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. Kyko

    Those who have seen a little talk too much about being prisoners of war, but those who have seen a great deal in wars cannot find words to describe what they have been through. General Clark’s words of wisdom about war cannot only aggravate fools.
    May life smile at you General Clark, you are my hero.

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

    Being a prisoner of war doesnt qualify you to be president. It qualifies you to survive in gitmo

    June 30, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  3. Mike in Scranton, PA

    More of Obama Camp's tiresome game played throughout primary, I see. Send a "supporter" out to make some offensive and below the belt remark, let the media report it over and over again, and then send Obama out to refute.

    McCain '08.

    June 30, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  4. Teddy California

    Clark's comments are illogical. Obama is wise to reject. According to Clark, only some military commanders are qualified to be commander-in-chief. Even a lot of generals have never commanded a war squad. So even many generals are not qualified to be the commander-in-chief. What is the logics? You have to command a war squad to be qualified to be the commander-in-chief? According to Clark, Neither Obama nor McCain is qualified.

    I think this is a mistake by the Obama's campain to expand his campain too fast.

    June 30, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  5. Michelle

    A semi-smart move by Obama to reject Clark's statement-however, he only did it after McCain called him on it.

    Meanwhile, Obama continues to pull the wool over his supporters' eyes when it comes to the Iraq War. Check out Obama's agreement with Bush in this must-see video on on Youtube, titled :

    The Iraq war video Barack Obama does not want you to see!!

    June 30, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  6. MIKE

    mccain is a loser anyway!

    June 30, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  7. Mike, NJ

    CNN, how is it that you don't even include the most controversial remark Clark made which was:

    When Schieffer noted Obama has not had wartime experiences, Clark said: “Well, I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.”

    June 30, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  8. Janet

    General Clrak is right in his statements about McCain. Where was the outrage when John Kerry and Max Cleelan's military service was questioned.

    June 30, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  9. bernj

    I am an Obama supporter but I disagree with his position on General Clark's statement. I hope that Obama will stop apologizing for the truth.

    June 30, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  10. hmmmmm.....smells fishy

    What makes Mc Crappy a war hero.....is it the getting shot down or the POW stuff that makes him a war hero.......or is it that he is an ex POw that has become a senator in a Arizona.....the only state that did not support MLK holiday........I am just curious.....I probably will vote for Obama......but I need to figure out why I am not voting for Mc Cain before election day

    June 30, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  11. Lisa

    Knowing how to use a computer doesn't necessarily make you the most qualified person to design one. Why does Obama need to reject General Clarks comments? We need a democratic candidate who is willing to say, yes I appreciate the contributions of all our servicemen, but, no, I don't think being a POW in anyway automatically qualifies you to be in command of our military.

    June 30, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  12. McCain Pay Your Taxes!

    Funny how we are talking about Vietnam, America's second biggest military blunder.

    June 30, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  13. James, SC

    Shelly in IL

    Well said!!!

    June 30, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  14. Denise Groves

    I think what he said was correct. They should Swift Boat him the same way that the GOP did John Kerry. Just because McCain served in the military does not mean he knows anything about National Security. Attack his record. Let McCain prove his experience. I read in a blog over the weekend that a McCain supporter said McCain should not be attacked on this issue because he served in the military and was a POW! Nonsense! Kerry served in the military, and look what they did to him. NOW who is flip-flopping! Why is it okay to attack Kerry's war credentials and not McCains? They are both war vets and should be honored for their bravery, but that is it.

    I want McCain to show me his experience with national security. Being a war vet and POW is not experience.

    June 30, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  15. America for Obama

    McCain isn't even qualified to be the greeter at your local Wal Mart So debating wether he's qualified to be president really shouldn't even be open for discussion.

    June 30, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  16. Jack in PR

    I find this a "cheap shot" by Gen. Wesley Clark. Could it be an Army/Navy thing? There is not a soul in this Nation that is willing to say that being a POW makes one experienced enough to be President. A Navy Officer and a long-standing Senator, on the other hand, certainly look good on the resume'. I'd say his military background is superior to President Jack Kennedy's...and his Senatorial experience also. I've lost a little respect for Gen. Wesley Clark, U.S.A.

    June 30, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  17. CitizenAJ

    I agree with Shelly in Illinois, I would not have apologized for General Clark's comments because he was correct. Just because you put on a uniform and was a POW does not mean you have qualifications to be President. We tend to let the republicans get us focused on Commander-in-Chief ONLY qualifications but being President is a lot more than just the head military guy or woman.

    Senator McCain and his surrogates have been putting out disinformation and/or supporting disinformation on Senator Obama. Senator McCain has been around Washington politics for a long time and has shown nothing for it. Now, all of a sudden, he is the man to lead America out of this dismal moment. Yeah, whatever!

    June 30, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  18. @Raymond Duke

    Fear mongerer !
    Is it just you or is your entire family smart like you?You are one of a kind.You should consider freezing this brain of yours.

    June 30, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  19. tck

    Another snafu for Obama. Have someone else say it then denounce it. He is a suit, without plans, without details, without experience, without real knowledge about real issues.

    Democrat for McCain

    June 30, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  20. Tom

    di from ri: Senator Obama was given the democratic primary by the superdelegates and garnered the # of votes he received primarily because of his race. Does that sound candid and blunt? So what's the problem? I mean, Obama himself said it was true. I think you need to stop thinking in only one direction.

    June 30, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  21. David, Silver Spring, MD

    John McCain may've been a tough guy back in 'Nam, but he's sure turned into a big baby now.

    Wes Clark was fully within his rights to question whether experience as a POW equates to experience leading a global military effort.

    The fake outrage and cries of "I'm a war hero!" from the McCain campaign are really undignified and disappointing.

    June 30, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  22. Hollywoodaholic

    Clarke was auditioning for vice president attack dog, and just got sprayed with a hose. Jim Webb's stock just went up.

    June 30, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  23. Belle2

    After all the attacks on the Clintons and then all of Obama's apologies, only a fool would believe that this is not just what Obama had planned. Someone (Clark) insults and demeans, Obama then denounces and apologises, and keeps his hands clean. Well Obama needs to tell his opponents in his Senate race-the ones he had disqualified because he didn't like their petitions. I am sure they see him for the dirty politician that he is. He is unqualified to be Commander in Chief. I am not so sure he is qualified to be a Senator. His speeches do not impress me.

    June 30, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  24. Allie

    Obama has a lot of explaining to do to Americans.
    Please ask him what his beliefs about Black Liberation Theology means to Americans.

    June 30, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  25. deroy

    don't fall fro this.

    clark was pre-approved. this was market tested for donations from moveon.org.

    general clark was fired by president clinton for risky behavior and poor judgment was almost starting a real war with the russians over what was essentially a ; 'family feud' in the BALKANS.

    i am an no MCEMPTY fan but clark is a conniving stupid little man.

    June 30, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
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