Obama Patriotism
Alex Brandon  /  AP
Retired Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak at a rally in Eugene, Ore., on Friday.
updated 3/22/2008 3:33:09 PM ET 2008-03-22T19:33:09

Former President Clinton is using divisive tactics and unfairly trying to question Barack Obama's patriotism, a retired general who has a prominent role in the Democrat's campaign said Saturday.

Merrill "Tony" McPeak said he was astonished and disappointed by recent comments Bill Clinton made while speculating about a general election between Obama's Democratic rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Republican John McCain.

Standing next to Obama on stage at a campaign stop in southern Oregon, the retired Air Force chief of staff repeated Bill Clinton's comments aloud to a silent audience.

The former president told a group of veterans Friday in Charlotte, N.C.: "I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country. And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics."

McPeak, a co-chairman of Obama's campaign, then said to his Oregon audience: "As one who for 37 years proudly wore the uniform of our country, I'm saddened to see a president employ these tactics. He of all people should know better because he was the target of exactly the same kind of tactics."

Video: Clinton remark: Dig at Obama? That apparently was a reference to Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, when he was accused of dodging the Vietnam War draft.

In a posting on Hillary Rodham Clinton's Web site Friday, the campaign said Bill Clinton was simply talking about the need to keep the race focused on issues "rather than falsely questioning any candidate's patriotism."

Campaign spokesman Phil Singer said McPeak was "clearly misinterpreting" the remarks.

Obama aide: 'I've had enough'
McPeak also had made off-the-cuff remarks to reporters Friday in comparing the former president's comments with the actions of Joseph McCarthy, the 1950s communist-hunting senator.

"I grew up, I was going to college when Joe McCarthy was accusing good Americans of being traitors, so I've had enough of it," McPeak said.

Singer called that comparison "absurd."

McPeak was more scripted Saturday and joked that "occasionally I say something a little earthier."

Last month, Obama's wife, Michelle, drew criticism for telling an audience in Milwaukee, "For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change."

The campaign clarified those comments by saying she was proud of U.S. politics for the first time and has always been proud of her country.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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