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July 1, 2008
Let's Talk Qualifications
Senator Obama said the following in his prepared speech on patriotism Monday: "I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign. And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine." Later in the prepared speech, Mr. Obama goes on to say "that no one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign, and that goes for supporters on both sides."
That's all fine and good. Gratuitously devaluing service and questioning patriotism are low-brow strategies at best. They rely on the bulk of the electorate thinking at the lowest common denominator. Not to say it doesn't happen
Just the day before Mr. Obama's prepared speech, Obama surrogate, Wesley Clark, said the following on Face the Nation with regard to Sen. McCain's military experience: "I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president." To be honest, I don't either. I don't think Senator McCain or any of his surrogates ever said that it was. Mr. McCain is not running for office based on his experience in Vietnam, unlike Senator "Reporting for Duty" Kerry. Much of the media coverage about this matter has centered around who offended or devalued whom and has done nothing more than make what is already political theater more melodramatic.
Therefore, I don't think Mr. Clark's comment about Mr. Cain was "devaluing" or "questioning". It was simply a statement. Left-wing nuts will eat it up (and totally miss the irony) - all military types are war-mongers anyway. But in reality, it was an observation made without much, if any, social grace. That it comes from a former 4-star whose own presidential campaign (in 2004) was quite brief is instructive.
But since we're on the qualifications subject, how about a little thought experiment? If we put aside, for the sake of argument, Mr. McCain's military experience -- all of it -- and base the experience solely on performance in political office. Would anyone argue that Mr. McCain's experience simply blows Mr. Obama's away in myriad ways? Does Mr. Obama have the same record of working with opposition party members for compromise? Does he go against the party grain to do what he thinks is the right thing legislatively? Does he have a history - even a recent history - of changing position on a hot topic based on reasonable reconsideration?
All of these questions may be twisted in the political winds that surround and shelter Mr. Obama as "devaluing" his service. Imaginary excuses (according to Mr. Obama himself) - "He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?" - are pushed on Mr. Obama's opposition without the opposition uttering a word. His credentials are beyond question, at least in his own mind, simply because he is who he is. But he should not, indeed must not, be allowed to side-step really tough questions, like those about experience, by way of some verbal / emotional maneuver.
Bob Myer blogs at mindofflapjack.blogspot.com/
Update -- Mitch Proenza adds:
Is Wesley Clark running for President? In reviewing John McCain's 22 year service in the U.S. Navy and his service in Congress Wesley Clark has, on consecutive days suggested that John McCain does not have experience at the highest levels of government decision making to be an effective President in regards to national security.
He first made the comments on the CBS program "Face the Nation" last Sunday and has managed to accrue more face time by standing by his remarks with multiple television interviews through Tuesdays "Good Morning America" broadcast.
Bob Sheiffer, the host of "Face the Nation", was surprised by General Clark's assertions and asked him how that contrasted with the Democratic Nominee, Barack Obama. Here are the quotes taken directly from the CBS, Face the Nation Website. "Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification for president," he said.
Wesley Clark has held the type of executive responsibility that he asserts McCain lacks. He has been a General in command including Supreme Allied Commander of NATO during the Kosovo campaign. His military career ended according to Wikipedia with his difficult relationships with superiors.
Wesley Clark is not unlike many who have had power posts in government, they get close enough to the machinations of government and conclude that they could and should be president. Clark had an unsuccessful run as the Democrats standard bearer and still can not get over that rejection. His comments about McCain are less about his sycophantic support for Obama and more about him. He still can't get over that the nation has chosen not to take advantage of him. If he is not replaying his run for president it should be clear that Wesley Clark is running for something.