- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Barack Obama” href=”/themes/?Theme=Barack+Obama” >Sen. Barack Obama said Monday that he won’t tolerate people challenging his patriotism or his rival’s military service, and John McCain” href=”/themes/?Theme=John+McCain” >Sen. John McCain announced a “truth squad” to combat attacks on his Vietnam service.

The patriotism speech was intended as a major point in the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s weeklong focus on values for the Fourth of July holiday, but any headlines that Mr. Obama would have received for the speech were trumped by his denunciation of retired Wesley Clark” href=”/themes/?Theme=Wesley+Clark” >Gen. Wesley K. Clark’s attack on Mr. McCain. The day’s events, instead, allowed the Republican to showcase his wartime heroism and long record of service to the United States.

Mr. Obama said patriotism must involve the willingness to sacrifice.

“For those who have fought under the flag of this nation … [and] those like John McCain who have endured physical torment in service to our country - no further proof of such sacrifice is necessary,” he said. “No one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign, and that goes for supporters on both sides.”

He did not name Gen. Clark, the former NATO commander who had backed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York during the Democratic primary campaign but recently joined the Obama team as a top surrogate, but the message was clear.

On Sunday, Gen. Clark questioned Mr. McCain’s credentials during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” He first praised Mr. McCain’s service as heroic, but said the Republican’s record in the Navy did not include executive experience.

Host Bob Schieffer countered: “Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down.”

Gen. Clark’s response - “I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president” - sparked an outcry on cable news and blogs.

It also prompted the formation of the McCain “truth squad.”

Team McCain deployed a host of military men to decry Gen. Clark’s remark and to talk about the Republican candidate’s long military service, including his years as a prisoner of war and his postwar record.

Carl Smith, a former Navy pilot who served with Mr. McCain, said the Arizona Republican showed his leadership skills while commanding a Navy flight training squadron in Florida after the war.

As the commanding officer, Mr. McCain helped the squadron to a perfect safety record and earn its first Meritorious Unit Commendation.

“He was that much better than everybody else,” Mr. Smith said. “The credit goes to John McCain and his extraordinary leadership; it’s as simple as that.”

Bud McFarlane, a retired Marine colonel and national security adviser to President Reagan, said Mr. Obama doesn’t have much foreign relations experience, so the attack may have been a deliberate attempt to try to equalize the two candidates.

“It’s not Senator Obama’s fault, and yet he simply hasn’t had the opportunity to have read very much, to have studied very hard, to have engaged with foreign leaders,” he said.

Story Continues →