The Clark Game Of Telephone
by Josh Orton, Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 08:02:28 AM EDT
Let's say you'd traveled over the weekend, returning late Sunday night. Turning to political news, you may have heard early crowing from Republican quarters about something offensive Wes Clark had said about John McCain's military service.
Then early Monday, you might have been watched a show like CNN American Morning play a clip of Clark saying, unprompted: "I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president."
Then around lunch on Monday, you might have watched Barack Obama's speech on patriotism (or flags, or whatever), where he said:
"For those like John McCain who have endured physical torment in service to our country - no further proof of such sacrifice is necessary. And let me also add that no one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign, and that goes for supporters on both sides."
That afternoon, maybe you heard about the formation of John McCain's ironically-named "Truth Squad." You might have heard one of the Truth Squad-ers Truth Squad-ing:
"I find General Clark's comments to be unworthy, unseemly, for someone of his stature. And for a campaign that prides itself on the good judgment of its candidate, I think this reflects extremely bad judgment on the entire organization," said Lt. Commander Carl Smith, who served with McCain in the Navy.
The next day, Tuesday, perhaps you watched reports on the evening news about Clark going after McCain's "war record."
Then this morning (Wednesday!), you might have opened up the New York Times and read Maureen Dowd:
Wes Clark joined the growing ranks of troublesome Obama associates when he meowed that just "riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down" is not a qualification to be president. He made McCain sound like a drone aircraft.
This is not even about Obama. It's the old business of grunts resenting flyboys.
Of course, after almost three days of this garbage, you still might not know anything approaching the truth.
First, they ignore that Clark was repeating Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer's words in response to Schieffer's statement that, unlike McCain, Obama has not "ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down." Second, they ignore that shortly before that part of Clark's exchange with Schieffer, Clark praised McCain's service: "I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands of millions of others in the 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." Clark continued: "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 publicly?' He hasn't made those calls, Bob."
Only four more months to go.
Update [2008-7-2 12:57:13 by Josh Orton]: TPM edited a great roundup of the media hyperventilation: