A Poor Strategic Choice

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Jun 29, 2008 3:45 PM
Wesley Clark is out auditioning for vice president, and making a bad strategic choice by attacking John McCain's military credentials.

"He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall" as a wartime commander, the general said on CBS. Clark is mentioned as a possible Obama running mate, although he originally supported Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

When the interviewer, Bob Schieffer, noted to Clark that McCain had been shot down over Hanoi, Clark replied, "I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president."

How crass is it to attack a man who -- aside from giving his life -- has paid the highest price one can for defending his country, and has the damaged body to prove it?  Especially when it's hard to recall McCain ever touting his captivity as a "qualification." 

Even looking only at the candidates' qualifications from their Senate service, McCain's  21 years of service on the Armed Services Committee (along with continued leadership on military and foreign policy issues and special assignments like the POW/MIA committee he co-chaired) surely trumps  four years on the Foreign Relations committee and two on Homeland Security, a la Barack.

Amazingly, Clark also attacked McCain for lacking executive experience.  You could understand such an attack if Clark were representing, say, Mitt Romney.  But what's strange is that Clark is shilling for Barack Obama, four years out of the state senate with little job experience aside from some law firm work and "community organizing."  Is he kidding?

I know the left has this weird idea that Karl Rove has been successful because he has attacked opponents' strengths.  But they're missing the point.  

Rove didn't beat John Kerry by attacking his military service.  In fact, Kerry's military history would have been a strength had he not had lied about his wartime experiences and refused to release his military records.  What the GOP did do successfully was raise questions about Kerry's character --  because there were legitimate questions about it to be raised.

Same is true with Al Gore.  It wasn't that he was successfully attacked for being an environmentalist -- it was that he was willing to float on an artificially enhanced river -- or for being a Boy Scout (it was that there was no "controlling legal authority").  That, and the taint of Bill Clinton.

In the end, it was about character.

I hope Democrats do continue to attack John McCain for issues surrounding the military -- especially referencing his captivity.  Because having refused offers to be released early and receiving glowing testimonials from his Hanoi Hilton roommate reveals something about John McCain's character that voters should be encouraged to investigate.