I find Jon Soltz's June 30th post "Right On General Clark. Do Not Back Down." both shortsighted and embarrassing. As a strong supporter of Senator Obama and a volunteer with his veterans' effort, I believe that Wes Clark's comments are out of bounds.
Let me be clear, Jon Soltz's criticisms of Senator McCain's record on non-support of veterans is a fact based fair target. Senator McCain did not support the New GI Bill of Rights and he has not supported proposals to increase "dwell time" between combat deployments. Further, Senator McCain has, as far as I can determine, never sat on the Veterans Affairs Committee. And his record of supporting the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) legislative priorities hovers around 33%. All of this is fair game and Senator Obama can proudly contrast his service and accomplishments on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and his near 90% DAV support with that of Senator McCain. Senator Obama can fight that fight from the high ground.
But, no matter how the words are parsed, Wes Clark's comments about Senator McCain's military record came across as demeaning and disparaging. When the headline in the International Herald Tribune, much read by the military overseas, reads: "Democrat With military background assails McCain's credentials" the damage is done. We should have learned from the misbegotten and misnamed "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" that questioning someone's military record lowers the tone and substance of the campaign and distracts from the real issues. Wes Clark's words will now become the issue, even though he was not speaking for the campaign, rather than Senator McCain's miserable record on supporting veterans.
Beyond these tactical considerations, attacking McCain's military record contradicts the entire thrust of the Obama campaign. Senator Obama has told his campaign staff and volunteers to run a respectful and positive campaign. Many of Senator Clinton's supporters are still angry with Senator Obama because he won. But there are very few, if any, specific instances where Senator Obama attacked Senator Clinton personally and many instances where he passed up opportunities to do so. Senator Obama seems to realize that you cannot bring the Democratic Party or the country together if your campaign is based on personal attack.
So, what I would say to my fellow Rhodes Scholar and White House Fellow friend, Wes Clark, is to stay away from the military record, it will only hurt our cause, and stick to the veterans' record where we have the high ground.