Last Sunday, Wesley Clark, former general and Democratic Presidential candidate, remarked on Face the Nation that “I dont think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be President.” The remark related to the Republican candidate, John McCain.
It was, perhaps, a rude thing to say, but not entirely out of place. Much of McCain’s appeal is based on his having been shot down over Vietnam and serving several years as a prisoner of war. And as for a qualification to be President, I’d rather have a guy who flew a fighter plane and didn’t get shot down.
But the McCain camp worked themselves into a lather over the remark, suggesting that Clark was asserting that McCain’s military service did not qualify him to be President.
Well, it doesn’t! The last President to have actually served in the military (as opposed to the National Guard) was the elder George Bush. And there are thousands of ex-fighter pilots, and probably hundreds of ex-fighter pilots who were also prisoners of war: are all of them entitled to be President?
It was also suggested that Clark apologize for his remarks. He didn’t, but Barack Obama had to address the issue, indicating regret that Clark had taken the campaign off-message. Politics makes cowards of us all.
The result of this is that we got through another week chasing our tails because someone said something refreshingly honest, instead of the standard manufactured blather, or, worse yet, actually addressing the issues.