Obama: Don't Call Wes Clark A Swiftboater

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At a media availability in Ohio today, Obama says that the part of his patriotism speech read as a response to Clark was written months ago, and that there are more important things to worry about.

REPORTER: "I wonder what you what you think about General Clark's comments both Sunday and today and even further I'm wondering if you can say if you really think those kinds of comments are much different from the Swift Boat types of questions that Senator Kerry faced about his Vietnam experience?"

BARACK OBAMA: "Well, I don't think that General Clark had the same intent as the Swift Boat ads that we saw four years ago. I reject that analogy. But, what I've also said repeatedly is that Senator McCain deserves the utmost honor and respect for his service to our country. I've said that repeatedly. I've said it all the time. I notice that I think in at least one publication it was reported that my comments yesterday about Senator McCain were in a response to General Clark. I think my staff will confirm that was in a draft of that speech that I had written two months ago. So, you know, I have repeatedly insisted that Senator McCain's service is heroic and that he deserves our respect for that. Now, I have differences with him on policy and I will vigorously debate a lot of the decisions that he's made when it comes to national security that I think have weakened our capacity to meet the threats and challenges of the 21st century, but that certainly doesn't' detract from his past service to America."

(WATCH)

Obama also dismissed a question about whether Clark owes McCain an apology:

REPORTER: "Do you not feel that General Clark owes John McCain an apology?"

BARACK OBAMA: "I guess my question is why, given all the vast numbers of things that we got to work on, that that would be a top priority of mine? I think that right now we're here to talk about how we can make sure the kids in Zanesville and across Ohio get the kind of support that they need in communities that are impoverished can start to rebuild. I'm happy to have all sorts of conversations about how we deal with Iraq and what happens with Iran, but the fact that somebody on a cable or on a news show like General Clark said something that was inartful about Senator McCain, I don't think is probably the thing that is keeping Ohioans up at night."

(WATCH)