John McCain's campaign today is calling on Barack Obama to denounce an attack on the Arizona senator by one of their Senate colleagues, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. Rockefeller, an Obama supporter, told the Charleston Gazette that McCain "was a fighter pilot who dropped laser-guided missiles from 35,000 feet. He was long gone when they hit."
"What happened when they [the missiles] get to the ground?" Rockefeller is quoted as saying. "He doesn't know. You have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues."
McCain's campaign had Orson Swindle, a former lieutenant colonel in the Marines who was a prisoner of war with McCain in Vietnam, issue a statement dubbing Rockefeller's comments "an insult to all the men and women who are serving or have served in America's military."
"Had Senator Rockefeller served himself, he would appreciate and understand that most who have been to war emerge with a much deeper concern for humanity than they otherwise might," Swindle said. "If he knew what he was talking about, he would know that John McCain wasn't dropping laser-guided missiles at 35,000 feet in 1967."
Swindle added that Obama has a "responsibility to denounce Senator Rockefeller's smear against John McCain's character and military record."
UPDATE: Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement: "Senator Obama has a deep respect for Senator McCain's service to this country and doesn't agree with what Senator Rockefeller said."
UPDATE: Rockefeller's office just put out a statement saying that the senator called McCain today to apologize for his remarks. Rockefeller said in a statement: "I have deep respect for John McCain's honorable and noble service to our country. I made an inaccurate and wrong analogy and I have extended my sincere apology to him. While we differ a great deal on policy issues, I profoundly respect and appreciate his dedication to our country, and I regret my very poor choice of words."
UPDATE: The McCain campaign isn't satisfied. Spokesman Tucker Bounds says in a statement: “Why does Senator Obama refuse to personally condemn this type of despicable attack? Senator Obama has run for president on the basis that he represents a new kind of politics, yet every day there is another smear that Obama refuses to repudiate.”
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.