It's been the untouchable topic thus far this campaign — even Democratic opponent Barack Obama has avoided the hot potato calling McCain "honorable" — until now: retired General Wesley Clark has criticized John McCain's military experience. A former candidate himself, Clark said yesterday on CBS' Face the Nation:
In the matters of national security policy making, it's a matter of understanding risk. It's a matter of gauging your opponents and it's a matter of being held accountable. John McCain's never done any of that in his official positions. I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. . . but he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded — that wasn't a wartime squadron.
He went on to finish with this unequivocal statement in response to moderator Bob Schieffer pointing out that Obama hadn't had those experiences:
Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.
The McCain campaign manager has responded to the comment strongly saying:
I think all the promise that Barack Obama made about trying to change the political dynamic and run a different kind of campaign is evidenced by the fact that he's completely changed his political strikes and become sort of a partisan hack. Sending Wesley Clark out as a surrogate for your campaign and attacking John McCain and his war record and his military experience and his service is, I think, just the lowest form of politics.
Is it the lowest form of politics? Does Clark have the credentials to make a statement like this both valid and acceptable? Should a critique of McCain's military service be off the table this election?