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. Allison R.

    I think the "lowest form of politics" is the McCain campaign turning around and saying they don't know how much Obama had to do with this statement. They turned an honest and observatory statement into political gain. Shame on them. I used to like McCain...
    Clark is totally correct–our soldiers have our utmost respect and gratitude, but being in the terrible situation of POW does not make you qualified to serve as president.

    June 30, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  2. Rich

    What's happened that people aren't allowed to state an opinion any more? We're more interested in who should repudiate what, than whether the content has any merit.

    The point was, does military experience, in itself, qualify someone (anyone) to be president? Well, does it? If it does, than McCain is qualified, ans so is every other person who ever wore a uniform. If it doesn't, McCain may still be qualified, just not for that reason.

    This is not as complex and conspiratorial as everyone is making it out to be.

    June 30, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  3. sn

    While McCain may have heroic history.....he doesn't have the type of experience that would make him singularly qualified for"Commander in Chief."

    If this type of pettiness continues, I am not going to watch,read or listen to anything else. I will just vote with what I feel now...

    June 30, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  4. dee

    McCain was just unlucky. He got shot down. He wasn't even in as much danger as the guys on the ground getting their limbs shot off. Being a prisoner of war does not make him a hero nor does it qualify him to be president. So he should stop using this misfortune to set himself apart as a leader. He has no more experience in keeping us safe as Sen. Obama

    June 30, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  5. Steve, Jacksonville, Fl

    McSame should be thanking Wesley Clark for his comments as it gives his pathetic campaign something talk about besides his flip flopping on the issues.

    June 30, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  6. Esther

    On November 29, 2002 on CNN’s Late Edition, Sen. McCain said, "We’re not going to get into house-to-house fighting in Baghdad. We may have to take out buildings, but we’re not going to have a bloodletting of trading American bodies for Iraqi bodies....I don’t think it’s easy, but I believe that we can win an overwhelming victory in a very short period of time."
    In contrast, Obama made a prominent speech around the same time, October 2, 2002, in which he said, "But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history. "I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al-Qaeda." Obama correctly foresaw the consequences of the biggest foreign policy blunder in American history. McCain won't even support vets after the bloodletting? Which candidate do you think is more "naive on foreign policy and not as qualified to lead the military?"

    June 30, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |

    John in Ohio said:
    McCain really was a terrible pilot. On the other hand, Clark was a terrible general.
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    The DIFFERENCE is Clark 'WAS' a General, who held a COMMAND.

    Capton/Pilot --– GENERAL

    huge difference.

    June 30, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  8. Seam, Florida

    Hey Political Analysts at CNN: You can scratch Wesley Clark's name from Obama's VP short list.

    June 30, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  9. JIM


    June 30, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  10. john williams san diego, ca.

    C'mon Weasley...you are the only General that had to cry to Bill to get your 4th star...you are not vice-presidential material..WEASLEY

    June 30, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  11. Tjaye in LA

    Why is everyone acting like McCain can NEVER be criticized as a soldier, but Kerry was DOGGED by the republicans in the 2004 election about his?

    June 30, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  12. Tommy Vacca

    Clark is now and has for some time been nothing more than a partisan hack. He does however have tremendous command of the surrogate clown in Obama's camp. What he said made no sense due primarily to the fact that based on logical presuppositions the office of President of the United States requires a combination of qualifications. There is not one thing a person can accomplish that ipso-facto solely qualifies that person for President.

    June 30, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  13. sacto joe

    And another thing. This was a MAJOR speach on the general subject of Patriotism! Why dig this completely unconsequential statement out of that – and report NOTHING ELSE!

    CNN – your pro-neocon bias is showing.

    June 30, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  14. Walt, Belton,TX

    Fired by Bill Clinton because of his incompetence in Bosnia; despised by his contemporaries because of his egotism and lack of integrity; considered a boor by the NATO staff. What a list of accomplishments for this poor excuse of a grunt and he's criticizing a man who is a respected hero by millions of veterans. I know of not one military man or woman, officer or enlisted, that respects Wesley Clark and I know of not one military man or woman, officer or enlisted, who doesn't hold John McCain in the highest esteem.

    June 30, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  15. No McCain!

    Even though I'm an Obama supporter, I don't agree with him here. Just because someone was in the military doesn't mean they are the most qualified for president. Technically, no one is experienced enough to be president. Many of our best presidents weren't in the military...

    1. FDR
    2. Lincoln
    3. Teddy Roosevelt

    In fact, some military veterans were horrible...

    1. Harry Truman (2nd term)
    2. McKinley
    3. Franklin Pierce

    Let's not pull the POW card or the "I'm a veteran" here. That won't work.

    Obama '08

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

    CLARK IS RIGHT. Audy Murphy was also not inherently qualified to dictate foreign policy. I salute their service, but facts is facts.

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

    Good, he rejected the statement. But he should not say anything more, especially since McCain never said anything more about Black's statement. And McCain is paying Black, but Barack is not paying Clark.

    Obama 08

    June 30, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  18. Julie from LA

    Are the prisoners at Guantanamo getting mlitiary expertise? Are they becoming foreign policy experts due to their incarceration?

    Obviously NOT.

    General Clark did NOT criticize McCain's patriotism. He called his POW experience "heroic".

    The point he made is TRUE. Being a POW does NOT translate to military or foreign policy expertise. McCain should use other parts of his resume if he wants credit for those.

    Wesley Clark is a 4 star general, one of only 12 in the country. He is a genuine war hero, a man who was badly wounded in battle but still bravely lead his men.

    If anyone is ENTITLED to have an opinion about McCain and the appropriate role of "POW" in his resume for Commander in Chief, it is General Clark.

    June 30, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  19. S. Boatman Warrensburg Mo.

    One Time I Put A Band Aid On A Scratch My Son Had. . . . It Didnt Qualify Me For Brain Surgery! Mccain Lacks Judgement! I Will Choose That Over His Experiences In War! Mccain Cries Foul When It Comes To His War Experience! But He Gonna Get The Swift Boat! A Real Hero Would Not Vote Against Our Troops On Every Issue Meaningful To Them! Mccain Is No Hero In My Book!

    June 30, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  20. Mac in Nova Scotia

    I'm sorry to hear that Senator Obama apologized for General Clark's remarks. General Clark is right. I served 23 years in the Army and am a Viet Nam Veteran but I sure am not qualified to be Commander in Chief.

    June 30, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  21. Bobby from MS

    Change we can believe in? Yeah right! Looks like the same old DC crap to me.

    The comments made by Clark were out of jealousy. He could not get the nom ination for the Democratic party so he had to try and bring down a man who also served proudly because he could not take the fact he was not the better man.

    As for all of you who challenge that just because McCain was in the military and this doesn't make him qualified to lead you apparently have never serve in our honorable military and are the same liberals who are causing this great nation to decay from within.

    June 30, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  22. Jeff Longley

    Black people do not read and this is why they don't know anything about McCain and his many years in the Senate. Heck, they barely know anything about their own candidate besides the fact that he is black.

    June 30, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  23. Independent Voter

    I like this. Get him to say it so it's out there, then reject it. A typical Chicago politician at work.

    Surprise me just once, Obama, that's all I ask, once.

    June 30, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  24. Lola

    I think that millitary service alone even if you are a prisoner of war does not qualify you to be a president. So I do agree on that much. McCain so upset.

    June 30, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  25. nik

    I love how McCain leaps like a rabit pit bull at any slightly negative comment by the Obama camp but has YET to denounce the racists, the bigots and the anti-Muslim rhetoric pouring from his supporters. Pot calling kettle, you're black.

    June 30, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
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