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. Jonathan

    I disagree with Obama here. There is no reason to reject that comment. The republicans are just throwing out distractions. The more we humor them, the more we'll see.

    June 30, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  2. don in naples, florida

    Obama needs to stop preaching, he is not martin luther king. Say what you mean obama, stop being so politically correct. Stand up, be strong. Mccain's military service does not qualify him in any regard. the comments made by Mr. Clark needed to be said. Wesley Clark couldn't be any more dead on. Obama seems to be falling into the same trap in which Mccain has fallen. They both seem to be pandering to what people might want to hear instead of saying what they will actually do when in office.

    June 30, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  3. Brad IL.

    Just like the Obama camp to smear a war hero who has more political exper. in his little toe and about the same for there candidate on exper. for running a military. Wes Clark is a has been Gen. and not that good of one . His politics was just as bad. Just one more sorry of a supporter for Barack Obama . Hide behind the lies from your supporter's Obamaie your political campaign and future are almost at end . Once you lose the Presidential race hopefully we can get you out of IL. politics forever.

    June 30, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  4. Jack Von Bettler NY NY

    No executive knowledge, His rich wifes beer money,a prisoner
    of war,so what !
    Who cared about my late Brothers 2nd infantry division in
    the Korean war ?
    My Brother would not have worn his heroism on his sleeve either.
    General Clark is right. McCain is wrong for our computer literate
    society. Don't trust anyone who is not computer savvy that
    is where the next war will be.

    June 30, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  5. Peter in PA

    Come on Obama! What Clark said is 110% true.

    If you get into a car accident (not your fault) and crippled, does that experience gives you the skills needed to run a big car company?. Abosultely not! The only thing you can do talk about how to avoid the car accident you had. That's it.

    I am Obama supporters and I am starting to get ticked off by Obama's behaviour on issues like this. What is he worried about? The old man is running around and telling people that Obmama is not qualified to be president because he wasn't shot down by the enemy. The old man isn't fair to your records. Then why should you?

    June 30, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  6. James, SC

    There are a lot of problems in America right now. It seems that, to John McCain, the most important problem that America has is questioning his, 'Presidential qualifications based on POW status.'
    I would not invite this clown called Bozo McClown to my children's parties.

    June 30, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  7. Nova from NV

    Why does Obama keep surrounding himself with these people who are good at making divisive comments?

    June 30, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  8. Susan, PA

    Scott, get over it man.
    Accept it that Obama is half-black or blacker than you.

    June 30, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  9. MikeH

    Tactical damage control for what I believe to be a planned technically correct statement by Clark.

    McCain's service needs to be honored, but not venerated. Net gain for Obama.

    June 30, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  10. Glenn

    McCain is a whiner! He and his campaign staff can dish it out but can't take when someone says something, even the truth, about McBush! General Clark's comments are right on target! He didn't disparge McShame; he spoke the truth. He emphasized that McCain's military service and POW experience have nothing to do with his ability to serve as Commander-in-Chief. They simply don't equate. If McFlipflop and his campaign staff compalin about those facts, they have seen nothing yet. The really good stuff about McDofuss and Cindy will be coming out after the GOP convention. That's a fact.

    June 30, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  11. Jen

    Obama, keep it real and let no one tread or trumple on what you stand for. Gobama!!

    June 30, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  12. Big Thinker

    To Scott L.

    Did you even listen to the speech???? Or did you allready have talking points that you chose to stick to, and ignorantly ignore what the man had to say.

    If you couldn't come away from this speech with some understanding or something, then you are what Obama calls a Patriot.... but I call you an IDIOT

    Obama/Clinton 08!!

    June 30, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  13. Marie

    Gen. Clark is correct about McCain. As a Retired commanding General in charge, he is the person to directly criticize McCain. He knows what he is talking about. What McCain did to his crippled ex-wife and children once he met the Heiress is sad. How can we say that he will not give up on the U.S. as he did his family.

    Obama "O8"

    June 30, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  14. Lionel

    I agree with General's Clark's statement. I do not see how serving in the military gives you a green light to the White House. John McSame and his people are out there making comments about Obama's patriotism and they do not apologies, even though they are blantant lies and they expect the Obama camp to apolgies when someone speaks the truth. I don't get it. John McSame is now insisting that Obama can not be trusted because of his reversal on Campaign Financing. What abot all on John McSame reversals on policy (ie Bush's Tax Cuts, Offshore Drilling and Immigration Reform).

    June 30, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  15. NJ DEM

    If Obama put Clark up to those statements, then I guess McCain paid the guys in Florida to vandalize cars in protest against Obama.

    People grow up!!!! Stop blaming Obama for someone else's comments.

    June 30, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  16. NC voter

    Obama and his supporters just whine and cry about everything.

    Get to the ISSUES Owannabe. Start with the truth. Make your flunkies stop with the lies. If you can't guide your flunkies, how can you guide a whole nation?

    June 30, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  17. Redphilly

    BK, your crticism of Obama is really grasping at straws. He has said every which way but loose that he respects McCain's patriotism. I on the other hand do not believe because he was captured that alone qualifies him to lead the entire free world as sometimes he and others want to convince we Americans of. I feel sorry for him but I don't think he is a leader. I sometimes get the impression that he is very angry over his loss of years and loss of physical mobility inflicted upon him at the hands of his enemies and I am afraid it will cloud his judgment when it comes to dealing with them. Will he try to seek some sort of revenge as Bush did regarding threats made against his father? Will he plunge us into many wars with many nations because he has post-traumatic stress syndrome? These are my fears. They should also be the concerns of many Americans.

    June 30, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  18. Chuck

    We all honor McCain's military service....but....:
    John McCain was a young pilot during the Vietnam War who was shot down over Hanoi and became a prisoner of war and was released 5 years later. That's it. We must all honor that service.

    As for experience to be commander-in-chief of the US Forces, McCain does not have much of that experience. That's it. Objectively, we must all recognize and realize that inexperience or lack therof.

    That does not come across as anything to apologize for. Wesley Clark was not being offensive towards and/or attacking McCain, but merely stating the facts. Obama has no reason to reject General Wesley Clark's truthful comments. Let us all get real here.

    June 30, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  19. Richard

    Funny how I said the same thing about McCain in a comment a week ago but the CNN moderators didn't post the comment. So much for free speech in Sickle & Hammer America. Anyway its the truth that
    McCain is a media fabricated hero. To be a hero he would have needed to free the pow's not just be one. Being captured by the enemy doesn't make you a hero it just means you got caught or in his case shot down. Thousands of men were captured in nam that doesn't make them qualified to be president. Now if CNN can report when McCain will get those 30 tapes from the pentagon of his days a a pow he had removed from the public on TV for all to see would be nice. But they wont cause they work for AIPAC just like these shame candidates do.

    June 30, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  20. Bob Stephens

    McCains prisoner time in the Vietnam war has no bearing on him running the country. He is as dumb as Bush, and has equally poor judgment plus a hot temper. Just what we need for 4 more years.

    June 30, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  21. Patrick Lewis

    Ok, General Clarke's comments were fine, but to middle america, you can't say that kind of stuff. It's stupid but people think that being a POW means something about how to run a country. It doesn't. It does, however, mean that you have unbreakable personal fortitude.

    I like Obama, but he's got to start getting out of this silly stuff and start campaigning for real. I like that he's got his war room all set up, but how's that energy policy going?

    Let's all get off the spin cycle and start talking about solutions to issues.

    June 30, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  22. Michael

    What exactly did Gen. Clark say that is so bad? For that matter, considering the current commander-in-chief's near utter lack of practical military experience, why is such experience even considered important any more?

    June 30, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  23. mb--texas

    rick davis knows very well that Sen.Obama had nothing to do with
    Wesley Clark statement that was a respones to a statement by a talk show host that Sen.Obama had no executive experience either
    and had never ridden in a fighter and had never been shot down.
    then Gen.Clark responded.Let us all get over the petty polictics
    and stop these news pundits from making the news and
    start reporting the news Iraq war nothing on the new services
    talk shows host they like to bring up dirt or controverserial statements.

    June 30, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  24. Joseph IRAQ WAR VET


    OBAMA O8

    June 30, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  25. Jeff Longley

    MSM June 30th, 2008 1:35 pm ET
    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.

    Become a POW for 5 years, have a Senate career since 1987, and be a senior ranking member on the Armed Services committee and then see how you feel. You only served in Iraq and so did I. How about you list his other qualifications Private!!

    June 30, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
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