Old soldiers just retreat?

Wes Clark has decided to retreat redeploy over the event horizon after a week of criticism regarding his remarks about John McCain’s service.  An aide says he wants to return to “pay[ing] the bills”, and he will suspend his political activities for the foreseeable future.  The man who once appeared a likely candidate for Barack Obama’s VP slot now has become persona non grata instead, having given McCain a helpful boost in focusing on experience and military readiness:

Nearly a week after his controversial “Face the Nation” appearance last Sunday, retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark is taking a break from the presidential campaign — but many Democratic insiders think he has already been crossed off the list of Barack Obama’s potential running mates.

Sunday morning on CBS News, Clark argued that John McCain’s military experience — and his years as a prisoner of war — in no way qualified him to be president. Following his appearance, one prominent liberal blog, apparently seeing the genie as out of the bottle, launched into a considerably harsher attacks on McCain’s service headlined “Honestly, besides being tortured, what did McCain do to excel in the military?”

“On a scale of 1 to 10, Clark’s words were a 10 in terms of unhelpfulness,” said one Democrat who has helped manage past presidential campaigns.

In this case, Clark will retreat before getting publicly relieved of his responsibilities by Team Obama.  The entire episode has done nothing but paint Obama and his supporters as anti-military, as the noted blog entry suggests.  Worse, as Bob Schieffer noted in that Face the Nation interview last Sunday, Clark’s argument makes Obama look even worse than before.  If McCain has had limited executive experience, Obama has had none at all; if McCain only commanded peacetime units, Obama never served at all; and if twenty-four years of serving on the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees haven’t prepared McCain for military and diplomatic responsibilities, what in Obama’s three years of Senate experience makes him better?

Clark couldn’t exit the stage quickly enough for Barack Obama at this point.  Any chance Clark had of taking the #2 position on the ticket evaporated this week.  All Clark did was remind Democrats of what a lousy campaigner he was in 2004, and in a single day showed he had learned nothing over four years.

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