Print outlets report McCain's criticism of Obama for lacking military experience, but not previous statements that it's not necessary to be commander in chief

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Several print media outlets reported that during a July 21 campaign event, Sen. John McCain, in the words of the Associated Press, "disparaged [Sen. Barack] Obama as 'someone who has no military experience whatsoever.' " But none of the articles noted that McCain has previously said he does not "accept the notion" that military experience is necessary to be an effective commander in chief.

July 22 articles by the Associated Press, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and two separate articles in The New York Times, reported that during a July 21 campaign event, Sen. John McCain, in the words of the AP, "disparaged [Sen. Barack] Obama as 'someone who has no military experience whatsoever.' " But none of those print outlets noted that McCain has previously said he does not "accept the notion" that military experience is necessary to be an effective commander in chief.

In an interview on the November 19, 2001, edition of National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation, host Neal Conan said to McCain, "[T]here's concern that leaders of the country, people in Congress -- fewer and fewer of those have served in the military." McCain replied:

McCAIN: Well, that's true, but I don't accept the notion that you have to have served in order to be an adequate or, in some cases, historically speaking, an outstanding commander in chief. Abraham Lincoln had a brief experience with a militia. Ronald Reagan served in the studio area when he was on active duty and --

CONAN: Making training films, yeah.

McCAIN: Right. Yeah. President Roosevelt had very limited -- so I don't -- I'm not sure -- I don't believe that you have to have had military service. But I do think, as -- as President Bush is doing, if you surround yourself with people who are highly qualified, as President Roosevelt did during World War II, that -- that you -- that more than compensate -- compensated for. In other words, in order to lead the country I think there are qualities which are more important than having had military service.

In addition, on the May 1, 2004, edition of NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, McCain had the following exchange with host Scott Simon:

SIMON: In your judgment, Senator, how relevant is what someone did during the war in Vietnam to their fitness to be president of the United States now?

McCAIN: Well, I think everything we do in life is -- is part of things we're judged on. I would point out that some of our greatest presidents have not had military experience. Abraham Lincoln had little or none. I think he served in the Illinois Militia. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Ronald Reagan had limited military experience. And all of them turned out to be fine commanders in chief. I think it's nice to have military experience, but I think it's also nice to have served in the Peace Corps, to have been in other elected office and a whole lot of other things.

Further, 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.

Both AP staff writer Tom Raum and Globe staff writer Michael Kranish reported that McCain "disparaged Obama as 'someone who has no military experience whatsoever.' " Washington Post national political correspondent Dan Balz wrote that McCain "said his rival has been 'completely wrong' on Iraq and 'has no military experience whatsoever,' and argued again that any withdrawal from Iraq must be based on conditions on the ground." Times staff writer Elisabeth Bumiller reported that McCain's "strategy during Mr. Obama's weeklong tour of Kabul, Baghdad, London, Paris and Berlin is to hit at Mr. Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, as too green to be commander-in-chief -- he has had 'no military experience whatsoever,' Mr. McCain told reporters." And Times staff writers Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Jeff Zeleny wrote: " 'He's been completely wrong on the issue,' Mr. McCain said, offering a reminder to voters that Mr. Obama is 'someone who has no military experience whatsoever.' " None of those reports noted McCain's previous statements that military service is not a prerequisite to be an effective commander in chief.

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