  8. voter

    No where in clark's comments did he disrespect McCain. He said that he honored McCain's service and considered him to be a hero. However, McCain served in the military and did not lead troops. Serving in the military does not equate experience in foreign policy. If serving in the military is required to be president, Kerry would have won the last election. Second, people are outraged by clark's comments to McCain. Where was the outrage when Kerry was swiftboated and his military record was called to question? The hypcoricy amazes me.

    June 30, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  9. Tammy - KCMO

    I really wish Obama hadn't rejected this statement. I didn't see anything wrong with what Clark said. It wasn't anything more than what we all think about McCain. You shouldn't be apologizing for anything that is said by others unless it's something you asked them to say.
    Considering what the Republicans have said about Obama and did in past elections I'm sure they have/will say much worse about Obama.

    June 30, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  10. NVH

    Why is Barack always held responsible for other people's comments and opinions ?? Geez!! Clark was right just because Mccain was a POW doesn't qualify him for president. Plus he is old and way too out of touch

    June 30, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  11. mac

    the country needs some one to lead us out of the mess of the last 12 years of r .the dems need to stand up and tell the truth like clark .

    June 30, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  12. Alonzo Demetrius

    Clark, you have been swift-boated out by Obama. Get a life!

    June 30, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  13. David in Chicago

    I don't get it. What does war experience have to do with management of a countries government? It makes more sense to advertise "I managed a little league baseball team" than it does to advertise "I spent x years in a POW camp". What does that have to do with ANYTHING?

    Actually, my advice to McCain is to stop beginning every one of your speeches with "I was in a war...". Honestly, people aren't happy with war and it's making him look like the title "warmonger" is true.

    Republican voting Obama

    June 30, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  14. jay

    What the heck was wrong with what General Clark said?? How was that the "lowest form of politics"?? Ridiculous. There was nothing personal about what Clark said. Clark has had executive responsibility both with the US military and heading NATO and was pointing out that McCain's experience does not provide executive experience. It's actually a straightforward, non-personal observation.

    Geesh, I don't like dirty politics myself, but it seems lately, from crybaby Clinton to now crybaby McCain that certain camps this political season are extremely sensitive. Things said about Obama have dwarfed anything said about McCain or Clinton.

    We need to grow up and be able to understand the difference between negative personal and false attacks versus observation. Nothing Clark said was a personal attack and nothing he said was false.

    This is why BTW Obama will probably win. I'm on the fence myself, but candidates who whine and are weak and reactive never win. It's why Clinton lost and now Obama has McCain crying on the ropes.

    June 30, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  15. vw

    Only idiots can believe what Obamas' said, they keep CHEATING American for what they want, they keep CHANGING for the presidency.
    IS THAT WHAT THEY CALL "CHANGE" FOR AMERICAN???

    June 30, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  16. James

    Screw you, McSame/GOP. Grow up. I hate how the politicians are spinning experiences in their lives (or lack thereof, HILLARY) as wisdom. Honestly, both candidates for President this year are lacking in so many areas...but get over it. This is who we have to choose from. Just decide which 3 or so issues are important to you this year and go with the candidate that best represents those. Simple as that. No one is perfect...

    June 30, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  17. HyperD

    I agree with RENEA... a lot of hypocrisy going on, and the media doesn't say a word! Its all about trying bring Obama down... he has to explain everything, even if he didn't state it! McCain on the other hand has so many shady things to answer... He is not mentally, morally or professionally ready to be a president. He has no leadership skills, you can tell when he tries to make sense when he speaks in public and he changes his opinion according to the audience he is talking to at that time. McCain is unqualified to lead a troop of Boy Scouts – he doesn't know east from west, north from south, Shia from Sunni, Vicky from Cindy, lobbyists from citizens. We don't need an old angry cowboy who sadly suffers of war and torture flashbacks. McCain is not right in the head... ask anyone who has worked with in Washington about that!

    June 30, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  18. Pat, Madison, WI

    I hate this tightrope we all have to walk. No one, least of all me, wants to disparage John McCain's past service.....but that was then, this is now. We are hiring a leader, now.

    There was a time, 4 years ago, when I might have said McCain was a leader, but not today. If we were debating whether we are going to award a medal for past service, McCain wins. However, our decision is whether we are going to rely on this person's ability to lead and inspire and do what need to get done and say what needs to be said to the persons who need to hear it. The McCain that I hear today cannot. He is so tight on cash and short of supporters that he has to promise everything to every right wing cause just to field a team. He cannot afford independence. And that is a shame.

    Obama is an unknown quantity. Personable, to be sure. Energetic, to be sure. And he can deliver a speech like no recent candidate amd frankly, I like that. I do have very deep concerns about the racial rhetoric that he only recently found so upsetting after listening to it for so many years without a word of complaint. But, I have listened to Obama's speeches, even those he gave years ago, and can find no hint of that kind of vindictiveness in any of them.

    He is trying to engage, without pandering, to those in his party who felt alienated during the primary, and that is a good indication of his personal attitude toward reconciliation. He is moving toward the center, maybe more than I am comfortable with, to try to speak to the needs of the nation, not just those who agree with him, so that is a positive as well.

    Between the two choices, Obama's current behavior speaks best for his qualifications for president. Past behavior of both candidates having been duly considered and weighted, and pending any stunning revealation that alters my opinion, I will vote for Obama.

    June 30, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  19. Veitnam Vet

    i want to add a few words regarding John McCain's service and his period of time in prison. I honor his service and sacrifice, however, I am ashamed of his exportation of the Vietnam war and his time as a POW. I find it reprehensible he is referred to as a 'hero'... he did not save any lives, as so many of my friends and shipmates did.. he was shot down while flying...HEROS save the lives of others, he is a SURVIVOR, NOT a HERO -OK... and he, I am sure, suffered greatly, and he should be honored for his service, BUT he lived to USE his imprisonment as a POLITICAL TOOL, which has become the norm today...General Clarke's views are shared by many of my Vietnam era vets who lost 57,000+ of their TRUE heros.

    June 30, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  20. mitchell hussein martin

    mcbush will have us in ww lll,before the election is here.joe lieberman is planning terrorist attack on us.

    June 30, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  21. David

    I am not an Obama supporter– or even an Obama fan, for that matter– but I must say, I am pleased to see that the Senator is walking the walk on his pledge to avoid these sorts of attacks. It speaks well of him.

    June 30, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  22. Tania

    Have we all forgotten when Wesley Clark paraded top military men on stage and emphaticially declared that only Hillary Clinton was fit to be the next commander in chief and Obama was NOT..!!!
    This man has been bamboozled by the Obama hype and in the process lost integrity and credibility.
    Isn't that what Obama does best , get's his surrogates to do the dirty work and a day or two later he tells us that he doesn't agree with whatever was said or done.
    Obama is a phoney and an empty suit , but very good at using and then discarding people.

    June 30, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  23. Obama Bob

    Obama didn't owe McSame an apology, he owes Wesley Clark one. All General Clark did is tell the truth, something foreign in this society. As a retired General I think Wesely Clark is right to question McSame's executive experience. Just because he was a POW doesn't mean he shouldn't be held to the high standards as anyone else.

    June 30, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  24. Tom

    Todd: Actually, working at Walmart while going to college would indeed put you on the track, if you were so motivated, to running the company. Much more so than someone who had no idea what the heck Walmart did or how they did it and though you didn't mean for this to happen, is a perfect analogy for why McCain IS ready to run the country (after all he's been "working at Walmart" at progressively higher levels for many years) and why Obama isn't (He got into "Walmart" only because he knew someone and not because he could do the job and doesn't have a clue as to how the "company" works.). I want to thank you for proving the case for McCain and against your own candidate. Next time you take that gun out, check really closely as to which direction the barrel is pointed in.

    June 30, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  25. Janice Hough

    If it was all about military leadership experience then one of our greatest presidents would have been Ulysses S. Grant.

    How long until America figures it out? It's not about experience, it's about JUDGMENT.

    June 30, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
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