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. RandSeattle

    Jonathan, I so agree with you. If congress didn't vote money for the war there'd be none. I agree we have to keep up with Afghanistan which is reverting to its old ways, but we elected democrats to end the republican Iraq war and it's just as much a democrat war now. I'm utterly furious. My friends and I won't give any more money to the democrats. I don't know what else to do except vote EVERYBODY out of office and start over again with a bunch of neophytes, but the world is a dangerous place to do that. Suggestions?

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

    I agree with Clark in general.
    On a related and larger point...I have always found it interesting how the soldier that gets shot or injured or caught becomes a hero, and you never hear about the guy who successfully completed his mission without injury. It's kind of like rewarding failure. How much more of a failure can you be as a pilot to get shot down, then get caught, then not be able to escape for 5 years. I'm not trying to slam McCain. He obviously did a lot more than I ever did, but let's call those that succeeded in their missions the real heroes.

    June 30, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  3. KevinDC

    Obama is a good sport. Now we need McCain to reject the ridiculous comment from Lieberman today about there being a terrorist attack in 2009. That was unfounded and frankly insulting to our intelligence. It was much worse than Clark's comment.

    June 30, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  4. sacto joe

    Clark's comments were NOTHING compared to Liberman's fear-mongering comments.

    Where's McCain's disavowal of Liberman, CNN?

    June 30, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  5. Tom

    So McLame says this the lowest form of politics and then he suggests that Obama was behind the statement? Is that just a wee bit contradictory?

    Anyways, all McLame does is repeat a thounsand times that he was a POW when his military service is brought up. Even when it has nothing to do with question. Does this mean that McLame thinks that only former POW's are able to make "straight" decisions?

    When is this guy going to stop using scripted answers! I appreciate what has given my country, but I am sorry to say this, he is 100% lame.

    June 30, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  6. STeve Lenzen

    Clark is right on the this issue because being a prisoner or a vet does not qualify anyone, including Senator McCain, to be commander In Chief.

    the Republicans are trying to paint Obama as not being qualitied because he is not a vet and the Democrates should push back on the issue. People in the country better wake up and realize the U.S can no longer be the bully of the world and start to recognize how much it is costing the country to keep the huge military industrial complex. Ike warned the country this issue over 50 years ago and the people have yet to wake up.

    This country has big problems that will only be resolved through cooperation with other countries. Bush and the republicans printed so much money to pay for the Irag war the U.S is in debt up to its eyes. We, the citizen better be ready for some lean years becuase we have to pay off this dept.

    June 30, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  7. MD in OK

    Mr. Clark is merely stating the truth.

    June 30, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  8. Ross in MD

    What Clark said was factually obvious. How is flying a plane a credential to be President? I think the Republicans are grasping at straws.

    June 30, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  9. Good judge of character

    McCain is indeed a war hero, an experienced legislator and an all-around decent person. does that make him presidential material? I think not due to the other options available. Don't get me wrong: I do not support Obama either. His wishy washy efforts to turn oratory into reality are unproven and his race card of declaring himself black when he is just as much white is unsettling. We have had a proven, capable, intelligent candidate with 8 years' worth of White House experience from day one in Hillary Clinton. She has a track record of working for ALL Americans and is ELECTABLE. The GOP's base is split between McCain and the wannabes. Obama's chances are dependent upon Clinton's supporters selling out for second best. I say let the person best qualified to bring our country out of Bushdom is Clinton and she can be elected as a write-in. Write her in – she can win!

    June 30, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  10. Mike - Texas

    Another LAME excuse from Obama!!

    He just sends HIS cronies out there to make statements that he cas disavowe. Like Rev Wright, Rev. Pfeagler, Rizo, and others. It is just a SHELL GAME.

    So much for having the HONORABLE campaign that he talked about having.

    He said that "words are not important", yes but honesty and integrety are, and Obama has neither!

    June 30, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  11. Sid

    Obama SHOULD NOT have condemned those remarks. It just makes him look weak. The GOP will always try to kick the Dems around with this kind of false 'Scandal'. It's time for the Dems to get a spine!!

    June 30, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  12. rg denver

    Obama, you need to more explicitly apologize and point out that McCain has honorably served our country and that every American should be proud and honored by his service, and more importantly that McCain is more than qualified to be president! And you need to convince Clark to apologize as well. The issue is not whether McCain is qualified or not, he is. The issue is that his policies would more or less continue the failed Bush policies, while Obama will end the war an move America in a better direction. So while McCain is qualified to be president, Obama will make a far better president!

    Obama, do not allow your surrogates to question McCain's service or executive experience, or any other personal attack, this will only backfire. Attack his policies and explain why your are better. Keep it about the issues. This will ensure president Obama in 2008.

    June 30, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  13. 11 Bravo

    I wasn in the infantry, so can I be on the Joint Chiefs?

    June 30, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  14. Big Thinker


    Lets stop feuling the hate please!!!! Sure what you say may have some ring of truth to it... but keep it to yourself.



    June 30, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  15. Manuel TX

    So the Obama supporters agree that McCain's military service does not qualify him to set national security policies.

    I wonder then how Obama does qualify to set national security policies.

    How much military experience does Obama have?

    Just wondering.

    This is the same strategy that the Obama campaign used so effectively during the primary contest. Have a surrogate accuse the Clinton's of racism...or worse.


    June 30, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  16. Jason

    Please take note: this article is not about the war, the economy, global warming, human rights, or anything else that actually effects us, as a general population.

    This report is about two people, who happen to be running for office, trying to make fun of each other. Only, it's not about them making fun of each other, and how petty it is for them to do so: it is them making fun of each other.

    Is this what we pay the media for? I can see two people in a flame war on any internet forum. Please keep that to yourselves, we aren't interested ("we" being those of us old enough to vote).

    June 30, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  17. Jeff Longley

    Obama rejected the comment because he is not ignorant like his supporters are!!

    June 30, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  18. Kathleen

    Obama continues to behave in a most presidential manner. His presidency is going to be great for America. Obama in '08!

    June 30, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  19. Not fooled by distractions.

    Why reject the remarks? They're true and echo what an apparent number of americans feel. Why is he been idolized? Was he so offended when the right was smearing Kerrys service? McCain is a hypocrit. His military service and pow status is admired, but does not qualify him to be president. He volunteered – he's just another C- legacy admission – kind of like GWBush. I don't think Obama should reject the statement as Gen Clark was right on the money. Why does america have a problem with electing someone with intelligence?

    June 30, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  20. Dealt

    Well, i can understand why Obama rejected Clark's comments, although they were no more than the truth. And I mean no disrespect to McCain, but he tries to capitalize too much on his prisioner of war experience. There are and have been many others, only not so vocal.

    June 30, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |

    Does this mean that every person who has ever worn a military uniform for the U.S. is qualified to be President?

    if the Republicans could actually find something REAL to pretend to be outraged about.....

    (a few suggestions...)

    Bin-ladin is still uncaptured
    The Taliban is now resurgent
    The World Trade Center has not been re-built
    Gas is more than $4 per gallon
    Oil companies are receiving HISTORY MAKING profits
    THIS June is the worst economically since 1930
    Joblessness is STAGGERING

    but hey.... some former General points out Mccain was a p.o.w. but never had a COMMAND... so... HE'S a bad guy... let's all be OUTRAGED!....

    June 30, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  22. EJ

    That's pathetic that McCain can't except a rejection of Clark's comments when just a day before his campaign had been calling on Obama to reject them. Instead he chose to take advantage of it for political gain. Given his current poll numbers, I see why he's so desparate.

    June 30, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  23. saga for Obama

    "Our enemies will test the new president early," Lieberman told CBS Sunday. "Remember that the truck bombing of the World Trade Center happened in the first year of the Clinton administration. 9/11 happened in the first year of the Bush administration" Lieberman

    is this what we can expect from John McCain? this is the worst form of politics. this is a dis service to our nation and belittles the memory of all hose who died on 9/11...

    republican scare tactics and no i dont trust McCain to protect pour Nation. i dont trust anyone who would stoop so low as to encourage another attack... it is a pity the only things they know how to do is pander to fear and ignorance.

    stop these fools now before we have WWIII
    shame shame shame...

    June 30, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  24. Steve

    There is no doubt that McCain has courage, and is a war hero because of what he experienced as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese. He should be respected for that. He has also been a Senator for a long time, and should be respected for that, as well.

    Neither of those positive attributes necessarily qualify him to be president. His military service shows that he wasn't advanced as quickly as he should have been (that's death on a military career, and shows that your commanding officer has doubts about your ability to lead).

    Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was the Supreme Commander of the European Theater in World War II was an excellent general. He was a very marginal president.

    Good military service does not equate to being a good president. Being in the Senate does not automatically validate you for president, either. Hillary tried the "I have more experience" ploy. It didn't work. McCain should think about other ways to make himself look like the one who is most qualified....

    June 30, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  25. Aidyn

    Obama is a fraud. Doing everthing he can to get elected.

    "Change that works for him"

    June 30, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
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