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. Obama = Carter's 2nd term

    tony, Princeton, NJ June 30th, 2008 1:30 pm ET

    I just don't understand all this fury with what Wes Clark said. Factually, what Clark said is absolutely true. If Mccain is offended by that remark, so be it.


    McCain never said the his "experience as a prisoner of war did not alone provide the necessary experience to set the country's national security policies" that is what is the matter.

    June 30, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  2. not fooled

    Same old tricks from Obama that he used to trash and gut HRC:

    first play the race card.
    then get your surrogates out there to destroy your opponent.
    then later come out and say you don't agree.

    Meanwhile, the damage is done.

    You do not fool me.

    June 30, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  3. Keith R.

    Can someone explain how military service automatically qualifies you to be President?

    June 30, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  4. kathryn

    why must everything be so politically correct these days? clark said it like it was – that yes, mccain is a war hero, and no, that does not qualify him uncategorically go be president.

    why is mccain even insulted? is anyone who has ever been a prisoner of war automatically capable of leading the country? clark never questioned mccain's patriotism or heroism; why are the republicans twisting his words to make a simple observation an attack on mccain's person?

    fyi: there are plenty of former war heroes who go on to become tyrannical leaders.

    June 30, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  5. No Apology Needed

    All of America knowsMcCain is a war hero as well as a long time senator, NEITHER of which qualify him for the US presidency.

    June 30, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  6. avm

    Really I am completely with Tony, what is a fuss in this. Is it wrong to ask someonewhat experience they have in managing a war, if they just served as a soldier in the war. Under no circumstances I am underminig what sacrifices McCain did and I am sure Gen.Clark also never denied it. Being a supporter of Obama, i think this is a loss to him. If he cannot ask questions to a fellow competitor in his own land about his experience in one filed, how is he going to question more hostile crowds like Iran?

    June 30, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  7. Norma

    Obama rocks!!! His speech was great.

    I agree with Gen. Clarks comments though.

    My husband has been in the military for 22 years and still is..Doesn't qualify him to be president.

    June 30, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  8. karen-phoenix

    Clark was right. And the only thing McCain has done is war, war and more war. I want someone who can relate to the American family!!! Who cares about health care, education, social security–not just the wealthy!!! Go Obama!!

    June 30, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  9. ProundToBeDemocrat

    Mccain is not qualified to be president, being POW does not qualify you to be a president, if this was the case every body who served in the army will be qualified to be president. Mccain is a warmonger, Unqualified, not smart and third term of Bush.

    June 30, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  10. hypocrit

    We have seen this Obama trick before.

    Have a supporter attack.

    Then come out and pretend to disagree.

    That way you inflict damage without soiling your hypocritical hands.

    June 30, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  11. Broad street buddy

    Oh come on!!! Go with a General's opinion over that of a captian. Clark is right! McCain aint no General Washington, hes no General grant, he was a peon in the army who could not do his job right. If he had been a better soldier he would not have been captured. Lets go Obama, get in the game. They aint gonna be as nice to you.

    June 30, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  12. dan

    this is b.s. Clark says something that is true and the right wing nut jobs and media pressure obama to reject it. Yet Lieberman can come out and say that America will be attacked in 2009 and that is just fine and dandy? Ridiculous

    June 30, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  13. Michael Lorton, Virginia

    Don't elevate your qualifications General Clark at the expense of diminimizing McCain service to his country....we have politicians for that. When you have walked a mile in McCain shoes, then you can make a statement.

    June 30, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  14. Vig

    Another problem with Mr. Change, he thinks he can disinfect words and deeds that are controversial or reflect on him negatively. He has done this more than once. How is this guy ever going to lead a country, deal with the military, the Iraq War, the Taliban, the economy, the crime and whatever crisis emerge over the next several years if he's always worried about cleaning himself. It really irked me when he was with Hillary Clinton in "Unity" having the gall to patrionize not just Hillary Clinton, but all women about how women can do anything, while he prances and claps his way into the nomination. What a phony.

    June 30, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  15. Michael

    As a Republican, I thank you, Senator Obama.

    June 30, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  16. dan

    Obama rejects it after he sent Clark out there to say it. Obama is a fraud and an empty suit.

    Now McCain needs to reject Liebermans comments that America will be attacked next year after McCain sent joey boy out there to say it.

    June 30, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  17. deja vue

    Of course he does- after it has been said and the damage has been done.

    This is the exact same trick he used to demolish HRC.

    Get others to attack, then come and reject it after it is too late- like calling for HRC to drop out. Then Obama says, oh I think she can run as long as she wants.

    Yeah, right.

    Sleaze bucket

    June 30, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  18. Mike from Tacoma, WA

    Clark for VP!!!

    June 30, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  19. saga for Obama

    Clark was right...
    but man what great character Obama has...

    wish McCain was as eloquent when Black said McCain would do great if there was an attack on US soil...

    go Obama

    June 30, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  20. Atlanta

    Interesting how the Clark scab and his patriotic speech are one after another...........................................


    Politics as usual. Obama said he would not question anothers patriotism. I wonder why? Because he does not want the lack of his questioned.

    OBAMA is a NOVELTY beinf pushed by the left for thier own agenda. How sad for us and the OBAMAs

    June 30, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  21. henry of cleveland

    obama has enough experience to be commander and chief

    June 30, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  22. ProundToBeDemocrat

    I do not know why obama has to reject Clarks comment I do not see any wrong with it he was telling the truth, why is Mccain offended by it.

    June 30, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  23. puff

    If John McCain doesn't have what it takes to lead this country, then why on earth, would Nobama have what it takes. A junior senator who was a community oraganizer. Oh yeah, that'll do it. GIBE ME A BREAK. Just go home and take that clown back to Chicago where he belongs.

    June 30, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  24. wyoming dem

    Just because I babysat my niece for a summer doesn't make me a mother either

    June 30, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  25. Cynthia

    Call it whatever you like. I believe that Senator McCain was a war hero but just because he was it doesn't necessarily qualify him anymore than Senator Obama to lead this country. What about RayRay who was a war hero, does he qualify to be President?

    June 30, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
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