The McCain campaign has worked itself into a lather over the comments made by Gen. Wesley Clark on "Face The Nation" Sunday. Here's the transcript of the controversial exchange, courtesy of Political Punch :
BOB SCHIEFFER: How can you say that John McCain is untested and untried, General?
CLARK: Because in the matters of national security policy making, it's a matter of understanding risk. It's a matter of gauging your opponents and it's a matter of being held accountable.
John McCain's never done any of that in his official positions. I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in the armed forces, as a prisoner of war. He 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 that calls, Bob.
SCHIEFFER: Well, General, maybe -- could I just interrupt you?
SCHIEFFER: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences, either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean...
CLARK: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.I bolded a portion I thought was interesting; McCain and his people have accused Clark of denigrating McCain's service. Obama took a minute in his patriotism speech today to say that "no one should ever devalue [military] service, especially for the sake of a political campaign."
And I have to say: I'm not seeing it.
OK, Clark takes a sentence to say that McCain didn't command a "wartime" squadron, whatever that means. That's a semantical distinction; whether it was a wartime squadron or not, McCain still risked his life in a battlefield environment, which is the important thing.
But beyond that, there's nothing particularly objectionable about Clark's comments. He's largely correct. McCain hasn't made the decision to commit troops to a foreign land. (Neither has Obama) He hasn't crafted a diplomatic strategy. (Neither has Obama)
Clark explicitly honors McCain's service and his sacrifice. He acknowledges the heroism McCain showed. But he also points out the rather obvious point that being shot down is not prima facie evidence of the wisdom, judgement and discernment needed to be an effective president.
Political Punch guest blogger Ron Klein also points out that the response team assembled by the McCain campaign to slam Clark includes several veterans of the Swift Boat gang. Suffice it to say I find their outraged protestations rather unpersuasive.