Now General Wesley Clark has sort of made a name for himself by saying stupid things in front of television cameras, so it is hard to have too much sympathy when his words get completely misinterpreted. But it is dispiriting to watch the media buy the McCain campaign's talking points so unquestioningly. Here's what General Clark said:
I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.
The McCain campaign, which has little argument for victory beyond "war hero = savior from terrorism," immediately jumped at this. While it is a direct attack on their theory for victory, it is not at all an attack on the Senator's war record. In fact, General Clark had just finished praising Senator McCain as a war hero.
Even worse than the media buffoonery is the Obama campaign's surrender:
"As he's said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain's service, and of course he rejects yesterday's statement by General Clark," Obama spokesman Bill Burton says in a statement.
Here's what they should have said:
Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain's service, and of course rejects any attack on it. General Clark was not attacking Senator McCain's service, however, but simply pointing out that being a war hero is no more a qualification for Senator McCain being President than it was for George McGovern or Bob Dole.
Talk about tying Senator McCain to a couple of loser candidates for good. Alas, yet again the Obama campaign failed to clear their talking points with me.