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. Time to move on

    It will be a grevious mistake if Americans missed the chance of electing OBAMA.He is the real deal because he is not ready to demonise his opponent in the name of politics.OBAMA show them,politics is about issues.
    Welldone President OBAMA

    June 30, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  2. Monica, Texas

    Where's Charlie Black....Why is it that Obama has to reject and we are still waiting for follow up for McCain on Charlie......DOUBLE STANDARD!!!!

    June 30, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  3. Scott L

    Obama rejects Clark but NOT Farrakhan or Wright until there is public outcry?

    HUH???????

    June 30, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  4. Ridiculous

    I for one could care less if the vast majority of American's consider John McCain a war hero, but I don't understand how they can do so based solely on the fact that he was a P.O.W. I salute and honor his service to this country but that alone does not make him qualified to be Commander in Chief. He's basing a large part of his campaign on his military experience but none of that was in an executive role. Nonetheless, I'd rather see Obama run a "clean" campaign and wait for McCain to strike first similar to how he ran the primary. Obama and Clinton were running a very clean campaign until the 3am commercial that helped her survive Super Tuesday. Unfortunately for her, winning that battle really cost her the war. The mudslinging began and it was Obama who oftentimes appeared as the "victim" and he was forced to respond. Now, I think he has to be careful not to be too aggressive on McCain because Obama can't afford to lose sympathy votes. Don't let McCain take the high road. He's too weak on other issues that matter for Obama to let him off the hook. If Obama sticks to the issues, there's no way McCain can beat him!

    June 30, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  5. Mike the Independent from Ohio

    It seems like every day this guy is rejecting some comments made by his supporters; While I somewhat agree with what Clark said, he has no business saying it in the modern political climate, due to the fact that everyone takes anything said grossly out of proportion. If this guy is elected president, I only hope he surrounds himself better people for the sake of this country.

    June 30, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  6. mobiusinformer

    Soldier's objectives:

    1. Kill the enemy.
    2. Don't get caught.

    I say we retroactively court-martial McCain for failure to achieve military objectives.

    Since when do Americans hail FAILURES as heroes?

    June 30, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  7. Saad from NJ

    If McCain accuses Obama of something, it is ok – If one of Obama's supporters says the same thing about McCain, Obama has to apologize! Go figure.

    June 30, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  8. KMAN

    The poor McCain camp is really having a problem coming up with a real issue to complain about. McCain's service in Vietnam was nothing stellar ... surviving as a prisoner of war is indeed a heroic accomplishment, but getting shot down while bombing innocent bystanders below is not heroic nor does it show the kind of judgement needed to be president!

    June 30, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  9. Cederico

    Clark was correct and there was no need for any apology on Obama's campaigns part. McCain's has been making his military service a big issue and questioning Obama's qualifications for Commander in Chief. So McCain should not be suprised if his own so called qualifications come into question.

    June 30, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  10. Bill

    I agree Senator Obama a one term Senator is a empty suit. I also believe he will lead for the most absent Senator in votes in history. I would complain more but I do not live in his home state.

    June 30, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  11. marty from Indiana

    What a wimp McCain is. Every time somebody says something critical of him he runs to him mommy.... i.e.... the media. If elected, he will face every form of criticism in the job. If he isn't tough enough to handle the criticism of a single critic, what make him think he is strong enough to be President. Grow up, McFLYBOY. Hilary was tough, Obama is tough, but you are a crybaby. Go hide in one of your 13 homes.

    June 30, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  12. Martin

    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.

    Doesn't any of you listen or read the comments you choose to question?
    Wesley Clark never questioned the patriotism of John McCaain.
    He stated that being captured and held as a prisoner of war did not in itself qualify him to become the president of our Country.

    June 30, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  13. DJ

    BK June 30th, 2008 1:29 pm ET

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

    So did Mccain send Charlie Black "out there" to say that it would be to his candidates advantage if the US was attacked by terrorists again? Since you attribute every thing a surrogates says to the candidate, are you just as furious with Mccain as you seem to be with Obama?

    June 30, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  14. Independent Voter

    Damage control. How does it feel, Obama cultists? Having to back away from your supporters' comments? Still want to attack McCain for Black's remarks?

    Of course you do.

    June 30, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  15. Veteran For Obama

    I totally agree with General Clark; McCain's service to this country is to be respected. However; that service does not automatically qualify him to be President. There is nothing wrong with that statement. General Clark, himself; has been in a command position and knows that McCain hasn't......The Bottom-Line is that it's true.

    Obama should not distance himself from this because of the Republicans precious little feelings. McCain and his surrogates attack Obama and his wife everytime they get a chance and McCain does not distance himself.....he said "I cannot be the referee to these attacks"..............doesn't matter that they were on his behalf.

    So McCain go whine to someone that doesn't know any better!!!! A number of us Veterans think your reliance on your service to give you a boost in this election is very SUSPECT!!!!!!!

    June 30, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  16. Marge

    I love Obama,but why is he apologizing? Clark was RIGHT!!!!! MCcains service to this country is admirable,but it does not qualify him to be president.
    He's just a "old" man trying to fulfill a dream. He's forgetful,and doddering as many 70 year old men are. His time has come and gone!
    BTW he did cheat on his first wife with the "Barbie doll" heiress. He admits that himself!

    June 30, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  17. mitchell hussein martin

    dont apologize for clarks comments!he spoke the truth.mccain is no hero!he surrendered!dont cowtow to fearmongers!wesley clark knows more about honor and patriotism than either candidate,and he tells the truth.i support you ,barack,but,remember,wesley clark ,is the REAL patriot,and you dont have to surrender your principals,just to appease the center.

    June 30, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  18. Jason, Los Angeles

    And yet, isn't Clark kind of right? What does military experience actually have to do with being the President? If someone has military experience during, say, Vietnam, we can't know that their judgment about future military conflicts wouldn't be just as clouded as someone with no experience in war. And anyway, this is what advisors and a strong cabinet are for.

    Sadly, Obama has to cover his butt everytime someone attacks McCain because the press is so in love with that geriatric. McCain is simply too jumbled in his positions, and, frankly, too old to lead this country. He certainly doesn't represent me, at 30. I think it's time for the Baby-Boomers to step aside and let the qualified youth take control.

    June 30, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  19. TheTruthHurts

    We all know Clark was telling the truth, but it was in poor taste to have him say it now. Someone else could have brought it up other than Clark. Barack needs to stop denouncing statements that are in fact true.

    Why anyone thinks that being a private in the military is qualification to commander in chief is beyond me. Fact is neither of them has held executive positions and have only been advisory or legislative. So what? Doesn't stop either of them from having good judgement on world affairs.

    June 30, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  20. George

    This guy is a joke.

    THE CLARK and OBAMA SHOW was a PLANT..........

    You can't see that?

    Politics as usual here. The only change going on is that OBAMA will change his mind on something else by week end.

    Who needs to be catered to this week?????? Someone put his speech together so he can pander.

    June 30, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  21. Obama Supporter from CA

    As an eight year Navy veteran I value McCain's experience but I don't think it makes him a better candidate than Obama. We need Obama to change things in our contry we cannot continue the way we are and must adapt to the new world. Obama has the vision and enthusiasm we need. VOTE Obama!!

    June 30, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  22. Sally

    Clark is right, he tell the truth, why Obama reject it?

    June 30, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  23. It takes sound judgement, not experience

    It takes sound judgement to be president, not so called 'experience', case in point – gwb has 'experience'.

    June 30, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  24. Jean

    This comment is taken by commentators as a tiger would take a piece of raw meat. They are salivating at the thought of something to chew on all day long.

    The grater offence is how pundits will spin this statement, he stated a fact.

    In Iraq many have suffered all kind of evils, that is the present concern.

    June 30, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  25. LET HILLARY PAY HER OWN DEBTS!

    SURE, I'D LIKE SOMEONE TO PAY OFF MY DEBTS TOO...HILLARY GOT INTO IT -LET HER DIG HERSELF OUT OF IT.

    HILLARY HAS TO PAY FOR HER STUBBORNESS !

    June 30, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
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