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Tilting at Windmills

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June 30, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

CLARK ON McCAIN....Today's outrage of the hour involves Wesley Clark. On Face the Nation yesterday he noted that John McCain doesn't really have any wartime command experience:

SCHIEFFER: Can I just interrupt you? I have to say, Barack Obama hasn't had any of these experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down.

CLARK: I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.

Andrew Sullivan is unhappy about this:

Wesley Clark is now and always has been a Clinton-type, but this is pretty revolting. This kind of personal attack was repulsive coming against Kerry from the far right. And it's repulsive the other way round. Both Kerry and McCain served their country honorably; and their records should be revered, period. You can make an argument against McCain's foreign policy experience and judgment on its merits. Do it and leave this crap out of it.

Hold on a second. In the 2004 campaign Kerry made his military record a major part of his campaign, and conservatives pointed out that his naval service 30 years ago didn't necessarily mean he had a strong national security record today. Sure, the Swift Boat attacks were way over the line, but the pushback on "military record = national security chops" was perfectly legitimate politics.

Clark isn't doing anything different here. There are some other, less savory attacks coming from the left that may merit Andrew's ire (see here), but Clark's point is a fair one. It's fair for him to make it and it's fair for McCain's supporters to push back on it. There's nothing out of line here.

Kevin Drum 12:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (162)

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Comments

CLARK: I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.

Can we have a re-do, and nominate Clark for President? No? Then VP. Please.

Posted by: thersites on June 30, 2008 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

"military record = national security chops" - Kevin.
That reminds me ....
Has Marian finished Inkblot's sailor suit yet?

I think it is dangerous for Wes Clark to argue that McCain doesn't have wartime command experience. Obama doesn't either.

Posted by: optical weenie on June 30, 2008 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Political journalists are kinda like casting agents, only dumber.

To them, POW --> war hero --> commander in chief.

Clark is just pointing out that the man ran squat.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on June 30, 2008 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

I think it is dangerous for Wes Clark to argue that McCain doesn't have wartime command experience. Obama doesn't either.

and which of them is using their alleged wartime command experience as a central pillar in their claim to fitness to become CiC ?

Posted by: cleek on June 30, 2008 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

I think it is dangerous for Wes Clark to argue that McCain doesn't have wartime command experience. Obama doesn't either.

Yes, but if it's not pointed-out, they'll have McCain as former Supreme Allied Commander, or something...

Posted by: rusrus on June 30, 2008 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Supporting any and all Republican wars (while attacking Kosovo, etc) = national security cred.

Will Dems shrink away from Clark's statement? Or will they, for once, have some guts?

Posted by: John McCain: More of the Same on June 30, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Wes Clark is a GIRLMAN. John McCain is more than a hero. He is a Living American God Walking our Earth.

You liberals know nothing. I'm surprised you even know how to breathe.

Bow to McCain. He may be compassionate when he smites you.

Posted by: Free Lover of Freedom and Free Liberty on June 30, 2008 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Let's see what the GOP considers appropriate respect for a war hero:

"Delegates to the Republican National Convention found a new way to take a jab at Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's Vietnam service record: by sporting adhesive bandages with small purple hearts on them." (CNN, 2004)

Hmm.

The Democrats have a long way to go before they can match the GOP for sheer chutzpah and shamelessness.

If some Vietnamese-American delegates set up an S&M role-playing booth on the convention floor, then I'll say the line has been crossed.

But until that happens, I really don't care what anyone says about John McCain.

Posted by: lampwick on June 30, 2008 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

What about the current duck and cover Commander in Chief and his military experience?

Posted by: slanted tom on June 30, 2008 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

I agree. As I wrote to Andrew, I also think that the idea of "reverence" is entirely misplaced.
There's no reason whatsoever to revere anyone's military service (unless they died in the line of duty); respect and admiration will do just fine.

Clark's point was not a personal attack.
He was responding immediately to a specific remark by Schieffer, trying to puncture, using Schieffer's words, the near-universally accepted myth that military service on its own qualifies someone to lead the country. Clearly he did not discount McCain's courage and heroism, qualities that do generally qualify someone to lead.

Posted by: on June 30, 2008 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

apologies: previous comment is mine.

Posted by: along on June 30, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Agreed with Clark's verbatim statement, but it's disingenous and wrong. Schieffer misrepresented it really: the thing that makes McCain's POW experience so eloquent when you consider his fitness for office isn't that he served, in a plane or wherever else (although his service does show a devotion to the country). It's the details of his capture: this is a guy who _turned down early release again and again_ on the concept that for him to accept an unfair release from suffering, was a blow to the nation's honor and the fair treatment of its servicemen. That's jaw-dropping.

This is a guy whose experience of desperation and torture has made him one of the foremost advocates of ending the horrid policies of our current administration on torture (and yeah, I know what y'all are going to say about the CIA. I also know that McCain appears to've made the deal he had to make to get anything passed at all, and I'm giving him a pass on it. Go ahead and call me thick.)

This is a guy who then put that stuff behind him and made peace with people like David Ifshin and worked with guys like John Kerry to open America to Vietnam.

Now, that doesn't entitle McCain to the Presidency. I think people of conscience can see a lot of good reasons to vote against him. But if you really, seirously don't think McCain's POW experience speaks volumes about his fitness for office, or that Clark isn't being a flat-out bastard on this, I don't know what to say.

Posted by: Sanjay on June 30, 2008 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

I think its a valid statement, if we were looking for a fighter pilot to fill the roll of flying a jet fighter, okay, McCain has priority over Obama, but we're not looking for a fighter pilot, we're looking for a President.
And McWhineyMcAnger has some serious temperment issues..dare I say, he reminds me of some women who are PMS...the difference being for those women, it's comes, and then it goes. For McCain, it's come, and hasn't left...someone, please, give the boy some hormonal relief!

Posted by: sheerahkahn on June 30, 2008 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Granted I'm a fringle leftie, but could someone non-snarkily tell me what the right finds objectionable in this? (I mean, not fauxjectionable, but -really- objectionable.)

Forget that Clark was responding to a specific question. He said: "I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president."

Well, duh. Is the sheer obviousness of that statement what the right dislikes? That it's a straw man, because obviously -nobody- thinks that getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president? And they're pretending that Clark's saying that's McCain's -only- qualification?

Or something?

I understand faux outrage, but ... is there anything else here?

Posted by: gussie on June 30, 2008 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

How retarded does one have to be to equate this in anyway with the Swift boaters? Was Clark lying about McCain flying a plane and being shot down? The Swiftboaters said Kerry lied about his service. Has Clark said McCain has lied about his service? No.

This is screwed. Sullivan is worth shit.

Posted by: DougMN on June 30, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

I think it is dangerous for Wes Clark to argue that McCain doesn't have wartime command experience. Obama doesn't either.

But Obama is not running on wartime command experience. McInsane is trying to create a wedge issue by virtue of command experience, and it is perfectly legitimate for the Obama campaign to question those credentials.

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on June 30, 2008 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

I listened to the clip Sullivan posted and critiqued and I could find no correlation between the two.

The "harshest" thing Clark said about McCain was that he was "untested and untried" when it comes to matters of national security policy making. WOW! What a blistering personal attack! Clark then went on to explain his statement giving substantive points about McCain's experience. Sullivan then states that "You can make an argument against McCain's foreign policy experience and judgment on its merits. Do it and leave this crap out of it." Which crap would that be that Clark should leave out? The crap where he argues against McCain's foreign policy experience on the merits? Or is it where Clark states the obvious? That flying a fighter jet and being a prisoner of war are not qualifications for POTUS. They are actions which make one to be admired as a hero as Clark states but they have not intrinsic value for qualifying one for the job of the Presidency.

Posted by: Barbara on June 30, 2008 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

The quote reads differently when you see the full context -- that "riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down" was Bob Schieffer's phrase, not Wesley Clark's.

There's a difference between saying "McCain's service in Vietnam doesn't qualify him to be president" and "McCain's service in Vietnam doesnt' qualify him to be president, and it really wasn't all that heroic anyways."

But, since fake umbrage is a political tactic used by all sides these days, it's not surprising that McCain is trying to make hay out of this.

The isolated quote makes it sound like Clark was saying the latter, but I think in context it's clear he meant the former.

Posted by: AMP on June 30, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Seeing as Clark DOES have said command experience I think he is totally within his rights to point this out. After all he spent a lot of time dealing with other commanders and has, I think, a reasonable idea of what it takes to be a good one.

As a vet I don`t think military experience is a major deal one way or another though I think it certainly could help a candidate understand the military mindset and "get along" w/the lifers better.

No where did Clark in any way disrespect Mr. McSame or his record. Sounds to me like the ReThug cabal is getting real nervous about their future as they should.

Clark would make a great VP.

"Every once in a while, you've got to do something hard, do something you're not comfortable with. A person needs a gut check." - Corporal Chad Ritchie, U.S.M.C.

Posted by: daCascadian on June 30, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Slightly OT, but Shieffer's an idiot. McCain did not "ride" in the plane; he piloted it. And it was not a "fighter plane", it was a bomber. Big difference.

More evidence that this is just empty, uninformed hero-worship on Shieffer's part -- he can't speak intelligently about the most basic facts of what McCain did.

Posted by: Ryan on June 30, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

What bugged me is that Andrew mixed the two stories - General Clark's comments and the Politico's story. General Clark was respectful, the bloggers Politico references were not. To call Wesley Clark 'revolting' is simply misleading.

Posted by: Jesse on June 30, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, the Swift Boat attacks were way over the line, but the pushback on "military record = national security chops" was perfectly legitimate politics.

Looks like the Yes, We Can "Change" folks are the same-old same-o, and unapologetic as usual about diving into the septic sewer of DC death-cage lunacy.

To a moron like gussie, being tortured in Hanoi for 5.5 years is nothing I would wish on my worst enemy, but the bobble-heads on the left just don't even know the meaning of the word sacrifice.

All they want is power & money, and all their pious sanctimonious blah-blah is just traitor-games to give the USA to the UN & become another EU-nuch patch of real estate.

I'd say shame on y'all, but you have no shame so choose your orifice.

Posted by: daveinboca on June 30, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, the Swift Boat attacks were way over the line, but the pushback on "military record = national security chops" was perfectly legitimate politics.

Looks like the Yes, We Can "Change" folks are the same-old same-o, and unapologetic as usual about diving into the septic sewer of DC death-cage lunacy.

To a moron like gussie, being tortured in Hanoi for 5.5 years is nothing I would wish on my worst enemy, but the bobble-heads on the left just don't even know the meaning of the word sacrifice.

All they want is power & money, and all their pious sanctimonious blah-blah is just traitor-games to give the USA to the UN & become another EU-nuch patch of real estate.

I'd say shame on y'all, but you have no shame so choose your orifice.

Posted by: daveinboca on June 30, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

But the pushback from McCain's people is that Clark made an unfair, slanderous attack that dishonored McCain's service. That is false and stupid.

It would be fine for them to push back by counting the ways in which McCain's service does help, but the way they have chosen to push back is out of line, as all false and stupid arguments are.

Posted by: tom on June 30, 2008 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Standard American Political Debate

Speaker:(statement)
Outraged Opponent: How dare you say (sounds-like paraphrase)!

on and on
ad infinitum

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on June 30, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Both Kerry and McCain served their country honorably; and their records should be revered, period.

That's going a little over the top. Respected, yes, admired, yes, but revered? "Revered" is a synonym for "worshipped", and this kind of sickly-sweet elevation of military service over all other virtues is getting a little cloying and, well, disturbing.

Posted by: Stefan on June 30, 2008 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Why do we have to revere anyone who has ever worn a uniform? My dad was a bomber pilot in WWII and got shot down over Germany and spent a year and a half as a POW. He never felt the need to be revered due to his service and would have been happy if no one ever said a word to him about any of it. Andrew Sullivan and his "conservative" friends might know how this works if they'd ever spent a day away from their cheetos and their keyboards....

Posted by: Paul on June 30, 2008 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

"Clark isn't doing anything different here. There are some other, less savory attacks coming from the left that may merit Andrew's ire (see here), but Clark's point is a fair one. It's fair for him to make it and it's fair for McCain's supporters to push back on it. There's nothing out of line here."

Gee Kevin, guess you've just been thrown under the bus by Obama on this one. The following is a posting from the Corner by Byron York:

From Obama spokesman Bill Burton:

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.

Be sure to say hi to Obama's grandmother and Rev. Wright.

Posted by: Chicounsel on June 30, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Every time I hear McCain described as "An American Hero" I puke in my mouth a little bit.

If "hero" means you didn't die, then fine. But to me, hero means you went above and beyond. I don't see McCain as having done that. Not unless you're going to give awards and presidencies to every man or woman who was in a prison camp. Kerry still has McCain beat as far as truly heroic war chops.

Notice no nation-wide media effort to "Swift Boat" McCain. If nothing else, it shows which party is the skankiest.

Posted by: on June 30, 2008 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

If being a fighter pilot and getting yourself shot down is a primary qualification for being president, just think about how much more qualified Bush has been. He was a fighter pilot and shot himself down.

awol, missing medical exams, getting attached to a non-flying squadron, etc.

Posted by: natural cynic on June 30, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

To a moron like gussie, being tortured in Hanoi for 5.5 years is nothing I would wish on my worst enemy, but the bobble-heads on the left just don't even know the meaning of the word sacrifice.

Any evidence that he was actually "tortured" rather than merely being subjected to harsh interrogation tactics....?

Posted by: Stefan on June 30, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Go fuck yourself, Sullivan.

Wesley Clark was a four star general who spent some 30 years in the military, including being head of NATO. McCain's military experience pales by comparison. Being a POW is something none of us can begin to imagine. But it doesn't make McCain an expert on foreign policy or even military matters.

McCain is the one who's making the claims that he's the experienced one, when the fact of the matter is that even with all his years in Congress, he really have no more foreign policy expertise than Obama.

Posted by: Jeff II on June 30, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think getting a degree from a military academy and getting to command refugee camps in Kosovo is a qualification to become president or vice president.

Posted by: Brojo on June 30, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

... the pushback from McCain's people is that Clark made an unfair, slanderous attack that dishonored McCain's service. That is false and stupid.

False, absolutely. Stupid? Hardly. More like effective.

In other news, recent claims to have spotted Democratus Spinacus in the wild remain unverified. The species remains on the extinct list.

Posted by: junebug on June 30, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Josh Marshall almost nails it (emphasis in the original):

It's not surprising. But it is an example of the fatuous McCain worship that is the bread and butter of the Washington press corps that Wes Clark's comments this weekend on Face the Nation are being called 'swift-boating'. It's almost comical, but not much less than Bob Schieffer's incredulous responses to the fact that Clark had the temerity to argue that McCain's experience as a Navy pilot and a POW don't necessarily mean he'd be a good president.

The McCain campaign is now launching an attack with its 'truth squad' about the Clark 'controversy' and pushing Obama to "denounce" Clark, etc. It'll be interesting to watch what happens here. The McCain campaign's angle here is to not to prevent attacks on the integrity of McCain's war record (which Clark explicitly did not do) but to make it off limits for anyone to question that his war-time experience means he has the temperament and experience which make him the better qualified candidate to be president.

The McCain campaign's claim that there's any attack here on McCain's war record is simply a lie -- a simple attempt to fool people. This is an essential point to this entire campaign -- does McCain's military record mean that even the Democrats have to concede the point that he's more qualified to be commander-in-chief of the US armed forces, that his foreign and national security policy judgment is superior to Obama's? It's simply a fact that McCain has a record of really poor judgment on a whole list of key foreign policy and national security questions.

This is one of those moments in the campaign where the nonsense from the chief DC press sachems is so palpable and overwhelming that everyone who cares about this contest needs to jump into the breach and demand that they answer why no one can question whether McCain's war record makes him more qualified to be president and whether he has good foreign policy and national security judgment.

I say "almost" nailed it because the question posed in Josh's last paragraph -- "why no one can question whether McCain's war record makes him more qualified to be president" without being accused of "swift-boating" -- seems clueless.

The answer that has been obvious since the presidential campaign of 2000 is that "the chief DC press sachems" are highly paid employees of America's Ultra-Rich Ruling Class, Inc. -- the same people who own and control both America's mass media and the Republican Party -- and their mission is not to report on the campaign with dispassionate integrity, but to help put Their Man in the White House, where he will continue the CheneyBush policies of huge tax cuts for the ultra-rich and deregulation of media ownership, so that a handful of giant corporations can gobble up ALL of America's networks, newspapers and TV and radio stations.

The corporate media's job is to reinforce and bullhorn the McCain campaign's propaganda and to wage a war of character assassination against Obama. It is beyond me why anyone should be surprised to see them doing the job they are so well paid to do.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on June 30, 2008 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

sullivan just doesn't like clark - that was apparent from their appearance together on bill maher a few months back...

i can't say i liked clark that much that night either. but he's dead on here.

there is no other job like president of the united states. there are lots of occupations that can help prepare you for it, some better than others. not sure how flying a plane and getting shot down is necessarily more helpful than being a community activist.

Posted by: tom on June 30, 2008 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Gen Clark had a brilliant military career, rose to high command, and topped it off by running a successful military campaign in Kosovo.

McCain, with a father and grandfather who were admirals, just barely scraped through the Naval Academy at the bottom of his class, had an undistinguished career as a pilot, and didn't get promoted to admiral. He endured much as a POW and by most accounts behaved well under that great stress. But the Navy didn't think enough of him to promote him to high command; and Gen Clark
merely echoes that judgment. If being a POW doesn't qualify you to command a fleet, why should it qualify you to run the country ?

Posted by: Richard Cownie on June 30, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Someone should simply ask the press who've taken up the issue if ANYONE who was a POW would make a good president. The obvious answer is "No." Then, ask, how that's different from what Clark said. They wouldn't have anything to say, and they can then move on to the next inanity.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on June 30, 2008 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

I understand faux outrage, but ... is there anything else here?

Suppressing fire.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on June 30, 2008 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

No one goes into a job interview and says, "Look my best qualification is this here. It may have been 40 years ago but that's all i got."

McCain will push back on this like all hell because it's all he's got. If he's not a war hero, he's nothing.

Posted by: glutz78 on June 30, 2008 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

There are thousands of potential leaders of Iraq being held as POW's right now, in conditions much worse than McDodo withstood. Andrew Sullivan ought to revere them.

Posted by: Brojo on June 30, 2008 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

I know this is prime election season, but this is the most ridiculous argument I have heard for a long time. What Clark said is simply true, and it is just a reasonable reply to the question asked. It is not an attack, personal or otherwise, except that it completely disarms a critical assertion for McCain (and a favorite narrative for the general non-thought-based media). Clark did not say that McCain is disqualified from being president based on his military experience. He merely pointed out that the specific military experience McCain has does not necessarily provide meaningful skills that uniquely qualify him as president. Indeed, I have never understood the automatic "But he was a POW" as the standard response to every question about McCain. The outrage, I suspect, is because they fully realize that they really have nothing else to justify his campaign. Shame on the Obama camp for playing into their game.

Posted by: Outis on June 30, 2008 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

And you're taking Andrew Sullivan seriously WHY?

Posted by: anon on June 30, 2008 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

McCain will push back on this like all hell because it's all he's got. If he's not a war hero, he's nothing.

Posted by: glutz78 on June 30, 2008 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

No, he would be John Kerry. LOL

Posted by: Chicounsel on June 30, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

So...shouldn't someone question the degree to which McCain was traumatized as a result of 5 years of torture and captivity?

Would we want to "confer" the presidency on someone who had been held captive for 5 years by some weirdo, say, in a cabin in the Colorado Rockies? Wouldn't that person's emotional health tend to be affected--and understandably so--in some negative way?

As for "conferring" the presidency on McCain: we aren't looking for some to crown Queen of the May. Being president isn't an honor we bestow on a deserving person.

We desperately need someone with sound judgment, a heart, common sense, smarts (and not just an IQ above reptilian), the ability to connect with people, etc.

McCain is not that person.

Posted by: hancock on June 30, 2008 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

I think people of conscience can see a lot of good reasons to vote against him. But if you really, seriously don't think McCain's POW experience speaks volumes about his fitness for office,

McCain had a conscience thirty-five years ago.
I had a jump shot thirty years ago.

There's no recent evidence of either.

And I'm not still trying to get Dean Smith to recruit me....

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on June 30, 2008 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

He may have served honorably while in the Navy but his behavior after his exit from the military reflects on his loyalty to the country.

Actually, that's a debate the Democrats will be quite happy to have with McCain as well. Shall we begin with him returning and dumping the wife who stuck by him and raised his kids for a younger, prettier, richer woman whose funds he used to launch his political career?

Posted by: Gregory on June 30, 2008 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Orwell:

Kerry sat in front of a congressional hearing and repeated stories he'd heard at the winter soldier hearings. He never said he'd witnessed atrocities.

I haven't seen McCain do such things.

Agreed.

Orwell, you are a dishonest toad. I regret now that I gave you time to get back under your rock.

Posted by: thersites on June 30, 2008 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Chicounsel reeks of flop sweat. Then again, when you get your law degree from a matchbook cover, it's a constant stench.

Posted by: DJ on June 30, 2008 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

natural cynic >"If being a fighter pilot..."

Mr. McLame was NOT a "fighter pilot", he was an attack bomber pilot. The A-4 is NOT a fighter aircraft.

"Against stupidity, the very gods themselves must contend in vain." - Friedrich von Shille

Posted by: daCascadian on June 30, 2008 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

The only good that might come out of this is tomorrow, The Daily Show will have an entire segment comparing identical statements from Chris Matthews types defending McCain and trashing Kerry. It would be nice if the media itself would produce that segment, but it would never happen.

Posted by: tom.a on June 30, 2008 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

That is, I regret now that I gave you time to get back under your rock while I was mowing the grass yesterday.

Posted by: thersites on June 30, 2008 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

I'm surprised no one has mentioned McCain's little mishap on the USS Forrestal, in 1967, when a jet he was doing the pre-flight prep on accidentally launched a Zuni missile on the flight deck. The cause was found to be due to an accidental "power surge" -- but accidentally clicking the launch button would create a power surge, wouldn't it? Seems like a convenient excuse to cover up the incompetence of Admiral's son.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1967_USS_Forrestal_fire

Total casualties and damage (according to Wikipedia): The fire left 134 Forrestal crewmen dead and 161 more injured. Many planes and armament were jettisoned to prevent them from catching fire or exploding. Twenty-one aircraft also sustained enough damage from fire, explosions and salt water to be stricken from naval inventory, including seven F-4 Phantom IIs and three RA-5 Vigilantes.

I guess McCain forgot his lucky penny that day...

Is this the sort of guy you want to be handling nuclear football?

Posted by: beowulf888 on June 30, 2008 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

What Clark said is fair and accurate, and any mediot who says otherwise lacks integrity.

Posted by: Rich on June 30, 2008 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

It's fair for him to make it and it's fair for McCain's supporters to push back on it. There's nothing out of line here.

Too late, the Obama camp has already dissociated itself from Gen. Clark's perfectly valid comments. It's probably the right call politically, as you have to choose your fights. But score another point for high dudgeon, crocodile tears, and bullshit, and zero for honest and transparent debate.

Posted by: kth on June 30, 2008 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

the Obama camp has already dissociated itself from Gen. Clark's perfectly valid comments

That is really unfortunate.

Posted by: thersites on June 30, 2008 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

There is a really simple point to be made here: having been a POW makes McCain an American hero, it does not make him a foreign policy or terrorism expert.

I understand their reluctance to engage on this topic, but if the Obama team -- including his surrogates -- can't make a simple point like this stick, we may be in big trouble. Because there WILL be a September/October surprise.

Where's Joe Biden when you really need him?

Posted by: Econobuzz on June 30, 2008 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's response just lost him the election.

Posted by: gregor on June 30, 2008 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, there's already a pol who was indeed a FIGHTER pilot, DIDN'T get shot down over Viet Nam and was the Navy's only ace to boot . . . but Duke Cunningham won't be out of jail in time to run for president.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on June 30, 2008 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Hell, it's not like Clark accused McCain of shooting his own plane down.

Now that would be "swift-boating."

Posted by: kc on June 30, 2008 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

True. We shouldn't let our sympathy for McCain cloud the fact that he was a loser in a losing war, and a supporter of a loser's war over imaginary WMD, and an angry neocon who might get us into another unnecessary war with Iran for Israel.

Gen. Clark, on the other hand, achieved the highest rank on his merits (McCain's father and grandfather were admirals), and won a war without a single US combat death, and understands uses of diplomacy as well as bellicosity. That's why he was a general and McCain a lieutenant commander.

Who would you want leading your children?

Posted by: Luther on June 30, 2008 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

I can't understand Sully's take on this. But he's got a bit of of a blind spot regarding McCain. Clark did kinda set up this showdown, however, by having asserted somewhere, before his Face the Nation interview, that McCain was "untested and untried." Clark shouldn't have said that. So Schieffer pressed him, and provoked him too with some Joe Lieberman invective.

Here's the link: Transcript, Face the Nation

You can see that Clark replied in part to the Lieberman b.s.

And Schieffer responds, "Yeah but Obama's never ridden in a jet fighter and been shot down."

Pretty ridiculous, IMO, for Scheiffer to respond, with some heat (which surprised me), that just getting shot down gave McCain automatic CiC cred. It doesn't give him that cred, just as a logical matter, and Clark said so with some annoyance. He wanted to get back to the judgment thing. But Schieffer was hitting experience.

But unfortunately for Clark, the clip they run shows Clark parroting Schieffer's idiotic point ("Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be President. ").

Again, Clark didn't disparage McCain's service here. He merely responded clumsily on a rather fine military point, to Schieffer's credulous and overly reverential regurgitation of the McCain POW narrative. Note too how Schieffer had this hyperbole on hand about McCain's executive service in the Navy:

Bob Schieffer: Well you, you went so far as to say that you thought John McCain was, quote, and these are your words, "untested and untried," And I must say I, I had to read that twice, because you're talking about somebody who was a prisoner of war. He was a squadron commander of the largest squadron in the Navy. He's been on the Senate Armed Services Committee for lo these many years. How can you say that John McCain is un- untested and untried? General?

These fine (if true) points--that McCain was wrongly returned to flight status in spite of his significant physical disabilities, that he was given peacetime command of a Navy squadron as a favor, after the war--are important to some military people under some conditions.

But for Clark to parse these points on CBS just plays into the culture wars over patriotism and heroism and who has it and who doesn't. This culture-war battle just gives McCain an opportunity to practice his best mournful tone, for a receptive audience that includes Sully, unable to distinguish Clark's rather reasonable discussion of what it means to have military judgement from the reprehensible swiftboating of Kerry in 2004. To Sully, it's all of a piece.

Posted by: paxr55 on June 30, 2008 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

There is a really simple point to be made here: having been a POW makes McCain an American hero, it does not make him a foreign policy or terrorism expert.

Having been a POW doesn't make McCain a hero. It simply makes him a former POW. Look, it's great for him that he got out & made something of himself after some hard times, but buying into the hero bullshit is exactly what immunizes the guy to any kind of questions or criticisms -- even perfectly legitimate ones, like Clark's. I don't know whether this is some spooky reverence we have for those who've participated in sanctioned violence (Greatest Generation, anyone?), or if this is just the pendulum swinging back from the Vietnam-era antipathy towards veterans, but it's high time we recognized the ridiculousness of genuflecting before the guy.

Posted by: junebug on June 30, 2008 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, IFRC, McCain's airplane didn't fire the Zuni, it was hit by a Zuni accidentally fired from another aircraft. A horrible accident.

But the fact is, McCain's military career consists of:

1. Graduating near the very bottom of his Annapolis class

2. Getting blown up on the Forrestal

3. Getting shot down

Posted by: SJP on June 30, 2008 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's not playing to win, he's playing to not-lose.

Which is how you lose.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on June 30, 2008 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sickened by Obama's response, repudiating Clark's comments. He has just demonstrated to the Republicans and the undecideds that he can be bullied into a position of weakness and apology when he could have stepped up and said, "You're damn right I support what Clark said! What exactly is wrong with what he said?"?

Instead, he allowed himself to be cowed by charlatans who care nothing for words, facts and logic but instead use hot-buttn emotional triggering to get people to fall in line. Only a week or so ago, when Clark made the same comment on a cable news channel, one of the hosts/anchors said, basically, "But this is John McCain you're talking about!" -- and Bob Schieffer used the same tone today. "You're talking about John MCCAIN!" (How dare you question anything about this man?!?!?!?!?]

If these people, who purport to be journalists, objective, capable of cutting through smoke and obfuscation to get to the truth, can be so easily gulled and anaesthetized by a candidate's STORY, then it's no surprise the rest of the country can be so easily led.

And Obama could have stepped up and made all of this clear. It's perfectly consistent, and sensible, and in fact honorable, to say "I respect McCain's combat and POW experience, but I would argue that they don't necessarily make him a good candidate for President. They are two different things. Besides, if you insist that combat experience is now and always was a trump card when it comes to presidential candidates, why was that rule not persuasive, in Republican circles, back in 2004? Kerry had the experience, while Bush did not. Why is it suddenly such a winning attribute now?"

Obama, Obama,... why?

Posted by: DNS on June 30, 2008 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, characterizing McCain as a 'fighter pilot' is quite accurate.

The A-4, while primarily used as a light attack aricraft (bomber) was also flown as a point-defense interceptor from some smaller Navy carriers for a while in the 60s, and was quite capable of shooting down enemy aircraft/dogfighting with its internally mounted 2x20MM cannon, or in the 'fighter' role, Sidewinders.

Most, if not all A-4 pilots would have been schooled in basic dogfighting tactics...they had to be able to defend themselves if 'jumped' by MiGs. The A-4 guys I know were all pretty good at ACM/dogfighting.

In fact, for many years the 'Skyhawk' has been used as an 'agressor' aircraft at the NAS Miramar/Fallon 'Top Gun' fighter weapons school...some great footage of these planes in the movie with the same name, doing their thing. Hilarious to watch the F-14s try to roll with them!

Whether you fly 'fighter' or 'attack' jets in the Navy doesn't make a lot of difference- both are 'fast-mover' slots and both communities require top grades in 'pre-flight' to achieve assignments to...collectively the aviators are referred to as 'fighter pilots'. Indeed, today's F-18 does both missions, and during the last years of the F-14's service they hung bombs on those things too...yet I never heard F-14 pilots referred to as 'bomber pilots'. That's for the B-52, B-1 crowd...though I wouldn't say for a minute that the bomber guys are less brave or skilled, and after all they can't shoot back if 'jumped'...

That being said, it's sickening to hear RePigs bleat about 'mistreatment' of their hero after what they did to Kerry. Clark was right on. And while I have a deep respect for what McCain went through as a POW, he'd make a shitty President.

Posted by: john_manyjars on June 30, 2008 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Cunningham DID get shot down, on his last mission which made him an ace- but was able to go 'feet wet' before he punched out and avoided the fate of McCain.

From the Navy's only (with his back-seater W. Driscoll) ace, to human garbage...did he ever fall hard.

Posted by: john_manyjars on June 30, 2008 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Of course just serving time as a POW doesn't qualify you to be president. Duh. There are lots of former POWs ought there and no one would think that they are all qualified to serve as president. In Sen. McCain's case, that, and how he performed under extreme duress, and his subsequent service in the Navy after he was released, all are part of the story, and give clues to his character under fire. That's what we, the voters ought to care about in picking a president.

Sen. Obama has demonstrated his quick thinking and slick talk under fire, and people will have to judge whether that shows the type of strength of character that the office demands.

Posted by: DBL on June 30, 2008 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

After Clark's humiliating professional experience in Serbia, when a subordinate British Brigadier refused Clark's command to deny landing rights to an incoming Russian cargo plane full of Russian paratroopers saying that he (the British General) would not be responsible for starting WW lll, Clark probably ought to keep quiet. Especially regarding command matters. That being said, what Clark said about McCain is 100% correct. Senior military officers learn to be senior military officers through training and application and even then very few prove to be top notch combat commanders. Sen. McCain had very little command experience and no graduate school training and by the time he was through his prison years and the rehabilitation period, he was out of the promotion loop. With his family pedigree and his war record he would very likely have made admiral before retiring but more as an honorific than because the Navy wanted him as one of their senior leaders. His strategic thinking seems to consist of warmed over cold war bromides and, considering his support of the Iraq war from the beginning, there are very legitimate reasons for questioning his presidential qualifications, even if one thinks the sole reason for choosing between one candidate and the other is their practical approach to the war in Iraq.

Posted by: NeuYawker on June 30, 2008 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

After Clark's humiliating professional experience in Serbia, when a subordinate British Brigadier refused Clark's command to deny landing rights to an incoming Russian cargo plane full of Russian paratroopers saying that he (the British General) would not be responsible for starting WW lll, Clark probably ought to keep quiet. Especially regarding command matters. That being said, what Clark said about McCain is 100% correct. Senior military officers learn to be senior military officers through training and application and even then very few prove to be top notch combat commanders. Sen. McCain had very little command experience and no graduate school training and by the time he was through his prison years and the rehabilitation period, he was out of the promotion loop. With his family pedigree and his war record he would very likely have made admiral before retiring but more as an honorific than because the Navy wanted him as one of their senior leaders. His strategic thinking seems to consist of warmed over cold war bromides and, considering his support of the Iraq war from the beginning, there are very legitimate reasons for questioning his presidential qualifications, even if one thinks the sole reason for choosing between one candidate and the other is their practical approach to the war in Iraq.

Posted by: NeuYawker on June 30, 2008 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Clark is absolutely right. McCain's years as a POW do not qualify him as president. Military service -- even outstanding service -- doesn't automatically yield a good administration. U. S. Grant's Civil War success certainly wasn't a boon to his notorious administration.

I respect McCain's endurance as a POW and his military service. I don't consider him a "hero" because I think that term needs to finally be restricted to truly heroic action and deeds.

Clark did not impugn McCain's service, nor "swiftboat" him by claiming he was a collaborator who refused to run out of the Hanoi Hilton and make his way a few hundred miles through enemy territory, blending in with the Asian crowd.

Posted by: alibubba on June 30, 2008 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK
It's the details of his capture: this is a guy who _turned down early release again and again_ on the concept that for him to accept an unfair release from suffering, was a blow to the nation's honor and the fair treatment of its servicemen. That's jaw-dropping.
It's also BS. He didn't have the authority to accept it, or to turn it down. That authority rested with other POWs who had been there longer. Suggesting otherwise is dishonest. Posted by: on June 30, 2008 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

DBL wrote: "In Sen. McCain's case, that, and how he performed under extreme duress, and his subsequent service in the Navy after he was released, all are part of the story, and give clues to his character under fire. That's what we, the voters ought to care about in picking a president."

In Senator McCain's case, his long career as a white-collar crook and a corrupt, bought-and-paid-for tool of corporate lobbyists in the Senate, is what we, the voters, ought to care about in picking a president.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on June 30, 2008 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Political campaigns are beginning to remind me of the suckiness that is professional soccer: the entire game revolves around players making exaggerated, fake falls to pretend to be victims of fouls and demanding/hoping that the referees call their opponents on it.

Posted by: Tyro on June 30, 2008 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

I think it is time to start looking at McCain's whole military record, to see what there increases his qualifications to be CiC of the US military.

Maybe his dumping a trainer into the ocean during a botched practice landing while in training? Or could it be flying into powerlines and crashing a jet in Spain (flying into powerlines when standing orders forbade lowlevel flying in the area, one might add)? Maybe it was that jet he took out to log flight time, so he could fly himself to Philly for the Army Navy game and he and the jet both failed to make it (haven't seen any explanation for that one)? Then there was the disaster on the flight deck of the Forrestal that cost the lives of over 130 sailers -- maybe not McCain's fault, but strange how this hotdogging pilot is always losing his planes, eh? And, finally, a several months after the Forrestal disaster, he gets shot down, losing his fifth plane in just about ten years of active service. How many pilots had such an enviable record? Losing a plane every two years or so?

And all this qualifies him for command how?

JFK, when asked how he became a hero, famously answered, "It was involuntary. They sank my boat." McCain should take his cue from JFK and downplay the heroism stuff. It would wear better and leave his clumsy career off limits.

Posted by: majun on June 30, 2008 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Every day I respect the Obama campaign more and more. Repudiating Clark's comments was absolutely the right thing to do (and Clark once again shows he's not ready for primetime).

Was Clark right on the merits? Did his statement have solid logic? You bet. Does that matter? Nope.

Look, you *just don't engage McCain on his experience as a POW.* You blandly say, "We respect Senator McCain's service and sacrifice" and *walk away.* And *then* you trash him on energy, on health care, on a million other issues that actually mean something to the American people.

And for all the commenters who don't understand this basic rule of winning elections, I am so delighted you're not on the Obama campaign.

Posted by: santamonicamr on June 30, 2008 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on June 30, 2008 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Rick Sanchez is an idiot.

Posted by: Andy on June 30, 2008 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

I dont recall Sillivan coming to McCains rescue when the Bush/Rove folks smeared him with the Rovian'Push Poll' back when.

Posted by: Jet on June 30, 2008 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Clark is right on the merits, but wrong in thinking this line is going to go very far.

Take Clark's argument, apply it to, say, JFK and hit PT boat mishap, and see how far that gets you.

The Dems should drop it, or at the least make the point in a more subtle fashion. That is to say, change the subject -- don't even bring up the POW issue, it's a loser. Talk about McCain's judgement on recent matters.

Posted by: Flavius on June 30, 2008 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

As someone above pointed out, McCain was not a fighter pilot but a bomber pilot, which entails dropping high explosive on defenseless people.

Nice people doing nice things.

He should be doing time for war crimes, not in the Senate and certainly not running for President.

Posted by: Tacitus on June 30, 2008 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

I absolutely loathe fake outrage like this. And it's troubling that Obama would so quickly distance himself from comments that are correct and perfectly legitimate.

Clark wasn't denigrating McCain's service in any way, and Obama's distancing himself from Clark only legitimizes this nonsense.

Posted by: Joe on June 30, 2008 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Being a POW doesn't make you automatically qualified to be President, any more than being head of Law Review at Harvard qualifies you to be President.

In a way, the two are similar: they're both impressive achievements, both the achievements of youth, and both no necessary indications of future performance.

Obama isn't running on his law-school record, though.

Posted by: pbg on June 30, 2008 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Clark's comment is fair- getting shot down isn't a qualification to be president and neither is being a POW. It isn't comments like Clark's that are dangerous for Democrats- it is the noxious stuff coming out on the fringes that call McCain a possible collaborator or a war criminal. This sort of stuff, if it gets wide circulation in the media, that will tar Obama and other Democraic office seekers, even if they consistently denounce it. The situation is not analogous to the Swift-Boat attacks on Kerry, which I thought were scurrilous and untrue, as well. The attacks on McCain are far more likely to backfire since they are an indirect attack on the US military itself. Obama supporters, if they know what is good for them, will back off on this one- they are playing with dynamite.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on June 30, 2008 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding Kosovo, and a British general's refusal to "start a third world war" on Clark's orders:

The British general's soundbite was dramatic, and got all the press. However, the reality was much, much different. There was never any particular risk. The usual story claims that Clark ordered the Brits to stop Russian troops from landing at Pristina Airfield. In fact, they were already there. The somewhat complicated reality has been overshadowed by the "WWIII" quote pulled out of context and used by Clark-haters.

See: http://antidotal.blogspot.com/2003_09_14_antidotal_archive.html#1063645172520309%5C

Posted by: alibubba on June 30, 2008 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

The Noise Machine will attempt to elevate McCain's military experience as something akin to Gen. Eisenhower. His actual experience, though honorable, does not qualify him with bona fide national security credentials. In fact, his exeperience could be a drawback in some ways as Kerry's might have been had he become president.

Posted by: disparu on June 30, 2008 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

I'll disagree with the idea that McCain's service was honourable. My source: McCain's own evaluation. Early on, before he started to recant on everyone of his previous beliefs (except the belief in his own superiority), he accurately described his behavior in captivity as collaboration.

We might honor his original willingness to serve and his later candor, but his actual service involved killing women and children, losing airplanes, and collaborating with the enemy. That's "honorable"? It sounds like the GOP is conveniently "dumbing down" what's honorable. (And after all that wind and vinegar to make fun of attempts to build self-esteem, too.)

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on June 30, 2008 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Obama doesn't want to focus on McCain's military record becasue he takes attention from the fact taht McCain, basically, is a past his sell date Washington politician who doesn't know the price of gas, can't keep track of all his houses and forgets to pay the taxes on some of them, wants to privatize social security, is Bush's third term, wants an eternal presence in Iraq to guard our oil fields -- I mean protect democracy, and fight a war with Iran becasue the one in Iraq and Afganistan is goin so well. McCain, like Dole, has a military record that impresses people. Any focus on it, even a focus on it to dismiss it as irrelevant, is not something we want. Obama's focus is on today and the future. Those are not McCain's strong points.

Posted by: on June 30, 2008 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

America is fucked. The Democrats are afraid to speak truth to power and the Republicans are allowed to lie endlessly. The electorate is by and large too stupid and self absorbed to know better.

This country deserves to go down.

Posted by: anon on June 30, 2008 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Under (threat of?) toture or relentless psychological duress, people will do anything. McCain in Hanoi is just like a guy facing trial in Gitmo after being pulled of the street somewhere in Afganistan for nothing more than that there was a bounty being paid.

I wish more people would talk about how similar these situations are. People will say or do anything you ask them...?

Posted by: mirror on June 30, 2008 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

"People would be calling in to [state committee] headquarters every week, absolutely enraged, threatening to leave the party because of some comments McCain made," Haney told me. "The guy has no core, his only principle is winning the presidency. He likes to call his campaign the 'straight talk express.' Well, down here we call it the 'forked tongue express.'" Bob Haney, the Republican state committee chairman in Arizona's 11th District.

Well, these people dont seem to care about his being shot down. Heh.

Posted by: Jet on June 30, 2008 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

In Sen. McCain's case, that, and how he performed under extreme duress, and his subsequent service in the Navy after he was released, all are part of the story, and give clues to his character under fire. That's what we, the voters ought to care about in picking a president.

Well, of course the Republicans want to make the election about the "character" because they have no hope of winning on the issues.

But the standard right wing / media myth of "character" as applied to Republicans, and dutifully parroted here by DBL, doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

In addition to the corruption SecAn refers to above, there's McCain's dumping the wife who stood by him as a POW, and raised their children, for a younger, prettier, richer woman, and then using her funds to launch his political career.

There's his embracing the foul product of the Rovian political machine that cost him the south Carolina primary -- and possibly the Presidency -- by circulating a whisper campagin smear about McCain's adopted daughter.

There are his flip-flops on any number of issues. Just as one example, embracing the divisive, bigoted right-wing evangelicals he had previously denounced.

There's his overt pandering on the campaign trail, such as his pushing the useless gas tax holiday.

And there's his outright lying on the campaign trail.

Character is a debate the Democrats should welcome. If the Repukes have to reach 40 years into the past to find somethign admirable about McCain, that says something right there.

Posted by: Gregory on June 30, 2008 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

"To a moron like gussie, being tortured in Hanoi for 5.5 years is nothing I would wish on my worst enemy, but the bobble-heads on the left just don't even know the meaning of the word sacrifice."

That's all very convincing, but I'm still not sure why -sacrifice- makes you qualified for the presidency.

Posted by: gussie on June 30, 2008 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

"There is a really simple point to be made here: having been a POW makes McCain an American hero, it does not make him a foreign policy or terrorism expert."

One hundred percent correct. But, unfortunately, many members of the citizenry will disagree. Americans have long confused "war heroes" with "good candidates for president." Look what happened with Ulysses S. Grant. 'Nuff said.

Posted by: CatLover on June 30, 2008 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

I have a different view on the Clark/McCain flap. John McCain is the big loser in this dust up. For the next week we are going to hear Clark's comment over and over again. Faux outrage will follow every time it is repeated. This is going to by John McCain's Reverend Wright moment, except, Clark is absolutely right, being a fighter pilot and getting shot down doesn't qualify anybody to be president, and Barack Obama is trying hard to put distance between himself and General Clark. If the quote is repeated often enough a lot of folks are going to subconsciously acknowledge the truth of Clark's statement and the fact that Wes Clark was a 4 star general and has a place to talk.

This flap weakens McCain at the point of his greatest strength. It forces all of us to examine the unexamined assumption that being a POW means he is qualified to be CIC.

We are all looking at this wrong. The guy who screwed up is John McCain. He shouldn't have picked a fight over military experience with a 4 star general. His best course would have been to walk quietly away.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 30, 2008 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Language is very important here. There is a big difference between saying that "being a POW doesn't qualify one to be president" and "being a POW doesn't qualify one as an expert on foreign policy or terrorism."

Obama can distance himself from the former, but better not distance himself from the latter. Conceding that McCain is a war hero is necessary; conceding that he is an expert on foreign policy or terrorism is absolute nonsense.

Contrary to what some commenters have stated above, Obama CANNOT ignore the MSM's insistence that war hero = national defense expert = foreign policy expert = terrorism expert. And just hope that the economy will be the central issue of the fall campaign. That is political suicide.

Because there WILL be a September/October surprise, Obama has to attack McCain's judgement on foreign affairs and terrorism relentlessly. In fact, Obama's whole campaign should assume there WILL be another terrorist attack. To assume that there won't be is just crazy.


Posted by: Econobuzz on June 30, 2008 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Take Clark's argument, apply it to, say, JFK and hit PT boat mishap, and see how far that gets you.
An excellent idea!

Getting your PT boat cut in half by an enemy vessel?
Not a qualification to be President! Definitely not foreign affairs expertise!

But...Lead your men to safety on one of the few uninhabited islands in the area (towing one of the survivors), moving the crew once, surviving without detection, making contact with Solomon Islanders sent to look for survivors, ascertain that they are friendly and convince them to take a message to friendly forces. That's a little different. Still not foreign affairs experience, still not large-scale command experience, but then Democrats never sold it as such.

You can't choose all the events in your life. What you do in response to those events is important. Democrats never even sold JFK's boat being sunk as evidence of his heroism; it was his actions after. Similarly the importance of John Kerry's bio was that he chose to serve, he acted to rescue the men under his command who were in peril, and he was able to save them.

Schieffer and his colleagues in the media have framed McCain's experience quite simply: He got shot down. That is what we are to value. McCain persevered through a horrific situation. The media would do well to let that stand for what it is rather than try to make it what it is not.

Posted by: rk on June 30, 2008 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

"I think it is dangerous for Wes Clark to argue that McCain doesn't have wartime command experience. Obama doesn't either."

Is this a joke? Did FDR have wartime command experience?

Posted by: scarshapedstar on June 30, 2008 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers on June 30, 2008 at 4:24 PM:

This flap weakens McCain at the point of his greatest strength. It forces all of us to examine the unexamined assumption that being a POW means he is qualified to be CIC.

Exactly. That discussion topic is open, and now we can talk about what McCain's Vietnam experience really means in the context of electing him President.

A fortunate event if it wasn't planned; a smart manuever if it was...

Posted by: grape_crush on June 30, 2008 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

when did Sullivan start setting the agenda. the guy is a prancing cretin.

Posted by: Neil on June 30, 2008 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

optical weenie on June 30, 2008 at 12:24 PM:

I think it is dangerous for Wes Clark to argue that McCain doesn't have wartime command experience. Obama doesn't either.

McCain's experiences while in the military are his political raison d'être, Weenie. Without that reason for being, McCain doesn't have anything to campaign on.

Posted by: grape_crush on June 30, 2008 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Make of these stats what you will.McCain flew 23 missions with total flying time of about 20 hours.

Posted by: R.L. on June 30, 2008 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Andrew Sullivan wrote:

Both Kerry and McCain served their country honorably; and their records should be revered, period.

Just because some guy or gal serves, even in combat, shouldn't make them an object of "reverence." Fighting and carrying a rifle out ot shoot somebody isn't glamorous, it's just something you do when you have to. On the contrary, it's actually kind of ugly. If there is any normative feeling we should have about being a soldier, it should be that people who don't serve when they're needed (by which I mean something like WWII-- not the Iraq war) are weak or cowards, not that people who do serve somehow all of a sudden become heroes for it. In other words, you're not special if you fight, just good enough to not have one scummy characteristic.

Posted by: Swan on June 30, 2008 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Picking up a bit on econobuzz's point, McCain missed a golden opportunity. Instead of sounding a mournful note, McCain could have responded: "Now, General Clark is a great American who served this wonderful country of ours in peace and in war. But let me tell you about getting shot down over enemy territory. Let me tell you how this wartime experience prepared me to be president." And then tell a good story.

McCain doesn't do this, I think, because he appears not to know how being a POW prepared him for anything. Just my 2 cents.

Posted by: paxr55 on June 30, 2008 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote:

it's fair for McCain's supporters to push back on it.

Seriously? I very much diagree with that.

Killing people is about as honorable as being a plumber or a grave-digger and about as glamorous as cleaning a sewer.

Posted by: Swan on June 30, 2008 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Clark is absolutely correct. McCain has NO useful military experience as a Commander-In-Chief. In fact, McCain has shown, while in the Senate, not to show any useful ability for military operations, pre, current, or post.

And as for Obama, he now has given me enough info not to vote for him.

No vote for Obama, or McCain. So who to vote for?

Ron Paul, maybe?

Posted by: James on June 30, 2008 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Ooops, I meant Ron Byers's post at 4:24:

This flap weakens McCain at the point of his greatest strength. It forces all of us to examine the unexamined assumption that being a POW means he is qualified to be CIC.
Posted by: paxr55 on June 30, 2008 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

The amount of courage, morality and character it takes to kill a person in a war is nil, and the amount of those characteristics it takes to put yourself into danger when the alternative is a court-martial or being shot isn't that much greater. And if any veteran disputes it: consider that just because you experienced fear doesn't make you brave. And of course one particular mission may require more courage than another-- but I wasn't talking about that. I was talking just about killing in the abstract, and going into danger (versus being court-martialed/summarily executed) in the abstract.

You're not Superman just because you're a soldier or a fighter pilot. If you're an exceptionally brave soldier or excpetionally brave fighter pilot, then you have reason to be praised for your courage, but not if you're just any soldier or fighter pilot-- even if you served in a war.

Posted by: Swan on June 30, 2008 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

McCain napalm's peasants as part of US effort to win Vietnam war. He gets shot down, he gets treated as a celebrity--he's the son of the Admiral in charge of vietnam for the US military, he collaborates--all in all, he aint no hero , and no reason to vote for this abusive, dim wit for president.

Posted by: Dr Wu, I'm just an ordinary guy on June 30, 2008 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

Language is very important here. There is a big difference between saying that "being a POW doesn't qualify one to be president" and "being a POW doesn't qualify one as an expert on foreign policy or terrorism." Posted by: Econobuzz

No there isn't.

Being a POW is in no way a predictor or qualifier of whether someone can be the president or become an expert on foreign policy and/or terrorism (two different things in any case). Neither is a practical nor constitutional requirement for running for the office.

The only conclusion one can easily draw from McCain's post-war public service is that he isn't fit to be president nor is he by any stretch an expert on terrorism or foreign policy. In fact, considering his time as a POW, his turn about on torture (some might even call this a "flip-flop"), should give pause even the most ill-informed voter. McCain has no readily identifiable policy or legislative expertise.

Posted by: Jeff II on June 30, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Sure we talk a lot about the courage of soldiers when a war is on, but that's just a necessary bit of showbiz. McCain should not be allowed to trade off the sacrifice of soldiers as a political stunt (a context that has absolutely nothing to do with how brave you are or how well you fly a plane, things which someone who is a terrible leader or doesn't give a shit about or country could certainly do perfectly well).

People like Andy Sullivan are aiding and abetting McCain's making confusing emotional appeals to the American people that have nothing to do with how good he would be as the president.

Posted by: Swan on June 30, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Swan,
I don't consider my support for the troops while they are at war a necessary bit of showbiz. Unlike you, my support is genuine. I may not agree with Dubya's reasoning(s) for invading Iraq, but that does not preclude me from doing everything I can to help them do their best.
You are a moron.

Posted by: optical weenie on June 30, 2008 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

CLARK: I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.

This?

This is what got some people upset?

Christ, sounds like a fairly accurate statement to me.

Bob Dole fought is a war, and he was a complete idiot.

Joseph McCarthy had a war record too, would he have made a good president?

Jesus, the most disgusting thing about all this is watching the Obama camp fold like a deck chair and side against Clark.

Posted by: TB on June 30, 2008 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Language is very important here. There is a big difference between saying that "being a POW doesn't qualify one to be president" and "being a POW doesn't qualify one as an expert on foreign policy or terrorism." Posted by: Econobuzz

No there isn't. Posted by: Jeff II

YES THERE IS. In many voters minds, character is more important than being an expert. (Just as Obama supporters (I am one) are keen on saying that judgement is more important than experience.)

For the millions of voters who think character is as important as expertise or judgement, saying "being a POW doesn't qualify one to be president" is a put down; saying "being a POW doesn't qualify one as an expert on foreign policy or terrorism." is not.

GET IT?

Posted by: Econobuzz on June 30, 2008 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

If our soldiers really have anything to be proud of, it is in doing a professional/workmanlike/competent job, serving their country loyally, fighting for a moral cause (if they have one), and stopping bad people (if they are), not the fact that they are killing people or doing any of this through physical violence.

Optical weenie wrote:

I don't consider my support for the troops while they are at war a necessary bit of showbiz. Unlike you, my support is genuine.

You are dishonestly saying I argued against supporting the troops, when I clearly did not at all. I support the troops, and think we should support the troops, when they fight for a worthy cause. But when people make up fictions and aggrandize the troops out of proportion with what is reality, that is showbiz.

It is your claim that I do not support the troops that is not genuine. You are a fascist who is working on the side of criminals and con-men like McCain who get our troops maimed and killed for no good reason. You are the one who does not care about our troops or our countrymen, but who only cares about yourself and sticking to your foolish beliefs no matter what you hear.

Optical weenie, you are a moron, and your kind of thinking is on its way out.

Posted by: Swan on June 30, 2008 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

I've read this whole dang thread, and no one seems to be getting the only salient point here, and that is that Clarke misspoke his case. Clearly, what he was getting at is that being a POW or even a bona fide Medal of Honor-winning hero doesn't make one person ANY MORE qualified to be president or even commander in chief than ANY OTHER person, for example someone who worked for the welfare of others. He wasn't saying that military experience isn't valuable, just that it's not automatically the most valuable. Some great wartime leaders never led or served on a battlefield, and some who did have been miserable presidents.

That said, I think the Obama camp is going way too far in condemning Clarke's comment as if it really were an attack on McCain's service.

Posted by: bloglogger on June 30, 2008 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Swan,

I've noticed that everyone who agrees with you gets called a fascist. That is the worst sort of nonsense. The first symptom of "fascism" is to find a way to paint everyone who agrees with you with some simplistic label that makes them evil. That, my friend Swan, is a description that fits you to a tee.

Posted by: thersites on June 30, 2008 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone ever ask how and or why Mcain was shot down.Was it bad judgment on his part.Was he a bad pilot.Did he disobey orders and fly where he was not supposed to.Just asking.

Posted by: john john on June 30, 2008 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Swan,

Furthermore as a person who is both a pacifist and a veteran (yes, that's contradictory but it's my dilemma and none of your damn business) I deeply resent your consistently simpleminded attitude toward war and the people who are forced to participate in it, sometimes against their will.

Go live some actual life, and then come back here and tell us what you've learned.

Posted by: thersites on June 30, 2008 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

We just had the biggest ass ever serve as President.After him,My pet rock from the seventies is qulaified as any to serve as President.

Posted by: john john on June 30, 2008 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

For the millions of voters who think character is as important as expertise or judgement, saying "being a POW doesn't qualify one to be president" is a put down; saying "being a POW doesn't qualify one as an expert on foreign policy or terrorism." is not. GET IT? Posted by: Econobuzz

No, and I kind of doubt anyone else does. Restating your assertion with slightly different language doesn't change the fact that being a POW doesn't magically make you better qualified to be president than any other candidate or make one an expert on anything, in this case terrorism and foreign policy, unless you happened to have been an expert on a subject before you were a POW and/or running for president. All else being equal, being a POW makes you an expert on being a POW, unless you are you suggesting that he was taking some distance learning courses offered by Tufts or SAIS between torture sessions.

Furthermore, given his involvement with the S&L debacle, cheating on his first wife (and perhaps his second), his vulnerability vis-a-vis lobbyists and, most important, his caving to Shrub and Cheney on torture pretty much shows that McCain, his status as a Vietnam War POW notwithstanding, has no character.

Posted by: Jeff II on June 30, 2008 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Tacitus,

I suppose you'd have George McGovern and Jimmmy Stewart at the gallows, then?

Posted by: john_manyjars on June 30, 2008 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

Just an outlier George Bush scored higher as a pilot then John Mccain.Take it for what is worth.

Posted by: john john on June 30, 2008 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

As the only son of a four-tour Vietnam Vet, who specialized in Military Intelligence, I can only say that the torture that McNeoCain endured for FOUR SOLID DAYS would make waterboarding seem like a spa treatment. That being said, I wonder why no one will bring up the fact that such inescapable memories MUST bring knee-jerk reactions to certain situations that the President of the United States would be exposed to on a repeated basis.

Am I the only one that sees reason to fear his being in that situation and facing those things? His reaction might well spell disaster for the country, simply by reacting too quickly. By the same token, his experience might well cause hesitation in other circumstances that could be equally devastating.

Contrary to popular opinion, time does NOT heal ALL wounds. Some fester throughout life.

Just a thought.

Posted by: DonkeyOdie on June 30, 2008 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

And Swan,

Please don't call Weenie a fascist. When she's angry she puts on her jackboots and beats me mercilessly.

Posted by: thersites on June 30, 2008 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Thersites,
You wish.

Posted by: optical weenie on June 30, 2008 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

john john, just curious, do you have a link for McCain's aviation aptitude tests?

IIRC, Bush scored pretty low--too low, really, to gain admission to the Air National Guard at 25 percent.

Somehow Bush gained entry to the National Guard. And somehow McCain kept flying after crashing his first airplane. Go figure.

Posted by: paxr55 on June 30, 2008 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

I've read this whole dang thread, and no one seems to be getting the only salient point here, and that is that Clarke misspoke his case. Clearly, what he was getting at is that being a POW or even a bona fide Medal of Honor-winning hero doesn't make one person ANY MORE qualified to be president or even commander in chief than ANY OTHER person, for example someone who worked for the welfare of others. Posted by: bloglogger

As a matter of fact, except for the few trolls posting on this thread, I'd say that everyone pretty much understands this.


Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on June 30, 2008 at 12:27 PM

Posted by: cleek on June 30, 2008 at 12:27 PM

Posted by: Sanjay on June 30, 2008 at 12:46 PM

Posted by: CatLover on June 30, 2008 at 4:24 PM

Posted by: scarshapedstar on June 30, 2008 at 4:36 PM

Posted by: grape_crush on June 30, 2008 at 4:49 PM

Posted by: James on June 30, 2008 at 5:00 PM

Posted by: TB on June 30, 2008 at 5:24 PM

Posted by: Jeff II on June 30, 2008 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Paxr55. No I don't, Heard it from a friend.Doesn't really matter one could be pretty sure the repugs have purged everything off of mcains record (ala Bush records being scrubed of all bad doing ,Drunk,Couldn't Fly,Coke head,AWOL)But I will ask my friend where we can find it if it is out there.

Posted by: john john on June 30, 2008 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, my rant at Swan at 5:38 would have made more sense if I'd said "everyone who disagrees with you gets labeled a fascist," which was what I meant to say.

Sheesh.

Posted by: thersites on June 30, 2008 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with what Clark said is that it opens up a big can of worms. If McCain, by his service in the military and in the Senate, is not qualified, then it follows that Obama is even LESS qualified.

After all, he is a newbie to the Senate. His record in Illinois hardly qualifies him to be Commander in Chief, either.

Before anyone jumps down my throat, I am voting for the newbie.

Posted by: mollycoddle on June 30, 2008 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone keeps misquoting Mr.Clark because it's been so completely taken out of context. His statement is in reply to Bob Schiffer saying McCain has the experience because he was shot down in a plane. It's a fair observation on Clark's part. Bush II wasn't shot down, though Bush I was. The press is setting up a dangerous requirement here in that our election process would require we have regular wars so we can have a crop of possible candidates with experience in killing people.

Posted by: Darsan54 on June 30, 2008 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

. . . I can only say that the torture that McNeoCain endured for FOUR SOLID DAYS would make waterboarding seem like a spa treatment. That being said, I wonder why no one will bring up the fact that such inescapable memories MUST bring knee-jerk reactions to certain situations that the President of the United States would be exposed to on a repeated basis. Posted by: DonkeyOdie

Again, the only question this brings up relevant to McCain's public service to date and his overblown political ambitions is why he knuckled under on the torture issue to Shrub, a chicken-hawk who got himself into the NG rather than serve in Vietnam, but couldn't be bothered to finish his commitment, and five deferment Cheney, who had different "priorities" than serving in Vietnam. Pretty much everything you need to know about his character is right there.

Posted by: Jeff II on June 30, 2008 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, why do you insist on regaling us with the harebrained political musings of bitter right-wing queens like Andrew Sullivan and dishonest pseudo-intellectual hacks like Time's Joe Klein? I refuse to read anything by either of those pseudo-literate snobs and quite frankly, so should you. Neither of them offers a damn thing that's worthwhile.

Posted by: Out & About in The Castro. on June 30, 2008 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

Clark could have handled it better. Obama could have handled it better. Sullivan's outrage is overdone, but somewhat expected. The subject will undoubtedly come up again, and I hope everyone will do a better next time, and not let this sort of thing get in the way of more substantive debate.

Posted by: has407 on June 30, 2008 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

Cap'n Bareback: "...their records should be revered, period..."

Agree with Clark here. Why do so many draft avoiders go all weak in the knees over a second rate pilot?

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on June 30, 2008 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

Clark was an insufferable suck-up in the military who lucked up to the top as a political general, then was in charge of Bosnia, an undeclared war that the Dems had no problem with. Even BJClinton disliked Clark, a grandstander & conniver who made this latest statement just to prove his qualifications for VEEP are NIL!

Posted by: daveinboca on June 30, 2008 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

Bob Sheiffhead: "Surely McCain's Navy service entitles him to the highest posts and honors our nation can offer?"

NextDemGuest: "Would that be the same Navy that decided NOT to promote him to Rear Admiral?"

Posted by: Steve Paradis on June 30, 2008 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

From Gen. Clark (Ret) in Jan 2007:
"The President's new so-called plan for Iraq (the surge) amounts to nothing more than "Stay the Course," a futile exercise akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."

From Gen. Clark (Ret) June 24, 2008:
"It's about judgment -- and I think the answer is clear."

Well, he got the second one right, it is about judgment and his January 2007 statement does make the answer clear.

Posted by: majarosh on June 30, 2008 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

Gen. Clark should ignore Sen. Obama's idiot advisors and continue to go after McCain. McCain has absolutely nothing to run on except his having been shot down and held as a POW. If Gen. Clark should, for example, point out that not only are the Senator's qualifications for President no better than any other former POW, but also that the Senator (R) from AZ didn't even try to protect our soldiers from torture, sooner or later there will be an outburst from said Senator that even the toadying MSM won't be able to cover up.
And, sorry, but Sen. Obama should issue a "clarification" of his spokesperson's remarks and then speak up in defense of what Gen. Clark actually said. If any reporter asks about the "offending" phrase, put the blame for originating it where it belongs - on Robert Scheiffer.

Posted by: Doug on June 30, 2008 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

Jasper,

Regarding moral authority, Cindy Sheehan possessed moral authority to the extent she was the mother of a soldier killed in a senseless war and to the extent that she was able to articulate her grief in a way that most Americans understood. She lost that authority, or eroded it, when she became a cause celebre.

By this same token of personal experience, John McCain has (or had) moral authority on torture in a way most American could only imagine. Like Sheehan, McCain lost his moral authority not because he became a showboat, like Cindy Sheehan, but because he sold his soul for a shot at the nomination. He failed in the end to use his POW-maverick-straight-talk-bully-pulpit to excoriate torture at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. He is ambitious, as they say, in the worst way.

We civilians have to let purple heart vets like McCain and Clark fight this one out. We just can't know what they know about that war.

This is where Sully is sunk: He wants his John McCake--the tortured POW GOP candidate whose military cred cannot be questioned--and to eat it too.

Posted by: paxr55 on June 30, 2008 at 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

While I can't claim absolute veracity about my suspicions about McCain, I do know the following:

1. He really isn't the swiftest kid on the block. In a way he's a "similarly shallow" type of GOP guy as is our current POTUS.

2. Given #1, he is backed by a shadow government (aka Cheyney).

3. He was not considered to be a very savvy pilot, and had a reputation of being a bit of a cowboy (just like George...again)

4. He has a temper.

5. My dad, who's 80, thinks he's a bit old for the job.

6. Why on Earth would we the people benefit having him as POTUS? Is perpetuawar really our future?

7. He is very casual with facts.

8. Your turn

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on June 30, 2008 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

Tom:

9. Don't forget he couldn't keep his dick in his pants while his first wife Carol was trying to recover from a crippling automobile accident.

10. And while his dick was out his pants, he was lucky enough to latch on to an heiress, who now basically supports him.

11. And they have so many houses, that they sometimes forget to pay the property taxes on some of them...

Posted by: beowulf888 on June 30, 2008 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

If Clark is wrong... I was in a car accident once and spent a couple of weeks in hospital. I guess that qualifies me to run the Transportation Safety Admninistration.

Posted by: DNS on July 1, 2008 at 12:28 AM | PERMALINK

Someone needs to tell Bob Schieffer, “Independence Day” was not a documentary.

Riding in a jet plane and getting shot down may be qualifications for receiving a medal or a pension, but it is absurd to somehow suggest it is a qualification to be president. Fighter pilots oversee an organization of one housed in a single unit that is adept at making quick changes in direction. Given the risk inherent in the job, having a large ego is a plus (see "the Right Stuff"). I have worked with ex-fighter pilots in industry, and as a group their strength is not executive management.

Posted by: fafner1 on July 1, 2008 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

"If you look at what Hillary Clinton has done during her time as the First Lady of the United States, her travel to 80 countries, her representing the U.S. abroad, plus her years in the Senate, I think she's the most experienced and capable person in the race, not only for representing am abroad, but for dealing with the tough issues of national security."-Wesley Clark, March 2008

Clark never responded to Bob Sheifer's reference to Obama's lack of experience:


CLARK: 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. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, "I don't know whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not, do you want to take the risk, what about your reputation, how do we handle this publicly? He hasn't made those calls, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: Can I just interrupt you? I have to say, Barack Obama hasn't had any of these experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down.

CLARK: I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president


Posted by: majarosh on July 1, 2008 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

Adding to fafner1's good post just above...

Anyone who has worked in a law firm knows that most lawyers are very bad managers. Most doctors can't manage their own offices.

Not every great athlete can be a great coach.

Not every orchestral musician would make a great conductor and most would certainly be no good at all at running a large, complex performing arts center.

After his release from captivity, McCain didn't do well in the Navy. He certainly wasn't singled out and groomed for more responsibility. My view is that, when he left the Navy, he had few options; no marketable skills and not much innate intelligence. So he married money and ran for office, repeatedly cashing in his POW check for votes. Nothing wrong with that, but let's call it what it is: someone making the best of what he had and taking advantage of the gripping truth of what he had gone through. People like that kind of story because, to them, it means strength of character and nobility -- and they're right, to a point. The mistake is in thinking that that particular kind of character necessarily makes you good at anything you decide to do. And that's just plain stupid.

Posted by: DNS on July 1, 2008 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

But Rumsfeld and Bush were both pilots! They prove that military piloting makes you an excellent war planning guy.

Posted by: Ollie Nord on July 1, 2008 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK


General Clark outranks Senator McCain.
He can tell him to do fifty push-ups.

Posted by: deejaayss on July 1, 2008 at 2:25 AM | PERMALINK

"I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president"

If my memory serves me, I'm gonna say that 43 out of the 44* that served as President don't have that particular qualification. And the one that did did a pretty lousy job.

(* George W. Florida. Always deserves the asterisk.)

Posted by: Robert earle on July 1, 2008 at 3:03 AM | PERMALINK

let's be very clear here: the swift-boat attacks against Kerry didn't go over a ``line.'' they were a pack of lies, bought and paid for by backers of George Bush. Period. They were completely outside any debate over Kerry's assertion that his war record qualified him to be president because they had nothing to do with his record at all.
If Clark or Obama had some friend of the campaign pay off a bunch of soldiers to say McCain was never a POW, that would be swiftboating because it would be a) demonstrably false as the evidence of McCain's prisoner status is irrefutable just as Kerry's war record has been amply corroborated and b) thus outside any debate over whether being a POW qualifies one to be president.

Posted by: secularhuman on July 1, 2008 at 3:18 AM | PERMALINK

And ever since historian writ,
And ever since a bard could sing,
Doth each exalt with all his wit
The noble art of murdering.

We love to read the glorious page,
How bold Achilles killed his foe;
And Turnus, felled by Trojans' rage,
Went howling to the shades below.

How Godfrey led his red-cross knights,
How mad Orlando slashed and slew,
There's not a single bard that writes
But doth the glorious theme renew.

And while, in fashion picturesque,
The poet rhymes of blood and blows,
The grave historian at his desk
Describes the same in classic prose.

(...)

Last year, my love, it was my hap
Behind a grenadier to be,
And, but he wore a hairy cap,
No taller man, methinks, than me.

Prince Albert and the Queen, God wot,
(Be blessings on the glorious pair!)
Before us passed. I saw them not--
I only saw a cap of hair.

Your orthodox historian puts
In foremost rank the soldier thus,
The red-coat bully in his boots,
That hides the march of men from us.

He puts him there in foremost rank,
You wonder at his cap of hair.
You hear his sabre's cursed clank,
His spurs are jingling everywhere.

Go to! I hate him and his trade:
Who bade us so to cringe and bend,
And all God's peaceful people made
To such as him subservient?

Tell me what find we to admire
In epaulets and scarlet coats--
In men, because they load and fire,
And know the art of cutting throats?

Posted by: ajay on July 1, 2008 at 5:17 AM | PERMALINK

At our site, we confess to being mystified. I don't see indignation as a successful campaign strategy. On the other hand, In 1988 I did not see the Pledge of Allegiance as a likely strategy either.

Posted by: Burr Deming on July 1, 2008 at 7:26 AM | PERMALINK

OOPSIE, posted my vitriolic comment on this matter in the wrong thread! But this is the MOST RIDICULOUS of all the ridiculous non-stories thus far...Clark did not ATTACK McCain - he responded to that old codger on FTN when he interrupted a very valid comment he was trying to make (another example of the rudeness of our MSM)...but that's Schieffer always looking for a SOUND BYTE that can be used throughout the day...you know how MSNBC has now become the pick up a stupid story and run it through all our shows all day long (with varying voices in chorus on silly panels)...now listening to Bill Press (supposedly progressive) adopt the "attack" language when discussing this non-issue. MY GOD it makes one want to take a bridge!!!!

Posted by: Dancer on July 1, 2008 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

If a Republican had said of John Kerry that "I don't think riding around in a boat and getting shot at is a qualification to become president." I doubt anyone would have complained very much. That is very different than lying his war record.

Posted by: david1234 on July 1, 2008 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Rusty Calley has military experience.

Posted by: Tirebiter in Sector R on July 1, 2008 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Jasper,

I suppose I'll be sorry for engaging you on this now moribund thread, but here goes.

Your initial comment, the one 9:34 pm, made you sound genuinely confused, struggling with puzzling reference points (Cindy Sheehan and John McCain) and disorganized observations about how their personal stories (experiences) necessarily eternally translated into moral authority (judgment).

I responded helpfully, I thought, by saying, well, it depends on what one does with one's vaunted moral authority (authority that suggests character and judgment). If one wastes it, as Cindy Sheehan and John McCain have, then you don't have it any more. It's pretty simple.

As for your observation that I had begged the question, I think not. Not on the matter of McCain and torture. I merely argued from the indisputable facts that McCain once survived torture, and he once deplored torture, and he once bucked the Bush administration on torture.

In short, McCain once had moral authority on torture. And now he's on board with torture. McCain didn't come, as you say, to a "different moral conclusion" from one I myself reached. He flip-flopped for reasons of political expediency.

Posted by: paxr55 on July 1, 2008 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

Look folks, Clark pointed out the obvious and irrefutable fact that getting your ass shot out of the sky does NOT in any way, shape, or form qualify you as commander in chief. It doesn't even qualify you to run a ship or command the air wing on a carrier. I see nothing personal about this. It's a fact. I, for one, am damned tired of hearing everyone trumpet this horse's ass claims of military expertise based on his tenure in the Hanoi Hilton. Tough survivor, yes; military genius, no. Full Stop.

Posted by: rbe1 on July 1, 2008 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Could someone remind me just HOW we know that McCain turned down release again and again?

I guess he got a medal for doing just that, but as we know from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truthiness, citations for giving someone a medal mean NOTHING.

Posted by: Cal Gal on July 1, 2008 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

I, for one, am damned tired of hearing everyone trumpet this horse's ass claims of military expertise based on his tenure in the Hanoi Hilton. Tough survivor, yes; military genius, no. Full Stop.

Amen brother.

Keeping us in a perpetual state of fear and war is the opposite of military genius.

A genius would keep the trump card up his or her sleeve until they absolutely needed it, and then strike deftly overwhelming superior foes with superior tactics and minimal loss to one's own armed forces.

The GOP foreign policy is "attack and occupy" in hopes of expanding the control of our beloved empire. Too bad that this has been the reason for the decline of nearly every empire I can think of.

Enough of the bullshit.

Posted by: John Carter, Warlord of Mars on July 1, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, not only is there nothing wrong with Clark's observation, there is everything right about it.

This is just another example of right wing irrationality and their neverending desire to reduce all rational discussion to chestpounding assertions of tribal dominance. It's the equivalent of asking, "Are you talking about my mother? Don't you say nothin' bad about my mother."

Posted by: The Fool on July 2, 2008 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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