(INDEPENDENCE, Missouri) Barack Obama used his speech on patriotism today to defend John McCain's military service, arguing that proof of his service is unnecessary.
"For those who have fought under the flag of this nation – for the young veterans I meet when I visit Walter Reed; for those like John McCain who have endured physical torment in service to our country – no further proof of such sacrifice is necessary," Obama said. "And let me also add that no one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign, and that goes for supporters on both sides."
Obama's comments come a day after his military adviser, Retired Gen. Wesley Clark called McCain's service into question on CBS's "Face The Nation". Clark said McCain did not hold "executive responsibility in the Navy, adding, "I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president."
Although Obama did not rebuke Clark by name, aides repeatedly said that Clark did not speak on behalf of the campaign. Spokesman Bill Burton released the following statement: "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."
In his speech, Obama also took a swipe at MoveOn.org for launching an ad against General Petraeus last September. "All too often our politics still seems trapped in these old, threadbare arguments – a fact most evident during our recent debates about the war in Iraq, when those who opposed administration policy were tagged by some as unpatriotic, and a general providing his best counsel on how to move forward in Iraq was accused of betrayal."
Arguing that patriotism should not be used as a political tool, Obama vowed not criticize the beliefs of his opponents. "I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign," he said, but then added, "And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine."