Rare is the presidential candidate who has not been embarrassed, at one time or
other, by the embrace of an odious, or the antics of an overly enthusiastic
supporter. Sen. Barack Obama, for instance, could have done without the effusive
endorsement of Nation of Islam founder Louis Farrakhan, who hates America almost as
much as he hates Jews.
Hillary Clinton's campaign has been running ads questioning the readiness of Sen.
Obama to be commander in chief. They appear to be responsible for a slight uptick
she's experienced in the polls in the last few days. But Ms. Clinton's own
credentials to be commander in chief won't be bolstered by statements over the
weekend by two prominent surrogates.
In Austin, Texas Saturday, former Playboy bunny turned feminist icon Gloria Steinem
denigrated the importance of Sen. John McCain's time as a prisoner of war in
"From George Washington to Jack Kennedy and PT109 we have behaved as if killing
people is a qualification for ruling people," said Ms. Steinem, 73. "I'm so
grateful that (Hillary Clinton) hasn't been trained to kill anybody."
Having been Bill Clinton's secretary would be better preparation for the presidency
than military service, she said.
"Being a secretary is the best way to learn your boss' job and take it over," Ms.
After Ms. Steinem's remarks were reported by the New York Observer, Sen. Clinton's
press secretary, Howard Wolfson, felt it necessary to issue this statement:
"Sen. Clinton has repeatedly praised Sen. McCain's courage and service to our
country. These comments certainly do not represent her thinking in any way. Senator
Clinton intends to have a respectful debate with Senator McCain on the issues."
Or maybe not. In a conference call with reporters Sunday, retired Army Gen. Wesley
Clark said Sen. McCain did not have the right kind of experience to be commander in
"Having served as a fighter pilot...that doesn't prepare you to be commander in
chief in terms of dealing with the national strategic issues that are involved," he
Gen. Clark went on to claim that Sen. Clinton's experience is more relevant:
"If you look at what Hillary Clinton has done during her time as First Lady of the
United States, her travel to 80 countries, her representing the U.S. abroad, plus
her years in the Senate, I think she's the most experienced and capable person in
the race, not only for representing America abroad, but for dealing with the tough
issues of national security," he said.
In addition to having been a career naval officer who retired with the rank of
captain, Sen. McCain has served in the Senate for 24 years, more than three times as
long as Sen. Clinton. During most of that time he served on the Senate Armed
Services Committee, where he is now the ranking Republican. To say that this
experience is inferior to Sen. Clinton's photo ops with the wives of foreign leaders
is the sort of thing we'd expect an aging Playboy bunny to say, not a retired four
Because they invite ridicule, these statements do Sen. Clinton more harm than good.
It is one thing for Hillary to claim she is better qualified to be commander in
chief than is Barack Obama, because he's not qualified at all. But to argue either
that Sen. McCain's military experience is irrelevant, as Ms. Steinem did, or that
Hillary's experience as first lady is more relevant, as Gen. Clark did, is
Having been a prisoner of war is an insufficient qualification for being president.
But it means Sen. McCain has been tested far more severely than Sen. Clinton was by
her husband's philandering.
By arguing that her national security credentials are superior to Sen. McCain's,
Gen. Clark merely called attention to Hillary's shortcomings. What has she done in
the national security arena besides vote for the war in Iraq and then back away from
it, and call Gen. David Petraeus a liar for saying, correctly, that the surge was
Since it is evident to all who have an IQ above a carrot, Sen. Clinton should
concede that Sen. McCain's credentials on national security are superior. She
should be making instead the plausible arguments that hers are adequate, and that
other issues (the economy, health care, etc.) are more important. When her
surrogates make ludicrous claims, all they do is remind people of Sen. Clinton's
reputation for playing fast and loose with the truth.