But it is less General Clark's comments that have me shaking my head and more John McCain's response to them.
In 2004, John McCain strongly condemned the 527 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, in very unequivocal terms. Quoting from The San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, August 6, 2004.
"It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me," McCain said, referring to attacks on his military record during the 2000 Republican primary race by supporters of Bush. At the time, Kerry and other senators who served in Vietnam came to McCain's defense. Kerry and McCain also worked together in the 1990s on resolving the question of American soldiers missing in action in Vietnam, which led to normalized relations between the countries.
"I deplore this kind of politics," McCain told the Associated Press. "I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable.
And yet, who did Senator McCain bring to his aid to defend him against this opinion of Gerneral Clark's? Senator Kerry perhaps, in recognition of the fact that the two men had both been attacked as regards whether their military records qualified them to make logistical and political decisions concerning warfare? That would be consistent and logical, seeing that Kerry defended McCain in 2000 and McCain defended Kerry in 2004.
No. John McCain produced fellow POW Colonel Bud Day. This would not in itself be a problem were it not for the fact that Day is one of the men McCain so roundly criticized. Colonel Day was one of the members of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and appeared in a national television ad for them. He also once said of John Kerry, the man who came to John McCain's defense in 2000,
"My view is he basically will go down in history sometime as the Benedict Arnold of 1971."
Day quickly proceeded to get up to old tricks, criticizing General Clark's own time in Vietnam.
Mr. McCain, I am appalled at your choice of spokesmen. If this is indicative of the type of "honorable" and "loyal" behavior we can expect from you now that you are the Republican candidate instead of the maverick outsider, then I consider you no better on the subjects of honesty and honor than the man you seek to replace in office.
Your judgement, sir, is very seriously flawed.
Oh, and by the way... I also find it appalling that I have paid all my property taxes to the County of San Diego in a timely manner while you let yours fall into default the last few years. This does not speak well of your ability to follow up on delegated responsibilities. That a presidential candidate should neglect to make certain his own taxes or those of his family had been paid speaks of the kind of neglectful oversight used as an excuse by President Reagan during Iran-Contra. Sir, did you actually learn nothing from your negative experience as one of the "Keating Five"?
If you can't be bothered to do it yourself, at least hire someone competent to do it for you.
Here are General Clark's comments from CBS' Face The Nation:
Bob Schieffer: Well you, you went so far as to say that you thought John McCain was, quote, and these are your words, "untested and untried," And I must say I, I had to read that twice, because you're talking about somebody who was a prisoner of war. He was a squadron commander of the largest squadron in the Navy. He's been on the Senate Armed Services Committee for lo these many years. How can you say that John McCain is un- untested and untried? General?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Because in the matters of national security policy making, it's a matter of understanding risk. It's a matter of gauging your opponents, and it's a matter of being held accountable. John McCain's never done any of that in his official positions. I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in Air- in the Navy that he commanded, it wasn't a wartime squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, 'I don't know whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not. Do you want to take the risk? What about your reputation? How do we handle it-'
Bob Schieffer: Well-
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: ' -it publicly.' He hasn't made those calls, Bob.