In an RNC speech, former Sen. Fred Thompson said of Sen. John McCain, "[B]eing a POW doesn't qualify anyone to be president. But it does reveal character." Similarly, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, in a July appearance on CBS' Face the Nation, told host Bob Schieffer that McCain was "a hero," and that "I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war," but that "I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president." But while Schieffer suggested in July that Clark "denigrate[d]" and "attack[ed]" McCain's "military service," he did not ask McCain about Thompson's remarks during a September 7 interview on Face the Nation.
On September 7, Sen. John McCain appeared on CBS' Face the Nation with host Bob Schieffer. McCain's appearance came just days after the Republican National Convention, during which former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN) said of McCain, a former prisoner of war: "Now, being a POW doesn't qualify anyone to be president. But it does reveal character." Thompson's comment was similar to a statement retired Gen. Wesley Clark made on the July 29 broadcast of Face the Nation regarding the relevance of McCain's military record as a qualification for the presidency. After saying that McCain was "a hero," and that "I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war," Clark responded to Schieffer's statement that Sen. Barack Obama has not "ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down" by saying, "I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president." During the September 7 edition of Face the Nation, Schieffer did not ask McCain about Thompson's remarks, even though Schieffer has previously suggested that Clark "denigrate[d]" and "attack[ed]" McCain's "military service," and the McCain campaign has asserted that Clark "question[ed] John McCain's service to his country."
As Media Matters for America noted, on the August 3 edition of Face the Nation, Schieffer alleged that "[Sen. Barack] Obama's people are trying to denigrate the war hero's military service," referring to 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, "Well, I mean, they've already tried this, there's no question about that," adding that "Wesley Clark, who was speaking for Obama, tried to marginalize John McCain's military service" during his June 29 appearance on Face the Nation. Schieffer cited no other examples of the Obama campaign "attack[ing]" McCain.
From Thompson's September 2 speech:
THOMPSON: Whenever John was returned to his cell -- walking if he could, dragged if he couldn't -- as he passed his other fellow POWs, he would often call out to them. He'd smile and give them a thumbs-up. For five-and-a-half years this went on.
John McCain's bones may have been broken but his spirit never was. Now, being a POW doesn't qualify anyone to be president. But it does reveal character. My friends, this is the kind of character that civilizations from the beginning of our history have sought in their leaders.
From the July 29 broadcast of Face the Nation:
CLARK: Because in the matters of national security policy-making, it's a matter of understanding risk. It's a matter of gauging your opponents, and it's a matter of being held accountable. John McCain's never done any of that in his official positions. I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands of millions of others in the Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Air -- in the Navy that he commanded, it wasn't a wartime squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, "I don't know whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not. Do you want to take the risk? What about your reputation? How do we handle it" --
SCHIEFFER: Well --
CLARK: -- "publicly?" He hasn't made those calls, Bob.
SCHIEFFER: Well -- well, General, maybe he --
CLARK: So --
SCHIEFFER: Could I just interrupt you? If --
SCHIEFFER: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean --
CLARK: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.
CLARK: But Barack is not -- he is not running on the fact that he has made these national security pronouncements. He's running on his other strengths. He's running on the strengths of character, on the strengths of his communication skills, on the strengths of his judgment -- and those are qualities that we seek in our national leadership.