June 30th, 2008
08:41 PM ET
15 years ago

Obama rejects Clark's statement

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/30/art.clark.gi.jpg caption="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. AZVet

    Apparentley the road to the White House will be paved with flattened Obama supporters who have been thrown under the bus.
    It's starting to get crowded under there.

    June 30, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  2. Auburn

    McCain should apologize for criticizing Jimmy Carter so sharply this past few weeks. What the H.... is he thinking. Carter isn't running for office and he is a WWII Navy Veteran, has served his country nobly in many ways as well as after his presidency. McCain says he supports fellow veterans and servicemen but in the last election he stood by and didn't say a thing when Bush attack dogs lied about Kerry's Navy service. Now McCain attacks Carter. Band of Brothers, indeed!

    June 30, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  3. jay

    I love the consistent theme conservatives are trying to push - that Obama has others do his dirty work. Are you kidding me? This happens every single election cycle, supporters of candidates talk and speak their minds. You cannot attach every single thing supporters say directly to the candidate.

    Remember the Swift Boat ads in '04 and how Bush said he had nothing to do with it. Or in '00 when he said he had nothing to do with all the attacks on McCain. Or, right now, McCain and his team tries to say they have nothing to do with the bounds of false claims and lies out there about Obama.

    It's the SAME thing. Obama should be no more to blame for what people who support him say (although I still don't see what was wrong with Clark's comments) than Bush or McCain. It's called politics folks. Grow up. And stop trying to act like "your" candidate doesn't do the same thing!

    June 30, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  4. Kenneth

    The only thing evident in these posts is that there are those who look at the candidate by their ideals and those who look at them by their accomplishments. That being said of course General Clark was right and Mr Obama was correct in his statment. Mr Obama merely disavowed what General Clark said because of what he believed to be a blanket statement that if taken out of context would be labeled on all veterans. I thank Mr Obama for standing up and recognizing the accomplishments of ALL veterans. We should not diminish the efforts of our servicemen for political gains and THAT is the message that Mr Obama is presenting ... PERIOD! He is not caving to any pressure to denounce General Clarks statement but speaking up for his belief that our fighting forces are to be commended and respected accordingly. Whereas Mr McCain has at every turn fought for legislation to demoralize servicemembers and take the focus off of the critical issues that affect the American people. As far as Mr Obama being an "empty suit" well, until you walk a mile in his shoes then formulate your opinions but said opinions will be empty and without merit.

    God Bless America and our fighting forces!

    June 30, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  5. jim - phila.

    John in Binghamton :

    Clarke was tossed, by the US into NATO, where he destroyed Bosnia. He couldn't command a NATO division. The worst of the worst.

    June 30, 2008 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  6. Rohn G. Kansas City, MO

    Clark is right, but he should not have said it.

    June 30, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
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