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. Helene

    I agree with Gen. Clark 110%. Having been a prisoner of war, having fought in a war does not necessarily qualifies you to be President !

    June 30, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  2. Gina

    It's not just the fact that McCain's plane was shot down, resulting in McCain spending 5 years in a prison camp ... it's the fact that McCain, being the son of an Admiral, could have gotten early release ... but, being a man of 'real character', McCain chose to spend addition years as a prisoner, in order to be fair to his fellow prisoners. This depth of character, honor, and commitment to America is what separates John McCain by a country mile from weak men, who are all talk, like Barrack Obama, or Wesley Clark.

    June 30, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  3. Charlotte

    Another one under the bus. Guess that lets out Clark for VP.

    June 30, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  4. Chris

    Ok, seriously, to begin with, Clark has some very good points. I would be more sympathetic towards McCain if he weren't spending the campaign criticizing Obama at every opportunity with the most bogus claims (Obama is naive, etc.). Then, of course, when Clark comes along with a legitimate claim, McCain cries foul. Besides, Clark did not question McCain's devotion to his country or his credentials; merely, however, he questioned the relevance of McCain's experience to being president, which is a legitimate concern.
    Obama '08

    June 30, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  5. Objective

    The "lowest form of politics" is spreading false fears.

    June 30, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  6. Loretta from California

    General Clark has every right to voice his opinions, and I agree with his statement. At last, a courageous Democrat.


    June 30, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  7. right source

    QUESTION: While if Obama didn't question it let me question it....Does McCain military experience qualifies him to be commander-in-chief??
    ANSWER: NO!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Let's carry on CNN

    June 30, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  8. Michael

    All of you people who disparage Senator McCain and the hellacious conditions he lived under for five years–for this country are shameful. Is it not possible to believe in Senator Obama and not belittle McCain. You should all read David Foster Wallace's (a great novelist and consummate liberal's) essay entitled Up Simba. Wallace explains fully why someone who is not in awe of Senator McCain did is merely a partisan hack.

    June 30, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  9. Reid C. Granke

    I am beginning to wonder just how smart Obama and his advisers are! When one of Obama's supporters mades a remark that is considered "politically unpopular" or "inappropriate", Obama immediately puts down the supporter - who is currently General Clark. While I think Clark is technically correct, that's just my opinion. What's happened to free speech in this country? Clark is entitled to his opinions as is anyone else. All Obama has to do is state, "I wouldn't say what Clark has said (or I don't agree with Clark's statement), but Clark is entitled to his opinion. This cycle of stupid politics of putting down supporters because they make unpopular comments is getting totally ridiculous. I won't vote for a Republican again, because George W. Bush and company have cured that, but because of all these stupid put downs of Obamas supporters, I have serious doubts about voting for him.

    June 30, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  10. HyperD

    Some republicans, obviously are incapable of any serious reasoning. What does being a war veteran has to do with being a good president? In that case, Kerry would have being elected instead of re-electing Bush... He had a bigger and better military record than Bush. Why did republicans didn't consider that during the last elections? How convenient... Being president has to do with being a good manager (not McCain), being a good leader (not McCain), having good criteria and common sense (not McCain again), good innovative ideas (not McCain!), and having a good team, with experienced people in all areas (like for example Gen. Clark in the military sector). Having been to war and killing people does not make you smarter or necessarily more patriotic than other Americans. Contrary to that, killing other human beings usually produces serious mental issues... that's why so many valuable soldiers sadly end up at the psychiatrist's office when they come back... Yes, you have to respect war veterans but not elevate them to some sort of sanctity or give them ultra-patriot status. That is just a stupid myth! Some people fall so easily for cheap pseudo-patriotism blackmailing from the republicans. I HAVE NOT BEEN TO WAR, I HAVE NOT KILLED ANYONE and I LOVE THIS COUNTRY AS MUCH OR EVEN MORE AS ANY OTHER RESPECTED WAR VETERAN... SO MUCH THAT I WILL NOT HESITATE TO DEFEND IT, IF NEEDED. Not haven't fought in a war doesn't make me less patriotic, that's just lame reasoning! By the way, there are thousands of other war veterans much, much more capable than McCain, but that has nothing to do with a presidential race! Lets not militarize something as important as picking the next US president. General Clark is absolutely right and he just said what so many are afraid to say. McCain was never considered a "brilliant" during his military service... every one knows that! Obama is being "diplomatic' on this issue, since it is such a sensitive topic for most Americans, particularly for the ones that don't have clear what it takes to be a great president. For real change... go OBAMA '08

    June 30, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  11. benvictor

    Obama's surrogates sow this crap, yet Obama is devoid of substance. Joe Biden offered to bail Obama out by stating he will accept VP in order to bring sorely needed national security experience to this nothing ticket. While Joe may help plug the gap on national security, who will plug all the other gaps. And, what if all these plugs fail? Who will be held accountable since Obama is clueless on any of the issues.

    June 30, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  12. Lorna, NY

    Wesley Clark was 100% RIGHT!

    June 30, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  13. Brian, Pittsburgh

    Clark was right, he wasn't attacking McCain, and I agree with him 100%. But Obama's attempts to stay positive and above attack politics is inspiring. Maybe change can really happen... I'm cynical, but hopeful.

    June 30, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |

    he can dish it but he can't take it.

    June 30, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  15. jerrysf

    Guess it was Clark's time to get thrown under the bus...man it is getting crowded under there!

    June 30, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  16. Angela

    General Clark is right.

    June 30, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  17. Richard

    Barack HUSSEIN Obama is this the kind of people you surround yoursef with? Your true feeling (anti-American) are coming out.

    Barack Hussein Obama is an arrogant lying snake!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 30, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  18. bob in L.A.

    Is Obama saying being a prisoner of war does qulify McCain to be Commander and Chief? Why is it when someone else makes a comment, especially when the comment comes from a general!
    He did not say McCain couldn't handle the job, just that being a POW doesn't qualify someone to for the job.
    This is shaping up to be a year of "none of the above"- too much whining and too much of every word being commented on! Our president needs to be strong- Where's Hillary?

    June 30, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  19. sky

    First of all, I dont understand what the "bad" statement was....is it up there in that article......is it bad now to just state a fact...and who the heck apologizes for such a thing.....

    June 30, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  20. ruthann potter

    Clark was respectful and factual in his comments about McCain. And he's right. So what's so offensive about what he said???!!

    June 30, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  21. mark

    Guess we can take him off the VP list.

    June 30, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  22. JB

    Look, there are truths and there are interpretations.

    Saying thta McCain never held an executive positin is a truth. Therefore you cannot claim this is the lowest form of politics.

    The lowest form of politics is interpreting something like claiming that you cannot trust someone.

    Kinda like what McCain is doing to Obama daily. That is the lowest form of politics.

    June 30, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  23. MM

    yes. Obama did this during his campaign he had someone smear the clintons and then say no, no..

    when he was in trouble, they marched out old white men who were former Chairmen to say he is the man.

    blah! blah!


    June 30, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  24. Marge Hibbing Mn

    That because he is now talking to a group that supports veterans. Tomorrow he might be against MCcain's service because is talking to a group who question it...obama the man of change...from one speech to another...he's for it.

    June 30, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  25. Debby

    Boy the Obama camp sure came back fast with the rejection especially after Barack gave his big patriotism speech what could they do. LOL

    June 30, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
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