June 30th, 2008
04:50 PM ET

Patriotism and the price of gas: What matters to you?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/06/29/clark.mccain/art.clark.gi.jpg caption="Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who ran for president in 2004 questioned John McCain's qualifications Sunday."]
Barclay Palmer
AC360° Senior Producer

The McCain camp fired back after retired Gen. Wesley Clark said on Sunday that he doesn't think John McCain's service as pilot or prisoner of war is relevant to being president, saying McCain is “untested and untried” because he hasn’t “held executive responsibility.”

McCain and his campaign blamed Barack Obama, saying he hasn’t stopped surrogate attacks. “If that's the kind of campaign that senator Obama and his surrogates and his supporters want to engage in I understand that. But it doesn’t reduce the price of a gallon of gas by one penny,” McCain said. His campaign launched a "Truth Squad" of his Vietnam contemporaries, including Bud Day of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth group that attacked John Kerry's candidacy, to counter attacks on McCain's military record.

Clark isn't the only high-profile Dem supporter to question McCain's military record. Howard Dean called McCain an "opportunist" in March, when McCain launched a tour introducing himself to Americans and featuring his POW experience. And Sen. Jay Rockefeller has criticized McCain for dropping bombs over Vietnam, killing innocent people.

Nevertheless, Obama disavowed Clark’s comment today, saying, “For those like John McCain who have endured physical torment in service to our country… we must always express our profound gratitude.”He made the comment during a speech about his own patriotism, and promised he “will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign” – an implicit challenge to McCain to promise the same.

Also on Sunday, John Aravosis, on the liberal Americablog.com, asked “what did McCain do to excel in the military” and accused him of "disloyalty" for participating in a propaganda film after being tortured in Vietnam. “Getting shot down, tortured, and then doing propaganda for the enemy is not command experience,” Aravosis wrote.

As Politico.com reports today, Alexander Cockburn in April took a similar tack , excoriating the press for failing to ask about McCain’s “collaborating with his Vietnamese captors.”

Do you think a gun was pointed at McCain during the filming?

So many questions arise, including this: Is McCain’s experience as POW relevant to his candidacy for office – or not? If so, should we examine it? If not, should it continue to be a selling point?

Do any of these issues really matter, or are they just being used as weapons in the political war… And is this just a variation on the lapel pin war, the Swift Boat war, and all the other political wars fought at a distance from the issues that personally affect Americans… such as what’s going to reduce the price of a gallon of gas by one penny?

Filed under: Barclay Palmer • John McCain • Raw Politics
soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. Bob Dani

    I am assuming those questioning Senator McCain's patriotism or as being an American Hero, and then if he is qualified to be President of the United States, would question General George Washington qualifications too.

    Give me a break Gen. Westley Clark, quit using your disgruntled rejections the American people showed your candidacy for president. You lack people skills, not qualifications and the difference between you and Senator McCain he has both.

    YES he is qualified, and very qualified. The same way President Kennedy was qualified and was an American Hero, after his WWII efforts in commanding a PT boat, and his survival. Would and does Gen. Clark, think of this just as a little navy boat too, unheroic.

    Attending a University and hollering in the town square, does not qualify as a American Hero or Patriot. To be a hero in America you have got to dig in a get your hands dirty, hollering in the town square is just that.............hollering and does not qualify as a hero or patriot.

    Let us remember what the Constitution of the United States says, regarding who is qualified........not some disgruntled past candidate.

    Bob Dani
    Edmond, OK

    July 1, 2008 at 6:00 am |
  2. Matthew Smith

    How come we dont hear more about Obamas past ? Where did obams get his money from? How long did obama attend a school that teaches radical islam? How come obama not only attended a church that preaches racism and hatred toward America but was also very close friends with the pastor for 20 years? How come obamas wife wrote a racist essay while attending her university? How come obama failed to vote most of the time while he was senator? How come obama was ashamed to let people know his mother was white? If this had been any other candidate it would have been on the news 24/7 but with obama we dont hear about anything important. All we hear is how good a speaker he is and how he has this plan or that plan but NOBODY has any idea how his plans work.

    July 1, 2008 at 3:16 am |
  3. jan hamlet

    I do not think Wesley Clark should have to apologize for exercising his right to free speech. If that's the way he feels, so be it. I feel the same way! What do we REALLY know about John McCain? He's not a life time military officer. He hasn't been in the military for over 25 years. I don't think anyone criticizes his service 25 years ago, but I would like to know why he classified his military record if he is so honorable? What is he hiding? I've read that he gave away military secrets when he was captured so he could get treatment. I think we should know ALL about the person running for president. We didn't know enough about Bush and we all know where that left us! If we have another terrorist attack, Bush and McCain and Israel will be to blame! Israel said that they would attack Iran if Obama won. That is insanity and it's time we reeled in the crazies in Israel! I would call this fearmongering a form of terrorism and I think we need to hold someone accountable! If this country goes into another war for oil profits, somebody needs to go to jail! ENOUGH of this madness. We need to support Obama because he is for PEACE. GOD is against war, so all the christians and evangelicals and anyone that believes in GOD should absolutely be against war. Thou Shalt NOT Kill! We MUST get off this war mentality! Everybody buy an electric car and vote for OBAMA!

    July 1, 2008 at 2:49 am |
  4. Paul Freed

    General Clark was Army, Senator McCain was a Navy Aviator. A little of the old inter-service rivalry perhaps? Being in the military and having been in a leadership role does HELP qualify you to be Commander in Chief, which is ONE of the hats the President wears. Many years experience in the Senate is another qualifying experience point. Neither candidate is perfect; both have good qualities and both have plenty of skeletons in their closets. Clark's statement was his own opinion, and should be taken as such.

    July 1, 2008 at 2:29 am |
  5. Gwen

    All of this is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
    It's the economy, jobs and the healthcare that nobody can afford.
    When people cannot afford food or gas, do you think they will still be paying for cable and internet conx? I don't think so.

    July 1, 2008 at 2:16 am |
  6. Saul Kondrotas

    Going through a Vietnamese (or KGB, or Iraqi, or Mosad, or whatever) interrogation doesn't make you proud of service to your country. It's a sad story. Essentially, you are a wreck of a normal human being, grateful for surviving at all. I have a lot of empathy for a person who's gone through it but, on the other hand, I think it automatically disqualifies that person as a presidential candidate. Wes Clark is right, but only partially. McCain shouldn't be allowed to even apply to the office. Very sad. I like the guy but there is no way.

    July 1, 2008 at 1:49 am |
  7. Gilby

    If we can just get past the 9-11 thing we will be better off.
    It is a thing that belongs in the courts: Like OJ or Spector.
    Let get "Obama real", and just smoke a bowl and do a little change buggy.

    July 1, 2008 at 1:42 am |
  8. Derek

    As Mr. Carville claimed about Gen. Clark's comments regarding Sen. McCain's service and his qualifications, "Clark made a legitimate point in response to a question" and "why are we not talking about Clark's 30 military decorations?" Other people have as many or more decorations so why not interview them as well?

    The question I have is what credentials does Wesley Clark have to comment on a Presidential election? At present he is simply a regular citizen and unlike most regular citizens, a political failure! John McCain is a Senator and is, to my knowledge, well-respected for his services as a Senator. These may be his qualifications to be President. At least his campaigns have been successful so far.

    July 1, 2008 at 1:29 am |
  9. B.J. Houston

    Obama: Tell me his military history. Where is his hand (not over his heart) when Richardson (New Mexico), Clinton (New York); just standing there like he was in the wrong Country! Just be BRAVE:CNN, and tell us the military history of Obama in America.
    A good slick talker and a flip-flopper will not win a seat at the White House. And the remark by Ret. Wesley Clark was just not worth hearing and watching; no matter what Party one is for. I vote for the MAN, not the Party.
    Most of Obama's life was not spent as an American.
    Stop the lies & THE Whinning and get on with what we all can do to make a better United States of America.

    July 1, 2008 at 1:27 am |
  10. Bob Edwards

    Specifically when did John McCain say that being a fighter pilot qualified him to be president? I think Clark made this up.

    July 1, 2008 at 1:24 am |
  11. WR

    I agree with James Carvell. What on earth is the debate about? General, I repeat, General Wesley Clark was correct. How is getting shot down in an airplane a qualifier for president?!!! McCain is trying to hype his resume but he has never operated in any executive position. The one executive position he has operated in which is the campaign, he was horrible. He had to use his wife's private plain, he still doesn't have control over his surrogate's who run his campaign (Black re: terrorism). Obama has been successful from day one in running his campaign. He has enough money to payoff Clinton's debt as well. To me, that shows he knows how to control money.

    Clark is right!! I hope he hangs in there and maintains his position that he hasn't shown any executive abilities. McCain's definately shown he's a warmonger wanting to go and "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran". Not to mention, voting for an illegal war in Iraq. Clark is right, it's about judgment. Surrounding himself with Charlie "the terrorist" Black, Phil "the banker" Graham tell us a lot. You in the media are letting him get away with it too. Instead of concentrating on Clark who isn't even a campaign representative for Obama (supporting someone doesn't count) is a red herring. McCain's connections w/Former Senator Graham and his lobbying dealings with banks is a story whic effects the public due to the predatory loans involved with Graham's connections.

    As far as I'm concerned, General Clark who was also wounded in Vietnam can say what he wants. It wasn't Obama who said it so leave him out of it. Clark can speak for himself.

    July 1, 2008 at 1:20 am |
  12. winston

    i believe that the general made a true statement. it is not about patriotism or honor. the fact remains that being a fighter pilot and being a prisoner of war doesnot qualify anyone including maccain to be president. maccain is the one that uses his war record as his qualification on national security issues and i think it is time he was reminded that being a war hero doesnot make a person a national security expert.

    July 1, 2008 at 1:19 am |
  13. gar

    The Vietnam vets are the heroes of the forgotten war because America surrendered .54000 young people gave their lives many more maimed so people can make stupid comments about a pilot being shot down. Now we all want to repeat the same process by surrendering the middle east and our oil supplies at our peril. This has a cause. vietnam was all politics. this one if we lose you will find the American way of life much more like your grandparents put up with,then we will discover our mettle

    July 1, 2008 at 1:00 am |
  14. Kim

    Well I am starting to loose respect for McSame's war record. How much more millage do people think McSame can get out of it anyways.

    You could ask McSame about the price of corn and he would blame Obama or start telling us the same war story again.

    Getting shot down does not make you a better President!

    July 1, 2008 at 12:32 am |
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