Bryan Appleyard’s recent comments on the importance of literary tone came to mind reading Gail Collin’s article in the NYT today. I have been reading Collins on and off for a while and not really getting it, until today. She is writing on the brouha over Clark’s ‘swiftboating’ of McCain and deftly puts it into perspective while also dealing with the McCain campaign package and the way military service has played out in presidential election campaigns. Obama being the skillful operator has no intention of impaling his candidacy on the issue, knowing that if the past is any guide it won’t do McCain any good—indeed it may be a lethal distraction for the McCain campaign. They would do better to find something of substance—anything—that is going to appeal to the voters.
This column is really very good.
John Cole makes a good point; it is not as if you need to trawl through hours of debate to reconstruct the context.
SCHIEFFER: Can I just interrupt you? I have to say, Barack Obama hasn’t had any of these experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down.
CLARK: I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.
That sure is a mean and vicious swiftboating.
Ambinder from the Atlantic reckons it better left unsaid and Lopez from the NRO the calls it a smear on McCain. We are of course talking about General Wesley Clark’s comments on Sunday.
“I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.”
The hyperventilating is quite predictable and Obama will no doubt remind everyone of McCain’s proud and honourable service. But the problem is that Clark was careful to do this himself once you look at the context. Clark is no Wright! He has a much more distinguished military record himself even if it didn’t involve a tour of the Hanoi Hilton. The risk for McCain and the republicans in overreacting like this is that they will give Clark and Obama the opportunity to drive home the point that Clark is trying to get across. That ‘getting into a fighter plane and being shot down’ isn’t a qualification for becoming president, something that McCain supporters don’t seem to understand. To be sure it does no harm, but it isn’t a qualification, and to say so is not to smear McCain (unlike John Kerry’s swift-boating).