An Obama campaign aide denounced the statement more than 24 hours later, saying, “As he’s said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain’s service, and of course he rejects yesterday’s statement by General Clark.”
“As I have said before, I honor John McCain’s service as a prisoner of war and a Vietnam Veteran. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. I would never dishonor the service of someone who chose to wear the uniform for our nation.”
In his speech Monday, Mr. Obama said that he and the presumptive Republican nominee love their country and that challenging one’s government should not be considered disloyal.
The speech was designed to squelch any anti-patriotism rumors, including unfounded e-mail claims and the outcry over the Democrat’s not wearing a flag pin, until recently.
“The question of who is - or is not - a patriot all too often poisons our political debates, in ways that divide us rather than bring us together,” he said, adding that he has “always taken my deep and abiding love for this country as a given” because it led him to public service and a presidential bid.
“Yet … I have found, for the first time, my patriotism challenged - at times as a result of my own carelessness, more often as a result of the desire by some to score political points and raise fears and doubts about who I am and what I stand for,” he said.
Mr. Obama pledged that he would “never question the patriotism of others in this campaign … and I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine.”
The Illinois Democrat said it is a “national shame” that some failed to honor Vietnam veterans and that today’s “widespread recognition that whether you support this war or oppose it, the sacrifice of our troops is always worthy of honor” is “a change from the ‘60s that’s been very welcome.”
“Surely we can agree that no party or political philosophy has a monopoly on patriotism,” Mr. Obama said. But he scolded those on both sides of the Iraq war debate for engaging in politics seemingly “trapped in these old, threadbare arguments.”
Mr. McCain on Monday said that even though they disagree on policy, his rival is an example of “a great American success story” and is “someone who is admired and respected throughout this country and the world.”
Also Monday, Mr. Obama had his first post-primary talk with former President Bill Clinton. An Obama aide described the phone call as “terrific.” A Clinton spokesman said the former president “renewed his offer to do whatever he can to ensure Senator Obama is our next president.”