Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Respect the Service; Confront the Man

Quick way to explain the difference between what the Swift-Boat Liars did to John Kerry and what Gen. Wesley Clark is saying about John McCain:

"Swift-boating" attacks the man by lying about the service. Clark respects the service, but questions its relevance to the office sought by the man.

Salon has the video of Clark making his case, and Steve Benen comments:

Perhaps because of the four stars on his shoulder, retired Gen. Wesley Clark is bolder than most when it comes to criticizing John McCain's efforts to connect his military experience with his presidential qualifications. Indeed, Clark has been tougher than most in pushing back against the Republican nominee's pitch.


It's not especially surprising that Clark's remarks aren't going over well on the right. Several conservative bloggers have the outrage meter turned up to 11, and the McCain campaign issued a statement accusing the Obama campaign of wanting to "question John McCain's military service," and allowing Obama's campaign surrogates "to demean and attack John McCain's military service record."

This morning on MSNBC, Mika Brzezinski and Andrea Mitchell admonished Clark, insisting that his remarks weren't "fair." Yesterday, CNN's Rick Sanchez accused Clark of trying to "Swift boat" McCain.

I can appreciate the fact that Clark's comments might seem intemperate, but the reaction is more than a little over the top.

First, there are no similarities between Clark's remarks and the Swift boat attacks. Clark never said, and wouldn't say, that McCain lied about his service, or won medals he hadn't earned.

Second, did Clark say anything that was, you know, false? To be sure, McCain served heroically, and endured torture and abuse that I can hardly imagine as a POW. The nation will always owe him a debt of gratitude for what he endured. But Clark's point is that this service, four decades ago, does not necessarily constitute a presidential qualification today. We don't hear that often, but that doesn't make it outrageous.

And at HuffPo, John Soltz of VoteVets bolsters Clark's argument and offers a way to express support for General Clark.

This wasn't a swift boating, or any low politics. General Clark called McCain a hero to millions for his sacrifice. And, that's a pretty big statement coming from a man who, himself, left Vietnam on a stretcher. But, facts are facts:

• Senator McCain's service and experience, both as a POW and as a Senator apparently hasn't infused him with a dose of good judgment.

• Senator McCain's experience hasn't led him to realize that the war in Iraq and it's continuance has empowered and emboldened Iran, and destabilized the region.

• Senator McCain's experience hasn't caused him to recognize that we're losing ground in Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden is still out there, plotting.

• Senator McCain's experience didn't lead him to support the 21st Century GI Bill -- he opposed it. It didn't even make him feel the need to get back to Washington to vote on this -- one of the most important veterans' bills this Congress. He twice skipped votes on the GI Bill, to fundraise.

• Senator McCain's experience didn't help him empathize with troops are overstretched and overdeployed, when he voted against the bipartisan Webb-Hagel "Dwell Time Amendment," which would have given troops as much time at home as in the field.

Senator McCain is running on his experience, saying it makes him ready to lead right away. By doing so, he is asking people to look at what that experience taught him. By looking at Senator McCain's positions and votes (or lack of them), it seems that experience has not given him the right judgment on important issues of our time. And, while we should all honor Senator McCain's service, that doesn't mean we should necessarily honor it by putting him in the White House to take up George W. Bush's third term.

So, General Clark is 100 percent absolutely right, and he should not back down. I'd hope that some of the so-called progressives on television back him up on this, and not get intimidated by the media and McCain campaign press releases. These are important times, and deserve a blunt and honest debate.

In some circles, that's just called 'straight talk.'

UPDATE: Since a lot of you are sending words of support on here for General Clark, we started a petition where you can sign to thank him, and tell him to keep it up. We will take the petition to General Clark, personally. Also, it's important to sign, so we can show the media that we've got his back.

Sign the petition, and don't let anyone get away with calling Clark's straight talk "swift-boating."

Cross-posted at Blue in the Bluegrass.