Wes Clark on McCain’s Military Experience
General Wesley Clark is trying to argue that John McCain’s military experience is irrelevant to future service as commander-in-chief:
Clark said that McCain lacked the executive experience necessary to be president, calling him “untested and untried” on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” And in saying so, he took a few swipes at McCain’s military service.
After saying, “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,” he added that these experiences in no way qualify McCain to be president in his view:
“He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn’t held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded — that wasn’t a wartime squadron,” Clark said.
“I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.”
Clark has been banging this drum for awhile now but this is the first truly high-level exposure he’s gotten. Pat Lang remarked on this gambit two weeks ago and, as Steve Benen notes, he’s trotted this out on early morning television as well. The trial balloon worked well enough to get Matt Yglesias‘ consideration as a VP candidate.
On one level, Clark has a point. Commanding a training squadron isn’t the same as running a wartime theater. And, as I argued when John Kerry was relying too much on his Vietnam experience and I’ve continued to counsel vis-a-vis McCain, being a war hero only goes so far in making a case for a presidential candidate. Nor is Clark “Swift Boating” McCain; he’s not questioning his wartime accomplishments.
Still, at the larger level, this strikes me as a poor argument. While “getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down” might not be sufficient qualification to be president, it’s certainly more than Barack Obama ever endured. And, while Obama has experience at the community level that McCain can’t match, it’s a dangerous game for him to send out surrogates to minimize McCain’s service. As Bruce McQuain asks, “if the willingness to fight for your country, put your life on the line and suffer the brutality McCain suffered as a POW doesn’t make the cut as far as qualifications go, how far below that does a ‘community organizer’ show up on the list of non-qualifications?“
Gen. Clark leaves out a significant portion of Sen. McCain’s military record in his precís: his service as a prisoner in North Viet Nam. This is analogous to describing Gen. Clark’s military service without mentioning his commands in Europe.
I don’t think Sen. McCain’s comportment during his captivity is important because of the courage and tenacity he exhibited, however laudable, but because of the leadership and I’m sure that Gen. Clark is well aware of its importance.
I’m favorably disposed to Sen. Obama and may well vote for him in November. I honestly haven’t made up my mind. I’d be even more favorably disposed towards him if his resume showed more leadership. It’s not the same as giving inspiring speeches (although the ability to give inspiring speeches is helpful).
“if the willingness to fight for your country, put your life on the line and suffer the brutality McCain suffered as a POW doesn’t make the cut as far as qualifications go, how far below that does a ‘community organizer’ show up on the list of non-qualifications?”
If the willingness to fight for your country and put your life on the line by actually facing enemy fire doesn’t make the cut as far as qualifications go, how far below that does ‘defending the skies of Texas from a Mexican invasion’ show up on the list of non-qualifications?
Its not an indication of qualification as far as experience. Its an indication of someone who has bought into the idea of self-sacrifice to preserve the freedoms this country enjoys.
Being shot down, held as a POW and tortured for five years does not qualify you to be president. I don’t recall Senator McCain ever claiming that these things did qualify him for president in and of themselves. Of course, if they did, there’d still be a very long line of candidates in front of Senator Obama to exhaust first.
Senator McCain’s experiences in Vietnam do speak to his character, strength, and determination. As James wrote, I don’t think this is a particularly fruitful path to tread for Senator Obama or his minions. I still don’t know if there are enough good reasons to vote for Senator McCain than there are good reasons to not vote for him, but this is generally a positive data point for him.
Meanwhile, I’ve yet to see a good reason to vote for Senator Obama since I’m too old to believe in any politician who promises to deliver hope and change.
I believe some here are missing the point Clark is making. Obviously, Obama has even less military experience than McCain. The difference is that Obama isn’t positioning himself as a great commander in chief, and McCain is, based on his Vietnam service – and THAT’S what Clark is getting at: McCain’s military experience really isn’t much more qualifying on commander-in-chief grounds than Obama’s lack of it.
Most of this is just politics as usual. When Kerry was running, the republicans were saying that his military experience wasn’t relevant, and the democrats were saying it showed strength of character, willingness to sacrifice for the country etc. Now that its McCain and Obama, the parties have reversed their opinions. I doubt anyone is really surprised, or takes either party seriously on this score.
What Clark “is getting at” is that Obama has absolutely ZERO military experience, and has no credible claim to CinC qualifications. It is therefore necessary for slimy little bastards, er, Obama surrogates, to demean and diminish the value of McCain’s military service, including his time spent as a POW. Hey, did you know that McCain broke under torture?
Don’t forget that McCain spent 23 yrs as a commissioned officer, obtaining the rank of Captain before retirement. Not an insignificant achievement in the eyes of most people who know shit from shinola about the military.
Let’s review shall we?: 23 years of military service versus not one day in uniform. Who, between the two candidates, has any claim to CinC credentials?
BTW, what is your standard for CinC quals, Washington or Eisenhower?
Wesley Clark was removed from Command. That is a disgrace in military service. As far as Obama goes, he is running on his judgement. By looking under the bus, his judgement looks faulty. Really, if this were not serious, it would have to be a joke. The only thing Obama has done is give a speech at the 04 convention. That and hang out with Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, Bernadette Dorhn and Tony Rezko. Does the term Manchurian Candidate ring a bell?
Why yes, the Manchurian Candidate _does_ ring a bell. I believe the plot revolves around a decorated POW who is secretly controlled by his captors and is involved in a plot to overthrow the government by assassination.
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I made the same argument in 2004, in fact, when the Swifties and others were attacking Kerry’s record. The much more fruitful path, in that case, was attacking his Winter Soldier and other post-Vietnam activities.
It’s not about experience with the military issue as much as it is about the attitude toward the military.
Simply put. The Democrats since being taken over by the radical left during Viet nam are anti-military but now, in order to get elected, pretend to be strong on war (Hillary as CIC) and Kerry reporting for duty comes to mind.
Wes is just Obama’s mouthpiece on the issue.
Wes actually has a point about experience though, in which case Obama will lose every comparison if experience alone becomes the issue.
Experience didn’t work for Hillary when she tried it – you can’t fight a messiah with “He has no experience” -the sheep will follow anyway.
DL, yet again someone misses the point. Read the transcript.
“GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: But Barack is not, he is not running on the fact that he has made these national security pronouncements. He’s running on his other strengths. He’s running on the strengths of character, on the strengths of his communication skills, on the strengths of his judgment. And those are qualities that we seek in our national leadership.”
Well, let’s see. Clark, eh? Oh, heck. Turnabout’s fair play. Didnt Clark, last election, back someone whose only contribution was sitting in a boat, and who through some feat of training, and courage, manged to wound himself in the ass with his own bit of scrapnel? I mean, didn’t Clark call that service significant in terms of the guy’s ability to lead? Didn’t the guy Clark supported, back in the day, just about change his name to “Served in Vietnamâ€?
Look, let’s stipulate Clark is a bit of scum, and move on from there, shall we?
This is the kind of inDUHvidual that assocaites himself with Barack Obama, and Obama with him. That tells me all I need know about the value and the level of honor involved with Barack Obama, and what values he would bring to the White House, if we were ever stupid enough to elect the man.
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“We don’t want the small, timid, slash and burn, negative campaigning of the past.” (Josh Hafenbrack, “Obama Barack Obama Calls For New Political Spirit During South Florida Campaign Swing,” [Fort Lauderdale, FL] Sun Sentinel, 3/26/07).
By Obama’s standard this must make Wes Clark large and/or brave ?
I don’t think that the point has been missed.
Obama has zero military experience; McCain’s experience, to include his time on the SASC, is without peer amongst contemporary politicians (Yes, even Jim Webb).
Obama’s campaign, through the use of surrogates such as Wesley Clark, must therefore negate or diminish McCain’s advantage on military/national security matters.
The Obama camp is trying to change the metrics by which we have evaluated candidates on their qualifications on national security matters. Zero relevant experience? No problem. Just make nebulous claims of “leadership.” Laughable.
I get the point.
james: “The much more fruitful path, in that case, was attacking his Winter Soldier and other post-Vietnam activities.”
Good point. I think the GOP made a very serious moral error when they attacked what he did during the war, instead of focusing on what happened later (and Bithead is happy to bring us proof that this impulse is still alive and well). The animosity toward him was clearly a result of his post-war behavior, and not what he did during the war. This is reflected in the fact that a lot of people said nice things about him during the war, and only turned against him later.
bithead: “someone whose only contribution was sitting in a boat”
It just so happens that real enemies were firing real bullets at that boat, on a daily basis. Here are the number of bullets that were ever fired at Dubya’s F-102: zero.
belloscm: ” … the metrics by which we have evaluated candidates on their qualifications on national security matters. Zero relevant experience? No problem. Just make nebulous claims of ‘leadership.’ ”
Or better yet, just make the absurd claim that avoiding combat took more courage than serving in combat.
Don’t remember McCain as being in the TANG during ‘Nam, but some people keep talking about it as if he were.
Oh, I get it now. Clark’s attempt to discredit McCain’s military experience is such a blatant disgrace, it’s time to change the subject. Hey, look over there! It’s George Bush! Did you know that he didn’t go to Vietnam?
There are many differences between Kerry and McCain ordeal besides the Left thinking it made Kerry extremely qualify for President and doesn’t matter with McCain. First of most on the right respected Kerry’s short tour but had problems with his exaggerations, lies and what he did once he came back. Now if McCain stated he was a three time ace, flew spy missions over Russia and came back and told lies about his fellow pilots, I for one would be questioning him.
Many thought Kerry short tour in Vietnam with an even shorter tour commanding a PT boat up river far outweigh Bush’s NG (National Guard) service. Many on the left don’t consider NG service as military service at all which is a slap in the face of NG Members. I respect Bush serving in the NG and I do think Kerry’s service was more impressive then Bush’s. However, McCain’s service was far more impressive than Kerry’s and all of them have a more impressive record than Obama. McCain serving 23 years, being POW, flying 23 missions and reaching the Navy rank of Captain which is equal to Army rank of Colonel is relevant and impressive.
As I stated many times before, military service is relevant but only goes so far. McCain should bring it up at times but should be careful not to overdo it like Kerry did.
Look closely at the preface to those comments, Jukebox. What about “Turnabout is fair play” is so beyond your understanding as to justify your remaining comments?
Of course Clark is qualified to question McCain’s executive decision making qualifications because he was sacked as NATO military chief and commanded the military base in Texas which provided the military vehicles used in the assault on the Branch Dravidian’s compound.
belloscm: “it’s time to change the subject”
No one changed the subject. The subject is military credentials (or lack of) in relationship to presidential ability. I’m pointing out the GOP has remarkably elastic and incomprehensible standards, in this regard.
wayne: “‘most on the right respected Kerry’s short tour”
Wearing Purple Heart band-aids is an odd way to show respect. It’s an insult to all Purple-Heart recipients.
“had problems with his exaggerations, lies”
The lies told by the swiftboaters greatly exceeded any lies allegedly told by Kerry. One classic example is thoroughly documented here. If you want a much more extensive analysis, see my posts here.
“Many on the left don’t consider NG service as military service at all which is a slap in the face of NG Members.”
I don’t think that’s the issue. I think the issue is that Bush’s TANG experience (both how he got in and how he got out, and everything in-between) was the story of how to use privilege to escape combat, and to even escape full NG responsibilities.
“I do think Kerry’s service was more impressive then Bush’s”
In 2004, it was hard or impossible to find anyone in the GOP willing to make that admission.
bit: “What about ‘Turnabout is fair play’ is so beyond your understanding”
You made the following remark:
If you’re claiming that’s “fair play,” then your standards are too low. But we already knew that.
Of course it’s fair play when Clark figures (And states flatly) all McCain did was sit in a plane and get captured.
Of course we already knew that to be fairness in your book.
Tell me again how Bush and the TANG are relevant to Clark’s failed and shameful attempt to “swiftboat” McCain?
Don’t tell me that the best defense of the Obama Campaign that you can offer is: “you guys did it too,” ’cause that’s what I’m hearing.
Laughing at Frank Burns when he received a Purple Heart for receiving shell fragments from a chicken egg isn’t an insult to all Purple Heart recipients. Frank was the insult. Those who abuse the system to receive the award when they don’t deserve it are the ones insulting those who do deserve it. I thought the band-aids deal was tasteless.
The swift boaters vs Kerry lies have been gone over time and again. Many on the left still claim Bush lied for saying the same thing Clinton did but Clinton didn’t lie because he only bomb Iraq not launch a ground invasion. Once you put those types of blinders on, there is not point of arguing with you.
Questioning if Bush received favors is legit. However he did serve as a fighter pilot in the NG. Saying he never served in the military or has never been a pilot because he was only in the NG is an insult to the NG. You and many of your friends may not care one lick about the NG members but only about insulting Bush. However NG members should be respected. Enough have died for this country and help in many others ways to earn respect.
You’ve broken the code.
Your execution is scheduled for dawn Thursday.
bit: “states flatly”
This is what Clark actually said:
This is what you claimed Clark “flatly” said:
I don’t think those two things are the same. You have a funny idea of “flatly,” just like you have a funny idea of “fair play.”
belloscm: “Tell me again how Bush and the TANG are relevant to Clark’s failed and shameful attempt to ‘swiftboat’ McCain?”
Try paying attention to what was actually said. Joyner quoted Bruce McQuain. I responded to McQuain’s remark, because it’s stunningly hypocritical. In 2004 McQuain invested great effort in deflating Kerry’s service and inflating Dubya’s. Look it up. Bithead knows, because he commented on some of those threads.
Now suddenly McQuain is righteously impressed by “the willingness to fight for your country, put your life on the line,” and is suggesting that someone who does that is more qualified than someone who doesn’t. But that noble sentiment was nowhere to be found when McQuain wrote reams of commentary dissecting every minute detail of Kerry’s combat records, at the same moment that he was defending Bush’s stateside TANG escapades.
“Don’t tell me that the best defense of the Obama Campaign that you can offer is: ‘you guys did it too’ ”
In this instance it goes beyond a general statement of “you guys did it too.” McQuain himself is specifically raising an argument about the importance of combat service, even though this argument was conspicuously AWOL in his own 2004 commentary, when the shoe was on other foot.
wayne: “Many on the left still claim Bush lied for saying the same thing Clinton did … Once you put those types of blinders on, there is not point of arguing with you.”
Many on the right still claim Bush said the same thing Clinton did. Once you put those types of blinders on, there is not point of arguing with you.
There are all sorts of fundamental differences between what Clinton and Bush said and did, aside from the important difference you mentioned. Clinton never claimed the kind of perfect knowledge that was claimed by Bush et al, when they repeatedly used terms like “no doubt” and “irrefutable evidence” and “absolute certainty.” And 1998 is not the same as 2002. Saddam became weaker during that time. This was reflected in statements by Powell and Rice. For example, Powell said (2/24/01) “[Saddam] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction.”
And there are specific examples of Bush making statements about Iraq that were obvious, brazen lies. Like “we found the weapons of mass destruction” and “he wouldn’t let them in.”
So there are lots of problems with the Bush/Clinton comparison you’re making.
And let’s reflect on this irony: your defense of Bush, which we’ve heard so many times, consists basically of saying “Clinton did it too.” You should check with belloscm, because he’s taking the position that this is a lame defense.
You’re pulling stuff out of your backside. The left loves saying Bush said something he didn’t or pulling it out of context. I’m not sure if the left is lying or they just hear what they want to hear. The only time that I heard Bush said “we found the weapons of mass destruction” was when we did find WMDs but he quantifies it by saying it wasn’t a significant amount and was probably leftovers from prior programs.
“Many on the right still claim Bush said the same thing Clinton did. Once you put those types of blinders on, there is not point of arguing with you.â€
Clinton did. There is a thing called transcripts. Clinton stated the same intelligence conclusions with more certainty than Bush did. Whatever actions they took is irrelevant to wither what they said was a lie or not.
The big difference between 1998 and 2002 is your boy Clinton was President in 1998.
Clinton lying doesn’t excuse Bush lying. However both of them saying almost the same thing and situation on the ground having not significantly change, either they both were lying or neither did.
I have no problem with someone asking how someone’s military service helps qualify them for President. However reducing McCain military service to “getting in a fighter plane and getting shot downâ€ is a disgrace. That would be like saying all Kerry did was take a boat ride up a river once.
Like I stated before, if they have proof that McCain greatly exaggerated his service, that is fair game but there need to be some solid proof behind the accusations.
To get back on subject, here is another example of Clark’s hypocrisy
“CLARK: War. War. I’ve been there. So has John Kerry. John Kerry has heard the thump of enemy mortars. He’s seen the flash of the tracers. He’s lived the values of service and sacrifice. In the Navy, as a prosecutor, as a senator, he proved his physical courage under fire. And he’s proved his moral courage too. John Kerry fought a war, and I respect him for that. And he came home to fight a peace. And I respect him for that, too. (tepid applause) John Kerry’s combination of physical courage and moral values, is my definition of what we need as Americans in our commander-in-chief. “
Of course 2004 is different than 2008. Yeah right. The difference is the D and the R behind the name. Hypocrites!
wayne: “You’re pulling stuff out of your backside.”
Really? Prove it. The one who is “pulling stuff out of your backside” is you.
“The left loves saying Bush said something he didn’t or pulling it out of context.”
You’re suggesting I have done that. Really? Prove it.
“The only time that I heard Bush said ‘we found the weapons of mass destruction’ was when we did find WMDs but he quantifies it by saying it wasn’t a significant amount and was probably leftovers from prior programs.”
Wrong. He said those exact words on 5/29/03. At that time, we had found this much WMD: none whatsoever. In his statement that day, this is how many times “he quantifies it by saying it wasn’t a significant amount and was probably leftovers from prior programs:” zero.
Thanks for that nice example of “pulling stuff out of your backside.”
“Clinton stated the same intelligence conclusions with more certainty than Bush did.”
There you go again, pulling stuff out of your backside. Bush et al repeatedly used terms like “no doubt” and “irrefutable” evidence and “absolute certainty.”
Example: “Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” Bush, 3/18/03.
Example: “There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction.” Tommy Franks, 3/22/03.
Example: “I have no doubt we’re going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction.” Ken Adelman, 3/23/03.
Example: “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” Cheney, 8/26/02.
Example: “We do know, with absolute certainty, that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.” Cheney, 9/8/02.
Example: “I’m absolutely sure that there are weapons of mass destruction there.” Powell, 5/4/03.
Example: “Iraq is now in further material breach of its obligations. I believe this conclusion is irrefutable and undeniable.” Powell, 2/5/03.
(Emphasis added.) No one else expressed that level of certainty. Not Clinton, not other countries, and, most importantly, not our own intelligence agencies. Bush pretended to have information he didn’t have. There’s a word for that: lying.
“There is a thing called transcripts.”
Indeed. Show us the transcripts where Clinton “stated the same intelligence conclusions with more certainty than Bush did.”
“situation on the ground having not significantly change”
It that’s true, you should explain why Powell said this (2/24/01): “[Saddam] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.”
On 5/15/01, Powell said that Saddam had not been able to “build his military back up or to develop weapons of mass destructionâ€ for “the last 10 years.â€ Powell said we had succeeded in keeping Saddam “in a box.â€
And Rice said this (7/29/01): “But in terms of Saddam Hussein being there, let’s remember that his country is divided, in effect. He does not control the northern part of his country. We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.â€
And even Cheney said essentially the same thing, in a moment of uncharacteristic honesty: “the focus is over here on al-Qaida and the most recent events in New York. Saddam Hussein’s bottled up, at this point.”
So your claim about the “situation on the ground” is another instance of you “pulling stuff out of your backside.”
And you have said nothing to address this brazen lie told by Bush: “he wouldn’t let them in.”
wayne: “However reducing McCain military service to ‘getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down’ is a disgrace”
It’s a disgrace to misrepresent what Clark said. You’re pretending he didn’t say this:
In the past he has also said this:
So why is Obama tossing him under the bus, then? Habit?
bit: “why is Obama tossing him under the bus”
Obama and Clark are each entitled to have their own opinion on the matter. Then again, you’re an authoritarian, so you find it hard to grasp the concept of a group of people that doesn’t think exactly alike.
I have been paying attention.
I did take note of the context in which your comment was made. You did, however, inject Bush and the TANG into this discussion, a discussion about a Obama surrogate thoroughly screwing the pooch while trying to discredit McCain’s experience.
As Clark’s comments could and cannot be defended, I assumed that you were attempting to change the subject.
I apologize if I misunderstood your intent.
“Clark’s comments could and cannot be defended”
Here you can find a dozen named vets defending what “cannot be defended.”
And here you will find a retired Lt Gen with 30 years of service defending what “cannot be defended.”
Imagine my surprise to learn that LtGen Gard, instead of offering a sober and objective analysis of the issue at hand has, instead, retailed his status as a retired general officer in order to shill for Obama.
Amongst the majority of us 30 year vets, this is known as being a whore. Speaking of whores, can’t wait to hear what Merrill McPeak has to say about this.
Nope. Spin it as hard as you want, but this was a intended political hit gone badly wrong. Clark, fully expecting a friendly venue from which to air the desired Obama talking points, was put off balance when Schiefer didn’t play softball and instead challenged SOMF Wes. Now flustered, Wesley then let slip the foolish quip about flying a jet, getting shot down and how this was not a qualification for the Oval Office.
I’ve seen the relevant video, I’ve read the transcript and I know what was said and, more importantly, what was intended. I don’t now need to be told, after the fact, what Clark “really” meant.
“retailed his status as a retired general officer in order to shill”
OK, thanks for helping us with the proper terminology. Gard is a “shill,” but when the Pentagon manipulated pseudo-independent retired officers who had “ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air,” the government used the proper terms: “surrogates and message-force multipliers.” And they were only making a patriotic effort to help the government achieve what it called “information dominance.”
Your words are a perfect way to summarize the behavior of people like Bevelacqua, Allard, McCausland, McInerney, Garrett, Shepperd, Meigs, Nash, Marks, Ralston, McCaffery, Downing, Vallely, Cowan, Sherwood, Eads, Maginnis, Scales, and Grange.
“I know what was said and, more importantly, what was intended”
I’m glad I now have permission to hold people like Bush accountable not just for what they have actually said on various occasions, but also for what I know they “intended.”
Well, the spin you’re placing on this is that the campaign had nothing to do with Clark’s comments.
As I said elsewhere:
When the Obama supporters all start mouthing exactly the same nonsense… when clearly, Clark, for one, hasn’t the wit to come up with this stuff by himself, what we have here is an organized effort by the Obama camp. Obama’s been doing this all along; Surrogates end up saying the smears and other trash talk the campaign needs to spread, and when things get too hot because of what gets said, Obama simply tosses the speaker under the bus, and claims he’s running a ‘clean campaign’, and he’s shocked…. shocked… that any of his people would come up with such a comment.
bit: “Surrogates end up saying the smears and other trash talk the campaign needs to spread”
Thank goodness Rove and the GOP have never done anything like that.
The rank hypocrisy of your statement is nicely illustrated by this comment one of your pals just posted: “I do not recall the Bush campaign attacking … Kerry’s war record in 2004.”