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. 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?“