Powerline was all over this yesterday; by way of apology for our lateness, I humbly offer the vid. One of the dumbest things about the Clark kerfuffle is that because there are so many elements of military service that people respect, the narrow critique he’s offering against McCain seems almost beside the point. I see service mainly as a testament to character and fortitude; others see it as evidence of good judgment, and others as an important lesson for a C-in-C to have (i.e. “experience”) before committing other men to war. So far as I know, McCain has never staked his own wartime ordeal to any one of these, preferring to let voters draw whatever they find most virtuous from his story. Clark, however, is acting like he has basically staked it to one — namely, “executive experience,” as though McCain’s claiming his beatings from the Vietcong somehow turned him into a strategic genius or, at a minimum, a Romneyesque managerial prodigy.
So here he is on CNN, finally challenged on the fact that Kerry’s military record couldn’t have provided much “executive experience” either yet he still felt obliged to mention it in his 2004 speech at the convention, and what does he do? He dodges it by falling back on those other virtues. First comes the snippet from the speech about Kerry’s “physical courage,” which sounds like the character argument; when Roberts asks him how that amounts to “executive experience,” he shifts to talking about Kerry’s judgment (per his post-war testimony). The “executive experience” nonsense is really just a straw man cooked up to focus attention away from the same appealing attributes in McCain that he was happy to tout in Kerry, garnished with the lie that Kerry wasn’t touting his record in 2004 as evidence of any superior executive qualification to command troops than Bush. Your exit question: If this is all about judgment vis-a-vis Iraq, why bring McCain’s military record into it at all? Why not just stick with, “He voted for the war, the public says it was a mistake, QED”?