A definition of patriotism comes today from Presidential candidate Barack Obama, speaking in Independence, and with it, a seeming disavowal of comments from one of his supporters downplaying John McCain’s military leadership experience.

Obama supporter Wesley Clark–a retired general–says McCain has never held executive responsibility for war-making and has not had to be accountable for his decisions. Clark, on CBS’ "Face the Nation" yesterday, refused to back away from earlier comments that McCain is "untested and untried."

"In the matters of national security policy," he told host Bob Schieffer, "it’s a matter of understanding risk. It’s a matter of gauging your opponents, and it’s a matter of being held accountable. John McCain’s never done any of that sin his official positions."

McCain was a Navy squadron commander when his plane was shot down in Vietnam. He spent several years as a POW and is on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Early in his speech in Independence today, Obama told the crowd, "I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign. And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine."

Obama described patriotism as a loyalty to the ideals of the nation, a willingness to dissent when "our laws (and) our leaders or our government are out of alignment with our ideals," and "the willingness to sacrifice–to give up something we value on behalf of a larger cause."

In another apparent reference to Clark’s remarks, Obama told the Independence audience, "For those like John McCain who have endured physical torment in service to our country–no further proof of such sacrifice is necessary. And let me also add that no one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign, and that does for supporters of both sides. We must always express our profound gratitude for the service of our men and women in uniform. Period. Full stop."

Obama recalled the words of President Truman’s farewell address: "No President could ever hope to lead our country, or to sustain the burdens of this office, save the people helped with their support."

Obama says Truman’s sentiment "best describes patriotism" in his mind–"not just a love of America in the abstract, but a very particular love for, and faith in,t he American people."


Download edited version of Obama’s 30-minute speech (16:04 mp3)