[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/03/02/art.hrcwes0302.ap.jpg caption="Gen. Clark campaigned with Sen. Clinton in Waco, Texas recently."]
(CNN) – In a conference call with reporters Sunday, Gen. Wesley Clark, one of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s most high-profile supporters with a military background, took the opportunity to address whether a woman could be counted on to use force when necessary to protect the United States.
“I hope that we’re past that,” Clark said. Noting that “during the Kosovo campaign we had some wonderful women flying airplanes, dropping bombs,” the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO explained “women can fight and women will fight but they’ll fight smart.”
“Hillary Clinton is a fighter by nature,” he said. “I would have no concerns about her willingness to use force but I have great confidence that she’ll only use it as a last resort.”
Clark explained Clinton’s vote authorizing President Bush to take action in Iraq as “a vote for coercive diplomacy” rather than “a vote for war,” and said the Bush administration “misused” the authority granted to it by Congress.
Clark also told reporters that Clinton was more qualified than Sen. John McCain to be the next commander-in chief because McCain’s service as a naval fighter pilot did not prepare him “in terms of dealing with the national strategic issues that are involved” in being president. Clinton, in Clark’s estimation, has had the necessary experience to make high-level national security decisions because of her tenure in the U.S. Senate and her time as First Lady.
Clark and 15 other retired U.S. military flag officers, generals and admirals, used the call to explain why they are endorsing Clinton to be the nation’s next commander-in-chief.
Not to be outdone, the Obama campaign also held a conference call with reporters Sunday that highlighted Sen. Obama’s foreign policy experience. Dr. Susan Rice, a former Assistant Secretary of State during the administration of Clinton’s husband, said Sen. Clinton “continues to attack Barack Obama on foreign policy without offering any basis for her own experience.”
“It’s really not enough just to assert you have the experience to be commander-in-chief,” Rice said. “That assertion has to be backed up by a record of judgment and a vision of where you want to lead this country,” she added. Rice also detailed legislative and diplomatic accomplishments by Obama which his campaign says distinguish him from Clinton on foreign policy.
The two campaigns convened the calls after several days in which national security has been in the spotlight of the Democratic nomination race because of dueling ads in which Clinton and Obama each claimed to be the best person to protect the country in the event of an unexpected crisis.
–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart