Wesley Clark

I really wanted to stay out of this overblown flap over what Gen. Wesley Clark said on Face the Nation yesterday, but I feel the need to jump into a response to this from Andrew.

Strictly speaking, it is irrelevant for the presidency if someone was shot down and tortured. It doesn’t make anyone a better potential president. But there are plenty of ways to put this and to frame this without descending to a default position that seems to devalue McCain’s service. Clark is a dreadful politician and his off-the-cuff response, while technically true, is terrible politics and about the last debate Democrats need or should want to have.

Whatever you think of the tact, or lack thereof, of Clark’s statement, this sentiment strikes me as being entirely wrong. Maybe Obama should stay away from such arguments, but Democrats in general, especially those with their own distinguished service records should not. Now granted, I could be somewhat biased for my general disdain with the irrepressible conflating of military service, at any level, “and foreign policy experience,” (which I fully intend to write about at length sometime this cycle), but I think that Democrats should tackle the idea that McCain’s military history is a dispositive bit of relative experience to the Presidency early and often. If for nothing else, ground should not be ceded to a McCain camp with few legs to stand on. There’s no way to tell what the dominant issue will be 2-3 weeks out of the election, so ceding fundamental ground on an issue that could very likely loom large like foreign policy is simply a bad idea. That’s not to say that Democrats should go the way of the Swift Boaters and fundamentally disparage the nature of McCain’s service in a disparaging manner, but in the context of whether or not being in combat gives one a particular experience that is overwhelmingly beneficial to later being President, Democrats should run military men out at any necessary turn to spar with McCain. I suppose if for no other reason than it’s fundamentally true, and on some level I guess I’d like for some truth to be spoken as opposed to ceding ground to outright inaccurate memes. As many people have pointed out, through the entirety of McCain’s military career, he was never responsible for crafting policy, never responsible to the large focus of the military apparatus as a whole (which probably explains his otherwise inexplicable willingness to delegate the role of Commande-in-chief and the broad US interest on the hole to the “commanders” who have the narrow focus of Iraq), to say nothing of being responsible for anything approaching the domestic role of the Presidency. The same goes for his Senate tenure.

And if nothing else, it’s never bad to expose the blatant hypocrisy of the GOP. After all, after embracing the Swift Boat attacks, how are they really going complain and be taken seriously?