[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."]
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?
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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