On Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer alleged that "[Sen. Barack] Obama's people are trying to denigrate the war hero's military service," referring to Sen. John McCain. Schieffer did not explain which of "Obama's people" he was talking about, but a few days earlier he said that "[retired Gen.] Wesley Clark, who was speaking for Obama, tried to marginalize John McCain's military service" in a June appearance on Face the Nation. In fact, Clark did not "denigrate" McCain's "military service"; rather, he questioned the relevance of McCain's combat experience as a qualification to be president.
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On the August 3 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer alleged that "[Sen. Barack] Obama's people are trying to denigrate the war hero's military service," referring to Sen. John McCain. Schieffer did not explain which of "Obama's people" he was talking about, but on the July 31 edition of CBS' Early Show, when asked "what is it about John McCain that he [Obama] would attack," Schieffer responded, "[w]ell, I mean, they've already tried this, there's no question about that," adding that "[retired Gen.] Wesley Clark, who was speaking for Obama, tried to marginalize John McCain's military service" during a June 29 appearance on Face the Nation. Schieffer cited no other examples of the Obama campaign "attack[ing]" McCain. However, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, during his Face the Nation appearance, Clark did not "denigrate" McCain's "military service." Rather, as Zachary Roth wrote at the Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk blog, Clark "questioned the relevance of McCain's combat experience as a qualification to be president of the United States."
McCain himself has previously said he does not "accept the notion" that military experience is necessary to be an effective commander in chief. As the blog Think Progress noted, in an interview published in the February 13, 2003, edition of the National Journal, Kirk Victor asked McCain, "Do you think that military service inherently makes somebody better equipped to be commander-in-chief?" McCain replied:
McCAIN: Absolutely not. History shows that some of our greatest leaders have had little or no military experience -- Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Harry Truman was in the artillery in World War I, which was magnificent. Ronald Reagan did most of his active duty in the studio lots in California. It might be a nice thing, but I absolutely don't believe that it's necessary.
From the August 3 edition of CBS' Face the Nation:
SCHIEFFER: Finally today: When it began, this was a campaign of great expectations. Two extraordinary candidates -- Obama, the son of a Kenyan exchange student, raised by American grandparents; McCain, a true American hero. What a statement it could have been to the world, what a learning and inspiring experience it could have been to us, two such very different people giving us their vision for America. And yet, it has come to this: Obama's people trying to denigrate the war hero's military service, McCain's people comparing Obama to a couple of frivolous tarts.
As I watch the latest back-and-forth over who did or did not inject race into the campaign, I thought back to the political consultant who once told me that he began each political cycle by rereading Machiavelli, who argued the only ethic that should matter to those seeking power was the ethic that benefited them. In other words, the end justified the means. That's where we are in today's politics: do or say whatever it takes to win the daily news cycle, deal with the collateral damage later. And that's the part that bothers me. What comes after this? I can't help but remember what Gandhi once said: "Ends do not justify the means, they reflect the means." The government we get generally reflects the campaign that produced it. What kind of government can we expect from this one? This time it could have been so different.
That's it for us. We'll see you next week right here on Face the Nation.
From the July 31 edition of CBS' The Early Show:
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ (co-anchor): Do you think it's inevitable that Barack Obama will eventually go down the same road? And if so, what is it about John McCain that he would attack?
SCHIEFFER: Well, I mean, they've already tried this, there's no question about that. Look, when Wesley Clark, who was speaking for Obama, tried to marginalize John McCain's military service and said -- I asked him on Face the Nation why, you know, that he thought McCain shouldn't consider -- you know, his military service shouldn't be considered as something that was a plus for somebody running for president, and he said, "Well, you know, just being shot down over Hanoi does not qualify you for being president." So both sides are engaging in this. I don't think the public likes it, but I think we're going to see more of it. One thing for sure: when you're running ahead, you don't normally run negative ads about your opponent. I think this does say that John McCain's people know that he's behind right now.