As Senator Barack Obama folded his arms and looked on, one of his leading military advisers forcefully defended Mr. Obama’s patriotism here Saturday and accused former President Bill Clinton of trying to employ “divisive attacks” to promote his wife’s presidential candidacy.
Mr. Clinton, in a speech to voters in North Carolina on Friday, said “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.”
At a town meeting here Saturday, retired Air Force Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, who is a co-chairman of Mr. Obama’s campaign, read the quote from Mr. Clinton. A few members of the audience gasped and hissed at the former president’s words.
“Let me say first, we will have such an election this year because both Barack Obama and John McCain are great patriots who love this country and are devoted to it — so is Hillary Clinton,” General McPeak said, speaking over loud applause. “Any suggestion to the contrary is flat wrong.”
Mr. Obama, on his first trip to Oregon before the state’s primary on May 20, did not address the comments from Mr. Clinton. He stood a few feet away from the retired general as he made his remarks before a crowd of more than 1,500 people in a Medford community center.
“I’m saddened to see a president employ this kind of tactics,” said General McPeak, who served as Air Force chief of staff in the early years of the Clinton administration. “He of all people should know better because he was the target of exactly the same kind of tactic when he first ran 16 years ago.”