I think what dismayed most about Wesley Clark’s comments most was the crazy logic of it coming from a retired senior officer:
‘I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president…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… That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded — that wasn’t a wartime squadron.”
But how can a former four-star general suggest that piloting a jet fighter-bomber under fire can be reduced to “riding in a fighter plane” (as in a Sunday spin above the base?). And isn’t the ability to repeatedly pilot a vulnerable aircraft over enemy territory, and then survive years of unimaginable savagery precisely “a qualification to be president” (note the indefinite article “a” that Clark employed, as in one of many that might make a successful President).
I can’t think of anything more relevant to “understanding risk” than piloting a combat craft and later being responsible for planes under one’s command. What is “Accountable”?—as in understanding the dangers and consequences of bombing an enemy country in wartime? Running for reelection repeatedly for House and Senate? And these are not to be termed “official”, but rather “unofficial” “positions”?
If one were going to make the argument that the administrative experience one gains from commanding a squadron might not be relevant to the duties of commander-in-chief because the ensuing decisions were solely in a peace-time context, how does that seem logical in McCain’s case who had already been on the frontlines in “wartime” repeatedly?And Clark’s statements seem even weirder given his previous assertion that Hillary was far better qualified than Obama, based in part on her travel and limited Senate experience (that was much less than McCain’s): “If you look at what Hillary Clinton has done during her time as the first lady of the United States, her travel to 80 countries, her representing the U.S. abroad, plus her years in the Senate, I think she’s the most experienced and capable person in the race.”
So after defining executive experience one way to help Hillary defeat Obama, he now returns to the issue to ensure Obama defeats McCain. There is one constant there, but it is not a consistent or compelling definition of experience and leadership.
Given Clark’s ego and agenda, he apparently cannot afford to backtrack, and Obama can’t afford not to distance himself from the general’s bizarro-world assertions — although there is emerging a pattern of Obama’s retired generals making assertions attacking McCain (cf. McPeak’s) only to quietly recede.