By Brian Knowlton
Sunday, June 29, 2008

WASHINGTON: With Senator Barack Obama planning to visit the Middle East and Europe in an apparent effort to burnish his foreign policy credentials, the credentials of his likely presidential rival, Senator John McCain, came under sharp attack Sunday from a man considered a possible Democratic vice presidential candidate.

The retired general Wesley Clark said McCain had not "held executive responsibility" and had not commanded troops in wartime.

McCain's experience in Vietnam, where he was a prisoner of war for five years, has seemed at times almost to grant him invulnerability to criticism of his security background. But on Sunday he was assailed by a fellow military man, a highly decorated one who was once the NATO supreme commander.

McCain frequently points out that he led "the largest squadron in the U.S. Navy," but Clark said on CBS television that that was not enough to support a claim to the presidency.

"He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall" as a wartime commander, the general said on CBS. Clark is mentioned as a possible Obama running mate, although he originally supported Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

When the interviewer, Bob Schieffer, noted to Clark that McCain had been shot down over Hanoi, Clark replied, "I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president."

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