Slamming Wesley Clark

The general's comments about McCain's military service have been unfairly twisted. But some Obama supporters are going too far in their McCain attacks.

Published July 1, 2008 11:23PM (EDT)

I was sorry to see the Obama campaign "reject" Gen. Wesley Clark's remarks about John McCain on Face the Nation yesterday. I think the context of Clark's remarks mattered (although that's gotten lost in the right wing blogosphere's attacks on Clark). Clark was baited into his statement by host Bob Schieffer, who took issue with some earlier, milder remarks Clark had made about McCain's military service not being direct preparation for the presidency.

Here's what was said:

Schieffer: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean --

Clark: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.

Schieffer: Really?

I think the most fascinating part of the exchange was Schieffer's "Really?" which teed up the whole MSM outragegasm over Clark's words. Really, Bob, it's true: Riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down are not, by themselves, qualifications to be president.

Obama needs military leaders and veterans who aren't afraid to stand up and question McCain's "experience" argument, when so much of it is tied to his military experience. Earlier in the interview Clark called McCain a "hero" for the way he endured five and a half years of torture as a POW, but he was credibly taking on the argument that McCain's military experience, itself, makes him uniquely qualified to be commander in chief. I'm not sure Obama had to reject what Clark said, which was otherwise unobjectionable. I think Clark deserved better.

If Obama wants to shut down a supporter who is truly doing him harm, his folks will have a word with Americablog's John Aravosis, who came unhinged attacking Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primary and hasn't found time to get himself, um, re-hinged. Politico built a whole nasty story about Obama's left flank around a regrettable Aravosis post titled "Honestly, besides being tortured, what did McCain do to excel in the military?"

"A lot of people don't know ... that McCain made a propaganda video for the enemy while he was in captivity," Aravosis wrote. "Putting that bit of disloyalty aside, what exactly is McCain's military experience that prepares him for being commander in chief … Getting shot down, tortured and then doing propaganda for the enemy is not command experience."

By Joan Walsh

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2008 Elections