Something struck me as oddly familiar about Wesley Clark's attack on John McCain's military service. Then I remembered that Clark has a history of doing this before. Running against John Kerry for the Democratic nomination in 2004, Clark said he was the better qualified because while Kerry had been a lieutenant, Clark had swapped hats with Ratko Mladic as a general:
General Clark could not resist taking a few jabs at Mr. Kerry, however. During an appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live" as the Iowa results rolled in, former Senator Bob Dole said to General Clark that he thought the success of Mr. Kerry, also a decorated Vietnam War veteran, might have turned the general into a colonel.
"Well I don't agree," General Clark said. "Senator, with all due respect, he's a lieutenant and I'm a general. You've got to get your facts right."
Asked later about the exchange, General Clark acknowledged Senator Kerry's military background. But, he added: "Nobody in the race has got the kind of background I've got. I've negotiated peace agreements. I've led a major alliance in war. It's one thing to be a hero as a junior officer. He's done that and I respect him for that. He's been a good senator. But I've had the military leadership at the top as well as at the bottom."
Back then, this came off as pure rankism. It takes on a different dimension when you're comparing your experience running wars by remote control from Belgium to someone who tortured for five and a half years.