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. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    MCCAIN'S SERVICE IS NO GREATER THAN FORMER PRES. JIMMY CARTER'S SERVICE AND MCCAIN OWES PRES. CARTER AN APOLOGY. CLARK ISN'T RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT, MCCAIN IS.

    June 30, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  2. Jay

    Ok...so this statement is unacceptable by McCain, but he still has that creep Charlie Black on his payroll that basically hopes more Americans die in a terrorist attack? Shouldn't that be the "lowest form of politics" as well, or does it just apply to people who aren't supporting his campaign? McCain is such a hypocrite and a liar.

    June 30, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  3. Obama Supporter from FL

    And what exactly is the Obma campaign, CNN? Is there a candidate for president named Obma?

    June 30, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  4. Cult is blind

    Obama is slick.

    Using the same playbook that stole the nomination.

    Get your people out there to do the damage and make the nasty comments and do the attacking.

    Then say that you don't agree.

    Such propaganda tactics are transparent to all but the cult followers.

    June 30, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  5. William Hussein Gillis

    Obama has just displayed some great character by saying that! He could have agreed with it, but he refuses to get sucked into the GOP 'Hate Machine'

    June 30, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  6. glhf

    mind showing proof BK? Of course not, Clark merely said his opinion on the matter.

    June 30, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  7. nath

    Obama, thanks for rejecting Washington politics. Carry go.

    June 30, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  8. djino,charlotte,nc

    the gen clark was right it up.to mccain to prove to the american people that he has that commander in chief experience this too low for the mac camp to got after barrack after one of his surrogate telling people the truth.

    June 30, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  9. Kris

    Obama is wrong in trying to admonish General Clark. The General was correct in saying that being a prisoner of war does make one qualified to be Commander in Chief. I am sorry McCain was captured and tortured, but that in itself does not make him qualified to be our President. Tie that in with the fact that he cannot make a stand on any issue and stick to it.

    June 30, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  10. The Surly Scholar

    I agree with Clark wholeheartedly. Exhibiting a pronounced inability to dodge anti-aircraft fire doesn't qualify you to be president.

    June 30, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  11. DJ, LA, CA

    Clark's comments were taken out of context. Before he criticized McCain for not commanding a "wartime" unit...Wesley went out of his way to give McCain a lot of praise for his service.

    All Clark was trying to say is that McCain was never a wartime commander and that didn't translate to any special significance that he was more qualified to be President than Obama.

    June 30, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  12. zina

    "Responding to the Obma 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."

    Can't the characters in the McCain campaign be civil for once. Sen. Obama continuously tries to respect him and his service to receive nothing in return. I am so sick of the arrogance of the Republican party.

    June 30, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  13. same old ploys

    Notice how Obama "never goes negative"?

    He just gets his supporters to do the damage and wage the attacks for him.

    Then he can pretend to disagree- to look good.

    He is a con man and we have seen this one-two punch before.

    It is how he savaged Hillary, while pretending to be a nice guy.

    Don't fall for it again.

    June 30, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  14. Hillary Supporter for Obama

    Nice way to accept the apology from the McCain camp. "It's not enough!! We'll wait and see if we can find something else to be offended by!"

    June 30, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  15. Gina - Lancaster, PA

    I am tired of the candidates having to reject every comment that any supporter makes just because it might upset someone.

    Grow up, people.

    At my workplace, when someone says something that might hurt my feelings, I don't run up to their boss and ask them to apologize for their employees remarks. This is ridiculous.

    And why is it that every Republican can say that Obama is not qualified in 50 different ways and that's fine, but heaven forbid anyone question "Teflon John".

    June 30, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  16. 58 old white ladies for OBAMA

    WE HONOR ALL OUR SOLDIERS SERVICE, BUT CLARK

    IS 100% CORRECT. THAT IN ITSELF DOES NOT QUALIFY

    MCBUSH AS COMMANDER & CHIEF. SINCE HE IS ALWAYS

    WRAPPING HIS DISHONEST BEHAVIOR IN THAT SERVICE,

    WHY HE HAS NEVER RELEASED HIS SERVICE RECORD.

    June 30, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  17. Jim

    They only wanted his apology to throw in their own sly remarks, they think their so clever, wait until november we'll see how clever they are when a wave of blue teach's them a lesson.

    June 30, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  18. Enlightened Voter

    It's disgusting that some people still think like neanderthals but it's true. Can't stand the fact that a Black man is more educated (Constitutional Law Scholar from Harvard) than you and speaks more intelligently than you. And BTW no one is ever prepared to be president, it takes sound judgement. We all saw how so called 'experienced' people (gwb) have ruined our country so that whole 'experience theory is out the window.

    June 30, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  19. jim

    I don't see anything wrong with Clark's comments. He basically called out McCain on his big trumpeting song of "war hero". War Hero he is MOST CERTAINLY. McCain is a war hero. But, does that qualify you to hold the highest office in the land? I don't really think so. Think about it. The President of the United States is a civilian position. For a reason too. Our founding fathers were smart dudes. Have a citizen lead the nation. Not a religious leader. Not a soldier. A citizen. Brilliant. Anyway, Clark is a retired General folks. He can pretty much say whatever he wants in regards to the military, because he knows what he's talking about. The real qualifications we should be talking about is voting records. How has McCain voted in regards to veterans, the environment, the war? These are bigger indicators of leadership skills. See for yourself at votesmart.org. You can search the entire voting records of both candidates to see who you align with best.

    June 30, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  20. Big Thinker

    This is why I love Barack Obama!!!
    He has the ability to really touch the American people with his words.
    NOBODY,,,, YOU MCCAIN SUPPORTERS AND PUMA PUNKS (RUSH LIMBAUGHS PUMA PUNKS) CANNOT DENY THAT THIS SPEECH WAS EXCELLENT. IF YOU DO DENY THAT.... THAN YOU ARE REALLY NOTHING BUT A DUMM RACIST ANYWAYS!!! BUT YOU ARE STILL A PATRIOT!

    I do also appreciate the fact that he went after Move On.org's comments about General Petraus. As a die hard liberal myself, I detested MoveOn's "General Betray Us" comments. That being said THIS GUY IS AMAZING!!! VOTE FOR HIM!!!

    OBAMA/CLINTON 08!!!

    June 30, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  21. MSM

    I served a year in Iraq, I don't think my service automatically makes me more qualified to be president than anyone else. Its what I do with the experience.

    June 30, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  22. Joe

    So, what McCain is saying is that every soldier who's been captured and realeased is qualified to be commander in chief? I've been in two wars, and I can tell you some of us can't even run a chicken coop.

    June 30, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  23. djino,charlotte,nc

    the gen clark was right it's up.to mccain to prove to the american people that he has that commander in chief experience this too low for the mac camp to go after barrack after one of his surrogate telling people the truth.

    June 30, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  24. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Given that McCain's qualifications are an order of magnitude better thgan Obama's, Obama has no choice but to condemn Clark. If McCain isn't qualified, then no way Obama is. It would seem that Obama should invest in a new military advisor. A general who was fired would seem to be a bad choice.

    June 30, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  25. JC

    Clark is a idiot. Senator McCain ran the largest aviation squad. in the Navy when he was released in Vietnam and was a captain in the navy. He was also being considered to get a promotion of admiral, but he instead left the Navy to run for Congress.

    June 30, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
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