"John McCain represents the wonderful value tradition of the American military," commented General Wesley Clark at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies last Wednesday, June 25th.
General Clark, who wrote the foreword to an excellent new book on national security issues entitled Ideas for America's Future: Core Elements of a New National Security Strategy by Jeff Bialos, spoke out on how the United States needs to "re-affirm our commitments to our allies" and "respect the rule of law" under the new administration whether it be Obama or McCain.
Acting as the moderator for his talk, I asked the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe from 1997-2000, about Senator McCain's ability to be the next commander-in-chief.
I was somewhat surprised by his statements, which echoed what he stated on Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer yesterday.
While answering my question he spoke very respectfully of McCain's long public service to the country, but then said the Arizona senator may not have the command experience necessary to be a capable commander-in-chief.
The general, who graduated first in his class from West Point in 1966, questioned McCain's judgment on the war in Iraq and other foreign policy issues.
General Clark did say that there are no real requirements to be president other than those in the constitution and that we have to look at the nominees' overall views and judgment.
Clark, a native of Arkansas and friend of the Clintons, indicated to our audience at SAIS that Senator Obama had better judgment on issues like being against the war in Iraq from the very beginning that would, in his opinion, make Obama more qualified than McCain to be president.
His comments on McCain are true but they do seem somewhat of a stretch as Obama also doesn't have much executive experience, hasn't served in the military, and hasn't been tested in combat as has McCain.
McCain can point to years of foreign policy experience in the Senate and his strong support of the military throughout his years in public service.
On the other hand, Clark does make sense in saying that judgment matters, and he has a point that Obama has been consistent in his views against American military involvement in Iraq from the very beginning.
However, of all the things one can criticize McCain for -- from lack of a background in economics to no concrete energy plan -- taking him on for "lacking command experience" doesn't seem very important.
Clark, speaking on Face The Nation yesterday, stated "that large squadron in the Navy that he commanded-that wasn't a wartime squadron." This would indicate that McCain does have command experience--just not in wartime.
The controversy over McCain's lack of command experience seems irrelevant in today's campaign with so many more important topics like keeping the U.S. out of a deep recession and having a workable energy policy.
These comments aside, I also asked General Clark if he would be interested in being Obama's vice-presidential candidate.
The retired four-star general who briefly ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and, as he said at our event, did win the Oklahoma primary, should be a serious candidate for Obama to consider for the second slot on the ticket.
Clark brings an impressive military record to the table; he is a very good and effective speaker; he was a supporter of Senator Clinton; and he is involved with investment banking, showing that he has knowledge of finance and economics. He is also telegenic and would add gravitas, military and foreign policy experience, and an overall knowledge of how to deal with our allies to the ticket.
The former Rhodes Scholar and author should be on the short list for vice president for Obama but the general might think of criticizing McCain on other issues rather than his lack of command experience. It would make more sense and make Clark more credible for the vice-presidential position.