Wesley Clark’s opinion on McCain

113038ah "During a debate last year, McCain criticized Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for earmarking federal money for a Woodstock museum to honoring the three-day 1969 rock concert. "I wasn’t there, I’m sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event," he joked. "I was tied up at the time."

The campaign promptly turned the quip into an ad that included footage of McCain as a POW.

And this week, the campaign is running a new ad called "Safe" that displays black and white photos of McCain’s father and his grandfather — both admirals — followed by images of the wreckage of his shot down A-4E Skyhawk and of a wounded McCain imprisoned in Hanoi.

"Only a fool or a fraud talks tough or romantically about war. When I was five years old, my father left for war. My grandfather came home from war and died the next day. I was shot down over Vietnam and spent five years as a POW. Some of the friends I served with never came home. I hate war. And I know how terrible its costs are. I’m running for president to keep the country I love safe," McCain says in the ad, speaking directly to the camera."  AP


John McCain is an admirable man.  There are many such who wore the uniform of the United States in adverse circumstance.  Jim Webb, Chuck Hagel, Daniel Inouye, Bob Dole…  Shall I go on?  How many names would there be?  How many million names?  In their new found love of soldiers Americans ascribe something almost sacramental to the experience of military service.  This is unexpected.  There has emerged a kind of reverence for those who have served which is unfamiliar to the veterans of earlier generations.  I am old enough to remember the aftermath of World War II.  Veterans of that war were treated with respect, but not with veneration.  Perhaps there were too many of them for that. 

McCain’s brief experience as a junior naval aviator and his extended suffering in North Vietnamese hands seem to be thought by many to be serious qualifications for the ultimate job of making national level policy decisions about the country’s security.  Television newsies gush about his empathy with soldiers and understanding for the horrors of war.  Sentimentality abounds in these discussions.  Sentimentality is good in Valentine’s Day cards.  It is bad in picking a president for the country and a commander in chief for the armed forces.

Now Wesley Clark has challenged the reality of the level and extent of McCain’s real experience of command responsibility in the life and death business of leadership in war and peace.  McCain never commanded anything but small naval aviation units in war and a middling sized squadron command in peacetime.  He was a prisoner of the wretched North Vietnamese.  He was abused by them in violation of international law.  We Americans owe him a debt of gratitude for that.   The "job" of POW does not involve a lot of command responsibility except with regard to one’s own conduct.  McCain has spent a lot of time in the Congress.  The Congress has many vital functions.  Command is not one of them.  McCain never exercised command authority over anything but his own office when in the House of Representatives or the Senate. 

When Clark says that McCain does not have significant  command experience he is undoubtedly correct.   One might say that Senator McCain has thought about national security issues a lot.  I am sure that is true, but it is not necessary to have served in the military for one to have thought about national security issues.

Abraham Lincoln had a few month experience as a militia officer.  Franklin Roosevelt had been a civilian Secretary of the Navy.  Thomas Jefferson never served in the military.

There is no reason based on historical evidence to think that Barack Obama would not run a creditable administration in regard to national security.  Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman found George Marshall to help them with their burden.  Let us hope that Obama is looking for his Marshall.  pl


This entry was posted in Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to Wesley Clark’s opinion on McCain

  1. Curious says:

    Let’s bring in McCain, so we can re-do coldwar all over again.
    China and India are already reactivating their Kashmir-tibet military asset. With how we botched Pakitan-taliban-kashmir border. That place is going to be one shooting galery soon.
    It’s Sino-India war again. Bring in the CIA to prod the tibetan to revolt.
    Anybody notice, we are back to 50-60’s conflict area again? exact same spots (Palestine, Lebanon, Kashmir, Korea, southern africa)
    “By reactivating the airfield, India would like to be seen as exercising a more assertive presence in this area. Most of all it will be a great morale booster for our troops positioned there. Landing at Daulat Beg Oldi airfield will enable India to induct troops swiftly, improve communication network and increase the air effort in the region substantially,” Barbora added.
    “The reopening of the field is a signal to China that India will take steps to protect its national interest,” Dikshit told Asia Times Online.

  2. Bobo says:

    Politics brings out the worst in people. They will do or say anything to get their candidate elected.
    Wes Clark’s challenging McCain’s Command experience is the beginning of an orchestrated demeaning of McCain’s military experience. Guess its a reverse Swiftboat or something.
    Bottom line is the Navy does not make someone a Captain if they cannot lead nor does the Army make someone a General even if he does not know when to put his foot in his mouth.

  3. Fred says:

    Excellent commentary on command authority and responsibility. It should be mentioned that while authority can be delegated, responsibility never can be. (Those in and out of the administration who wish to shift responsibility to congress for starting the war should be reminded of that fact, as should those in Congress who want to shift blame for their failure to fulfill their obligations and address concerns in 2003 – prior to their vote.
    As for looking for another Marshall I agree, I hope Obama is looking for a Marshall. I doubt that you’ll find him on the cocktail circuit.

  4. Marcus says:

    Theory: The veneration for today’s veterans is in direct proportion to the shame and guilt felt for exposing them to unnecessary danger and sacrifice.

  5. Patrick Lang says:

    You should have guessed by now how hard it is for anyone to “orchestrate” me in anything.
    At a speaking engagement at a senior service college recently, an officer said to me, “it isn’t really true is it that in the old days you SF people did prety much what you thought best?”
    I explained to him that it was indeed true and that is where I had belonged. pl

  6. rjj says:

    He was abused by them in violation of international law.

    Which is likely to “scar” someone permanently with a loathing of oppression and a profoundly personal reverence for the rule of law. [possibly only my pollyanna fantasy.]

  7. jamzo says:

    your post gave words to two things i have been thinking about
    how the press has been magnifying the value of mccain’s military experience
    as pointed out he was a junior aviator and a POW
    and being on the armed services committee of the senate gave a him a lot of exposure to military issues
    (i think he was once liaison to this committee)
    hilary chose this committee to strengthnen her image as knowledgeable about warfare
    but i have wondered what caused a long-time presidential aspirant with a military background to not fight for a place on the committee on intelligence where foreign policy is the concern
    second and most important
    of your words were these:
    “In their new found love of soldiers Americans ascribe something almost sacramental to the experience of military service. This is unexpected”
    i have observed this and did not have the words to express it
    you have said it well
    does it have a simple explanation?
    is it an artifact of the vietnam experience?
    is it that people are wanting to oppose the war but are being very careful to make sure that there is no way that anyone can misconstrue their remarks as any kind of criticism of the troops?
    especially since from the start of the iraq debacle the president and the vice president have carefully and systematically shown themselves surrounded by enthusiastic troops

  8. JohnH says:

    Overlooked is the fact that Franklin Roosevelt had substantial executive experience in the military, serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy during WWI (1913-1920). He was also President the last time the United States actually won a major war.
    What is being challenged now is not just McCain’s lack of command experience. At issue is his strategic judgement and willingness to honor and care for the troops who served in this ill begotten venture.
    Unfortunately the person needed today is someone with the stature of an Eisenhower, someone who–like in Korea–can say “enough” to all the stupidity. That’s what military leaders serving as President are really good for.
    Since there is no one with that stature around, we will have to wait for the politicians to come to their senses, not a cheerful prospect.

  9. lina says:

    What Marcus said.
    Three cheers for Wesley Clark. I hope he’s on the short list for VP. I don’t think it’s “reverse swiftboating” to draw attention to a few facts.
    And speaking of swiftboating, if Clark were to get the VP nod, we’d have to revisit the whole Hugh Shelton/William Cohen flap again.
    Oh well, nobody’s perfect.
    Wesley Clark has an IQ in the range of Bill Clinton’s. He’s also knows economics and environmental science.
    Obama could do a lot worse.

  10. tony says:

    If only there was the draft today. Then everyone could have views with the same emotional basis on war. There is more focus on Iraq now because of its effect on the economy lives. The caskets of our dead are not allowed to be filmed on their return to the states.

  11. arbogast says:

    Thanks, Colonel Lang. You will make an excellent Secretary of Defense. I look forward to that day.

  12. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Here is an interesting take on McCain by Elliott D. Cohen:
    “John McCain has long been a major player in a radical militaristic group driven by an ideology of global expansionism and dominance attained through perpetual, pre-emptive, unilateral, multiple wars….” http://www.truthout.org/article/john-mccains-chilling-project-america

  13. Steve says:

    To your list of those who served in adverse circumstances, I would take the opportunity to add Max Cleland.

  14. Ken says:

    Wesley Clark didn’t achieve all of his success in life because he is stupid. If there is anything you can say about Wes Clark, it is that he isn’t dumb. As a former candidate for President, Clark has grown to become politically savvy. That is why I can’t understand why Clark would want to turn this election into an election on foreign policy credentials. Clark did campaign heavily for Hillary Clinton during the primaries. Could it be possible that Wes Clark is sabotaging Barack Obama for his girl in 2012?

  15. VietnamVet says:

    It does not matter what Senator McCain’s military background is or that he receives a Navy Tax-Free Disability Pension. It is clear as day that he will continue the current occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan forever.
    Senator McCain will never mentioned that the rise of gasoline prices is due to the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan raising the risk price of Middle East Oil and the cumulative Three Trillion dollars in war debt that is crashing the US dollar.
    He will never mention the security risks of all the excess oil money flowing from American drivers into the pockets of Muslim Extremists.
    He will never mention peak oil. He will never mention raising the taxes on the wealthy to pay for his never ending oil wars.
    He will never mention the coming collapse of the US Army from the Forever War.
    He will never mention the Draft.

  16. Farmer Don says:

    Col. Lang,
    Indeed an “Excellent commentary on command authority and responsibility”.
    It’s what makes History so interesting. The Study of how different men handled high authority and extreme responsibility in difficult situations.

  17. ked says:

    Who needs orchestration? I can dissect candidates solo. Here’s an article on McCain’s flying career from ’00…
    This excerpt is, well, instructive… “The instructor added that McCain was “positively one of the weakest students to pass our way, and received consistently poor marks and a number of Dangerous Down grades assigned by more than one instructor. He had no real ability and was clearly out of his element in an airplane, and way over his head even as a junior naval officer.”
    “”John McCain,” says another Navy pilot and acquaintance of that era, “was the kind of guy you wanted to room with — not fly with. He was reckless…”
    I much prefer a President who can recognize & work with a Marshall to one who thinks he is one – or Pappy Boyington, for that matter.

  18. Buzz Meeks says:

    Wet-Start McCain certainly has displayed command authority of his own legislative offices. The Keating Five savings and loan debacle, Jack Abramoff, the Rothschild foreign campaign fundraiser in London (which I think was illegal) in March 2008, his lobbying for European Aeronatic Defense and Space Co.’s Airbus tanker deal,and cutting funding for Amtrak certainly shows that his love of our country is more along the lines of Rethuglican contempt.
    EADS-Northrup isn’t even in his state so I can’t by any stretch think he is looking out for his constituents. Wet-Start only has himself to thank for what ever is flung at him. Not much of the flung materials will be reported NY Pravda or Pravda of the Potomac so thank Al Gore for inventing the internets.
    I don’t know how much Wet-Start McCain collaborated with the North Vietnamese. He is certainly collaborating against American vital Constitutional and domestic issues now.
    Buzz Meeks
    PS. I can’t wait for him to come to my town next month. My dozen eggs are already sitting in the sun.

  19. Larry Mitchell says:

    “In their new found love of soldiers Americans ascribe something almost sacramental to the experience of military service. This is unexpected. There has emerged a kind of reverence for those who have served which is unfamiliar to the veterans of earlier generations.”
    I think this has to do with the fact that the military is now all volunteer. A small percentage volunteer, and the rest really don’t want to go. Now they don’t have to, and this is a good situation for them. It is now possible to be patriotic by loving the soldiers. Magnetic ribbons on your car help too. During Vietnam and the draft, people who didn’t want to be in the military were more likely to justify it by declaring that joining the military was a bad thing, in my opinion.
    I am glad to see the soldiers being treated well this time around, but I am cynical about the reason for it. I’m sure that some of the love and respect is genuine. For the record, I didn’t volunteer but was drafted. I do respect the volunteers.

  20. Duncan Kinder says:

    John McCain is an admirable man.
    While I think that McCain has enjoyed too much of a free ride on the “character” issue, there is a more important point.
    Perhaps the two most admirable men to have been elected president have been Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter.
    The problem with John McCain is that he thinks that all foreign policy is a redux of WWII. And that was 60 years ago. He also thinks that the sixties were some sort of Woodstock aberration that the country needs to get over to return to its WWII excellence. And the 60s were 40 years ago.
    We need a president who is prepared to grapple with the 21st Century; not to attempt to revive the 20th.
    For example, there is a deafening silence from both candidates about the drug lord war down in Mexico. And that is going to overshadow even Iraq during the next administration.
    It would be nice to know if either Obama or McCain had any concept of how he might respond to that.

  21. GW says:

    What has Obama commanded?
    You really think he will find a Marshall?
    Trinity Church?
    Maybe he can get Bill Ayers to serve as National Security Advisor…
    Forget the command question (a false canard, BTW) and ask how many years of national politics each candidate has.

  22. Patrick Lang says:

    You are funny. You have not seen my stuff on Obama? What are you, a relative?
    So, what is unfair about the “canard?” What did he ever command? pl

  23. lina says:

    Obama is not claiming command experience. McCain is hanging his presidential aspirations on his national security credentials. What Gen. Clark asks us to reflect upon is that in addition to his years as a POW, McCain has 26 years in the Senate and six years supporting George W. Bush’s war policies. McCain asks the voters to believe he is better on foreign policy than Obama. Clark disputes this premise, which, by the way, is accepted and touted daily in the mainstream media.

  24. Arun says:

    I want a President who knows how to use a PC. 🙂
    More to the point, it is difficult to know where McCain stands on any issue. If Kerry was a flip-flopper, then McCain is a mega-Kerry.

  25. David W. says:

    I’m interested to hear more about McCain’s performance from his old shipmates and fellow pilots; Here’s to the USS Forestal becoming this years’ Swift Boat!

  26. arthurdecco says:

    Bobo said: “Wes Clark’s challenging McCain’s Command experience is the beginning of an orchestrated demeaning of McCain’s military experience.”
    If we’re going to demean McCain’s military experience I think we should start with the fact he graduated third from the bottom of his Annapolis class of hundreds, rather than with his incompetent handling of a multi-million fighter jet entrusted to his care by his government – incompetence, (or inattention) that led to its destruction and his long term incarceration by his 3rd world military opponents.
    What “Command” experience, Bobo?
    Was he a “manager” at MacDonalds after class and no one told me?

  27. Tyler says:

    You’d think if McCain was such an excellent politician, he would have been able to present himself to the Republicans without selling his soul in the process to the party’s lunatic fringe.

  28. GW says:

    I meant that the question of command (re. either McCain or Obama) is not relevant.
    John McCain is a genuine hero, but I don’t think he is claiming any sort of extensive command experience. His relevant experience – where he is years ahead of Obama – 20+ years in national policy.
    No, I’m not a relative BUT, my niece is a former Senate staffer and has had encounters with McCain; she doesn’t have good memories of these encounters.

  29. cletracsteve says:

    There seems to be a need to prove a candidate has experience. I would prefer intelligence, aptitude for horse trading, deductive logic, knowledge, an appreciation of other cultures possibly through travel …. Look what ‘experience’ has brought us today. Did not Cheney and Rumsfield and Addington … have experience? So, recent experience suggests that you may NOT want experience.

  30. dilbert dogbert says:

    I had co-workers who flew in Viet Nam. One an American Indian and two plain white guys. My BIL served on Swift Boats and was wounded in action. I think my indian friend and my BIL would make OK presidents but not the plain white guys.
    There are maybe several million people in the US who would make excelent presidents. To bad the system throws up what it throws up.

  31. rjj says:

    General Grant had a lot of command experience.

  32. N, Kimberlin says:

    War is so horrible that I have always believed that no president or leader in our country should ever lead our country into war unless they are willing for their children to be in the mililary.
    How easy it is for our leaders to send the others into war but not their children.

  33. Green Zone Cafe says:

    A Marshall for Obama? Interesting idea, colonel. Marshalls don’t grow on trees, though.
    Clark might make a good running mate, but he’s too political to be a Marshall, too lean and hungry in my opinion. Lord Petraeus is lean and hungry also.
    Admiral Mullen seems like he could step into the role, he might bloom to full potential under a president less addicted to spin and BS. Fortunately, we will have less spin and BS no matter who gets elected.

  34. kim says:

    arbogast, no, something more, um, focused. in, say, mrs. clinton’s (or, i dunno, maybe mr. clinton’s) state department.
    colonel lang, you have submitted yer resume, yes? no, we’re all way serious here.
    i said here, some while ago, that john mccain is an american hero who deserves respect for his service to the nation,without regard to whether he could fly right or not. and not diminished because of damage incurred by his psyche as result of that service. so i’ll try not to speak ill of the man (he don’t make it easy), but no, he’s earned no votes.
    i agree w duncan k on mexico. i might give obama, and most of politico/government america, a pass on this, but it’s been impacting directly on mccain’s home state for a couple years now.
    obama/clark ’08. sounds workable.

  35. Curious says:

    Command that really matter:
    – How does McCain command his campaign? (the people around him, the pace, the way he reaches out, message, etc.)
    – How does McCain command the GOP. (he is deFacto leader, right?)
    on both account, I think his leadership skill is lacking. He runs his campaign in very traditional way. His military experience obviously doesn’t translate well into campaign management. He is in perpetual 1980’s.

  36. Buzz says:

    I read an interview (found by Googling Perot) with H Ross Perot a couple of months ago. Perot was a family friend and stepped in to hold the family together after McCains first wifes near fatal auto accident while John was a POW.
    Perot can’t stand McCain and considers him to be a man without personal integrity because of the way he threw out his first wife after returning to the USA as a “war hero”.
    Buzz G.

  37. Arun says:

    John McCain is an admirable man.
    If it were me, I would amend that to “how McCain handled himself when in uniform in adverse circumstances” is admirable.
    This report from NJ, and its conclusion are a **daily** occurrence with Mr. Straight Talker, and that is hardly admirable.
    “McCain said that the Obama camp is going to try and claim that he is for privatizing Social Security and that this is untrue. He then claimed he was against privatizing Social Security while in the very next sentence, proposing a policy that was, in effect, privatizing Social Security. Now there’s video showing McCain supporting the privatization of Social Security in 2004 despite McCain saying that he’s never supported it. McCain lies at the drop of a hat.”

  38. I’m tired of the presidency being turned into some quasi-generalissimo in civvies. If I hear the term “Commander in Chief” or see “CINC” one more time my head will explode.
    Off to yard work.

  39. Taters says:

    Here is the YouTube clip with Wes Clark on this subject on the Morning Joe.
    Gen. Clark (Ret.)was first in his class at West Point. As was Robert E. Lee, Douglas MacArthur and Maxwell Taylor.
    We all honor John McCain’s service and the terrible suffering he experienced as a POW. It would be wrong for anyone to denigrate McCain’s sacrifices but that is not to be confused with mistaken policies.
    On Iraq, Iran and the new GI Bill – IMHO, he is just plain wrong.
    Clark from HuffPo on Sen. McCain…
    “I know he’s trying to get traction by seeking to play to what he thinks is his strong suit of national security,” Clark said of McCain while speaking from his office in Little Rock, Arkansas. “The truth is that, in national security terms, he’s largely untested and untried. He’s never been responsible for policy formulation. He’s never had leadership in a crisis, or in anything larger than his own element on an aircraft carrier or [in managing] his own congressional staff. It’s not clear that this is going to be the strong suit that he thinks it is.”
    Resume aside, though, Clark also took issue with the Arizona Republican’s instincts on national security. “McCain’s weakness is that he’s always been for the use of force, force and more force. In my experience, the only time to use force is as a last resort. … When he talks about throwing Russia out of the G8 and makes ditties about bombing Iran, he betrays a disrespect for the office of the presidency.”
    On another note, Col. Lang has spoken eloquently on the bond and special friendships that are forged by those that have served together.
    When asked, Clark reports a feeling of contentment with his work in the private sector. Joined with the opportunity to comment on current affairs, he rightly deems it “a full life.” But even Clark admits he doesn’t have everything. “I miss my friends in the military. You know, the camaraderie,” he said.

  40. ChrisH says:

    To your list of those who served in adverse circumstances, I would take the opportunity to add Max Cleland.
    . . . and might I add, Sen Bob Kerrey.

  41. To paraphrase:”War is too important to be left to a POW!” “If war is an extension of politics, then a political war is an extension of ______ (fill in the blanks)but most likely is “political misunderstanding of reality.”

  42. James P. Carter says:

    John McCain may well be hanging his presidential aspirations on his national security credentials but Barack Obama has been hanging his presidential aspirations on his initial adament opposition to OIF, opposition which he himself has stated wasn’t based upon any national security intelligence available at the time and which he has professed is a measure of his good judgment. Given the progress made since the “surge”, which McCain supported and Obama opposed, I’d say McCain’s national security credentials have significantly more merit than Obama’s “good” judgment.
    NObama, ever.

Comments are closed.