Gen. Clark’s Integrity and Character

This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, October 6, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: Two weeks ago, retired General Hugh Shelton (search), the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking at a college forum in California made an extraordinary remark.

Asked about his former subordinate, his NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark, Shelton said, "I will tell you the reason he came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues, things that are very near and dear to my heart. I'm not going to say whether I'm a Republican or a Democrat. I'll just say Wes won't get my vote."

For some insight into what Shelton meant, we're joined from San Francisco by retired Air Force Lieutenant General Tom McInerney, a Fox News contributor.

HUME: Tom, first of all if I can, I never covered the Pentagon and I don't have a lot of institutional knowledge in this area, but how common is it for someone as senior as Shelton was to say something this kind about someone as senior as Clark was?

RET. U.S. AIR FORCE LT. GEN.THOMAS MCINERNEY: I've never heard it before, Brit. It is very uncommon, but even more importantly is, is General Hugh Shelton, for him to say it. There have been other chairmen that might say certain things but I have never heard anything like this. It is very, very uncommon.

HUME: Well, is Shelton-I remember he was a pretty kind of it is a taciturn interview. Is he privately that way as well? I mean is this-I mean what explains this?

MCINERNEY: Hugh Shelton is an extraordinary officer and person. He does not say evil or bad things about people. He does not gossip. That's why this was such an extraordinary comment to come out of his mouth, very, very surprising to me.

HUME: Now, one presumes it goes back, to some extent, to the Kosovo War (search), which was sort of the last thing and perhaps the most important assignment that Wes Clark had.

For the benefit of viewers who may not recall, he was the NATO commander there. He ran war, a war fought entirely from the air.

It was a success in the sense that the Serbian government under Slobodan Milosevic (search) fell as a result of it.

Which was the objective, I think, it's fair to say. And then suddenly and seemingly abruptly after the war was over, he was relieved of that command, retired early and now is running for president.

So what happened along the way? I mean I don't know that anybody knows for sure and Shelton hasn't said. But what in your judgment were the factors here?

MCINERNEY: I think the key facts really, Brit, are that Wes Clark displayed disloyalty and his integrity was in great question.

HUME: How so?

MCINERNEY: Those are two...

HUME: How so?

MCINERNEY: Well, he was told by the Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen, by General Shelton, by the Service Chiefs, even his own service chief General Denny Rimber, that we were not going to use ground forces. That was the Clinton position.

Now, whether you agree or not, in the military, when a decision is made you accept that.

In his particular case, General Clark went around the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as the secretary of defense and went directly to the president and to the secretary of state. Now, in both cases...

HUME: How do we know this?

MCINERNEY: Well, people have told me this.

HUME: Right. Where were you, by the way, I mean at the time this was happening? You were in contact with these people? What was your situation?

MCINERNEY: Well, I was running a nonprofit organization at that time. But I was a military analyst for a number of the networks. And I was working Kosovo very hard on the air.

HUME: Got you.

MCINERNEY: And so that's why I was in contact with this and remember it. And was told specifically where the differences of opinion were.

Now look, we can all disagree with our superiors and that, but in the military, you accept it. And particularly when you've got the secretary of defense and all the chiefs of the Joint Staff saying look, we're not going to do that.

Now, from a personal point of view, Wes Clark also micromanages. And this was another problem causing problems with his subordinates. And he was getting into-since only air power was used, he was trying to use, for instance, AC-130 gun ships in the daytime. This is death for the AC-130. They're too vulnerable.

HUME: Helicopters.

MCINERNEY: No. These are full engine transports that fire the 40- millimeter cannons out of them.

HUME: Oh, I got you. Right. Sorry.

MCINERNEY: And they're very, very effective at nighttime.

And so, he went back and forth with his care component commander and people, trying to get them to use it. Well, certainly no commander is going to do it if it ensures sudden death for his people.

HUME: Well, if he's the supreme commander, though, wouldn't he be able to give an order to that effect or not?

MCINERNEY: Well, remember, he gave Sir Michael Jackson, the British general an order and...

HUME: Why don't you tell me what that was?

MCINERNEY: That was an order to seize the airfield in Kosovo, and...

HUME: That's when the Russian troops had it, right?

MCINERNEY: Well, the Russian troops were moving in and he wanted the British troops to seize it first. And Sir Michael said I'm not going to start World War III.

Now, in the case of the Air Force people, they were able to explain to him at great length that we just weren't going to do that. We'll not put people in harm's way when it's the wrong thing to do. So it was handled inside the system.

HUME: Right.

MCINERNEY: But there was a great deal of friction on that war.

HUME: Right.

MCINERNEY: I had problems with him on the air because I thought air was piecemeal commitment, rather than a massive air power, which he eventually got to and used his Stealth...

HUME: Let me just ask you this, Tom. Apart from going around the chain of command, the White House, obviously that's something; you know the military world it isn't done.

But you've got a pretty strong statement here from Shelton. What does this say broadly about Clark's character and how does this fit into his reputation? I only have about 25 seconds I'm sorry to say.

MCINERNEY: Well, I think you're going to find he's not going to get much support from the military type people or people with integrity and loyalty are very important characteristics.

Those two characteristics, by the way, are something that are fundamental to anyone being a leader.

The clear thing is, is he knows more about national security than the other nine candidates he's competing against.

HUME: Got you. Thank you, Tom, very much.

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