Here's what he said to Bob Schieffer:
"I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and 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. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in 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 publicly?' He hasn't made those calls, Bob."
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.
Perhaps indelicately-put, but is it inaccurate? If so, there are thousands of men and women immediately qualified to be Commander in Chief. So why the hissy fit? Paul Waldman over at Huffington puts it much better than I can:
McCain has every right to talk about Vietnam all he wants -- it's his story, and no serious person has ever disputed the details. But don't tell us he's reluctant to use it, because he isn't. He talks about it to voters, he talks about it to contributors, he talks about it to reporters, he talks about it with seriousness, he jokes about it, and his campaign makes every attempt it can to remind people of what happened to him in Vietnam.
As I said, there's nothing wrong with that. But what happened with Gen. Clark reveals the McCain Rules, as he and the press would have us understand them. Here's how things are supposed to work: It's fine for the McCain campaign to run ads touting his time as a POW, create web videos touting his time as a POW, have him mention his time as a POW in speeches, and have him bring it up in debates (remember "I was tied up at the time"?). In other words, it's fine to have John McCain's entire presidential run be presented through the filter of his POW experience. Should, however, someone even ask the question of whether the fact that McCain was a POW really qualifies him to be president, that would be a deeply offensive affront to all that is right and good, and must not be tolerated. Talk about having it both ways.
Let's keep in mind that no one seems to have argued with Clark on the merits of his claim. No one responded by saying, "General Clark is wrong -- in fact, McCain's POW experience does qualify him to be president." I suppose one could make that argument, but I haven't seen anyone actually make it. Instead, what they have said is that Clark was out of bounds to even raise the issue. To even assert that McCain's Vietnam experience isn't in and of itself a qualification for the Oval Office is such an unforgivable transgression that its merits don't need to be addressed.
Recall that Clark himself was wounded and took a year to walk again, receiving the Silver Star for his service. He's not some chump dissing McCain; he's a fellow decorated Vietnam vet. And, while we're discussing qualifications, also note the recent headline: "McCain Confuses Sudan and Somalia." Or the other recent one where he says he doesn't see why it matters that he doesn't know that gas is $4 a gallon. Seems like Johnny Mac should be focusing on bigger problems than whether someone says getting shot down 40 years ago doesn't necessarily make you a shoo-in for the POTUS.
*Although, from an Obama campaign standpoint, I'd send General Clark a friendly "not helping!" memo. Because you can be simultaneously right and off-message.