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. T GUY

    MCCAIN ISN'T SMART ENOUGH TO RUN THIS COUNTRY LETS FACE IT. OBAMA IS BRIGHT AND THAT YOU CAN'T OVERLOOK THAT. MCCAIN BARELY MADE IT OUT OF FLIGHTS SCHOOL. AND ONLY GOT IN BECAUSE OF HIS DADDY .

    June 30, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  2. Sladyen

    How much more room is there under the bus? Obama has thrown his grandmother, his pastor, and now General Clark. Who's next?

    June 30, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  3. Will from Oxford, UK

    Obama is a fool and we already are begining to hate him over here in the UK.

    June 30, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  4. Michael

    I support Obama but General Clark should have never made the comments he made. This elections needs to be about the issues facing this country not personal attacks. McCain's history as a POW doesn't factor into my choice, however it should NEVER be devalued for political gain. I am glad the Obama campaign has rejected Clark's statements.

    June 30, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  5. Phil Hansen

    Sounds like Mr. Clark has a lot of free time on his hands to be sitting around and thinking up these tid-bits.

    I think our local WAl-Mart is hiring greeters.

    June 30, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  6. Chuck, Democrats United We Stand

    Clark was NOT questioning McCains patriotism or military service nor was he devaluing it. What he simply stated was that McCain experience as a prisoner of war did not ALONE provide the necessary experience to set the country's national security policies. This is a statement of truth and fact. I served for 22 years active duty, served in VietNam, but that does not qualify me to be commander in chief. Obama distancing himself from this comment is just more silly politics. I agree with Clark, and I would also add that McCain serving in the senate for all these years also DOES NOT qualify him to be commander in chief. McCain is a bit looney, he can not make up his mind as to what he believes or thinks. His continued flip flop is worse than Hillary's, much worse so much that I find it amazing. I personally question McCains mental stability, as well as his over all abilities. Is McCain showing signs of diminished mental capacity due to his age and the level of stress he has had on him through out his life? That is the formost question in my mind.

    June 30, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  7. 1 of the 18 million who voted for Obama

    I served in both the first Gulf War and in the second. I am retired Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army and I do not feel that my experience has qualified me to be President of the United States. If everyone who reads this post thinks of all their relatives and friends who have ever served honorably in the military, and rather or not that person is qualified to be President .

    June 30, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  8. Lindsay in CA

    Just because the McCain camp is pretending to be outraged at the Clark comment, doesn't mean that Clark said anything wrong. Read the quote again, and you will see that his comment is true. Serving in the military does not make you qualified to be President. We can still honor the service, but we are not required to reward someone the Presidency. It takes judgment, intelligence, and a strong moral fiber – all things that Obama possesses and McCain seems to be lacking.

    June 30, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  9. veteran

    Clark is a big mouth and will say anything. He was the biggest

    brown noser in the U.S. Army. This was told to me by one of his

    fellow Colonels.

    June 30, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  10. TL

    Obama shouldn't feel pressured to denounce Clark's comment. Clark was clear about the fact that he has a lot of respect for McCain's service, but he does not feel that being a POW qualifies one as an expert on national security. He speaks the truth–no need to apologize. I have to laugh at the faux indignation of the Republicans when I think of the swiftboat garbage that was used to dicredit Kerry in 2004!

    June 30, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  11. Patrick

    I am glad that Obama appologized, I didn't think he would. What I don't understand is how Obama supporters can say that McCain doesn't have the experience to be President. If McCain doesn't, than Obama certianly doesn't. Can you please explain to me how you think Obama is more qualified or experienced than McCain? Serving in the senate DOES qualify as experience, serving in the military DOES count as experience. This isn't a slight at Obama just a fact, McCain has more than Obama. Now you can argue that experience doens't matter or that you disagree with his policies, but you can't argue that Obama is more experienced.

    June 30, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  12. Lee

    Good grief, when is it going to end. Obama needs to step up to the plate and stop being afraid to insult this or that group. Clark was spot-on when he made those comments. McCain needs to become current. Yes, thank you for your service...now show us how you are qualified to be president and commander in-chief. Stop falling back on the handy excuse/experience to limit discussion and criticism. The issues that matter are what this country is facing now, not what has happened in the past.

    June 30, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  13. LET HILLARY PAY HER OWN DEBTS!

    LET HILLARY PAY HER OWN DEBTS OFF

    SHE SHOULDNT'VE BEEN SO STUBBORN TO STAY IN THE RACE!

    June 30, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  14. aware

    Right, Obama? Feed your surrogates vitriol and then denounce it to pretend that you take the high ground. Obama, you are the great obfuscating pretender and typical old time politician! :(

    This disgusted former Democrat will vote for Mccain 08! :)

    June 30, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  15. Gary of El Centro, Ca

    Many of us found Charlie Black's statement to be distasteful, but it was in fact a true statement. Just like McCain and his supporters may find Clark's statement to be distasteful, but it is in fact a true statement. The Republicans had no problem trashing John Kerry's military service, but nobody better question John McCain's? Bit of a double standard in play here.

    June 30, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  16. Virginia

    I'm sorry Obama rejected Clark's statement. I've asked this many times myself. Why is McCain any more qualified because he was a POW? Clark is right on.
    Obama 08

    June 30, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  17. Patty, Big Bear, CA

    I don't for a moment think Obama needed to even comment on Clark's statement other than to say that Mr. Clark is entitled to his opinion. I happen to agree that although McCain was indeed a prisoner of war during the Viet Nam conflict, that alone DOES NOT make him any more qualified for the office of President of the United States than anyone else. I have read books by former presidents; does that make me qualified? Both Obama and McCain are now Senators. McCain unfortunately has prior baggage which makes him supremely UNQUALIFIED in my book to run this country. All you have to do is google his name to see the racist choices he made during his office holding years in the state of Arizona.

    June 30, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  18. RyandD.

    CLARK IS RIGHT.

    June 30, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  19. right source

    Obama Supporter from FL: Excellent proof-reading skills. Maybe CNN can hire you, not only for your proof-reading skills but to add a political ticker that states something postive about Obama...SINCE they never do, but it's okay, we will win ANYWAY!!!!!

    June 30, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  20. LET HILLARY PAY HER OWN DEBTS!

    OBAMA / BIDEN - ENOUGH SAID

    June 30, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  21. Adam Habib Dallas, TX

    Ain't it a great country? YOu get 2.3 GPA, you are the last one in NAVY school, you get shot at by militants with small guns, and spend 5 years in Hanoi Hilton, you ditch your wife and marry into beer wealth and hot woman, and now you are ready for commander in chief?

    June 30, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    No one is knocking or demeaning McCain's service to the US, nor his time spent as a POW. Gen. Clark stated his opinion. One that I share. I think Camp Obama makes a mis-step here. Why apologize for Clark. Clark is not part of Camp Obama. Or could he be part of it in the future?

    I think the problem here is that McCain in running to be Commander-In-Chief, not President of the United States. They are not one and the same. C-I-C is just one duty of the President, not the sole duty.

    J-Mac's POW experience gives him an edge over Obama to be C-I-C. But, as Clark pointed out, does that experience translate into expertise in the numerous other duties of the President.

    June 30, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  23. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I think General Clark's comments have some validity to them. You can understand somethings by serving, but being a POW only gets you so much insight and crediblity. I think that there needs to be a greater emphasis on his time in the Senate and which commitees he served. Those would be a better guide.

    To Scott L: Obama rejected Wright and Farrakhan at different points during the primaries.

    June 30, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  24. Chuck, Democrats United We Stand

    Clark was NOT questioning McCains patriotism or military service nor was he devaluing it. What he simply stated was that McCain experience as a prisoner of war did not ALONE provide the necessary experience to set the country's national security policies. This is a statement of truth and fact. I served for 22 years active duty, served in VietNam, but that does not qualify me to be commander in chief. Obama distancing himself from this comment is just more silly politics. I agree with Clark, and I would also add that McCain serving in the senate for all these years also DOES NOT qualify him to be commander in chief. McCain is a bit looney, he can not make up his mind as to what he believes or thinks. His continued flip flop is worse than Hillary's, much worse so much that I find it amazing. What McCain as well as Obama needs to do is prove to the American people that their individual life experiences, leadership, integrity, honesty, ability to reason, negocitate, communicate, ...ect most qualify them to be the President of the US. I personally question McCains mental stability, as well as his over all abilities. Is McCain showing signs of diminished mental capacity due to his age and the level of stress he has had on him through out his life? That is the formost question in my mind.

    June 30, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  25. PG

    Clark is 100% right!

    June 30, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
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