(CNN) – As John McCain’s campaign continued to characterize a Sunday comment by former Gen. Wesley Clark as an attack on the former Navy pilot’s military service, a McCain surrogate countered Tuesday by criticizing Clark’s record as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.
Orson Swindle, who was a prisoner of war with McCain in Vietnam, told reporters on a campaign conference call Tuesday that the high-ranking former military officials who back the presumptive Republican nominee might not hold Clark in high regard.
"General Clark probably wouldn't get that much praise from this group,” said Swindle. “I can't speak for them, but we all know that General Clark, as high-ranking as he is, his record in his last command I think was somewhat less than stellar."
Clark’s last active duty position was at the helm of NATO from 1997-2000, during which he commanded joint military activity in the Kosovo conflict.
The Obama surrogate drew controversy over the weekend when he told an interviewer he did not think “riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president,” a reference to McCain’s experience during the Vietnam War.
On Monday, the McCain campaign called the comment a direct attack on the Arizona senator’s military record and announced the launch of a Truth Squad designed to respond to similar remarks in the future.
"No matter how he sugarcoats it, he is trying to question John's service," said South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham on the Tuesday call, terming Clark’s comments a “huge mistake.”
Swindle said Tuesday that the Obama campaign was looking to deliberately denigrate McCain’s military experience. “This is pretty much a deliberate effort to tear down the credibility of John McCain," said the former Marine.
“Frankly Sen. Obama’s been doing a lot of winking and nodding for letting this go on,” said Swindle, who called on Obama to “display some leadership to tell his surrogates, ‘Knock this crap off.’”
“This is about Senator Obama,” said Swindle. “If he can’t even lead his surrogates, he won’t do a very good job of leading the U.S. troops.”