March 19th, 2008
01:59 PM ET
3 years ago

Obama needles McCain on Iran gaffe

CNN

Watch portions of Obama's speech Tuesday.

(CNN) - Barack Obama on Wednesday took aim at potential rival John McCain over the Arizona senator's apparent misstep at a recent press conference in Jordan, the latest sign Democrats are looking to capitalize on the moment.

"Just yesterday, we heard Sen. McCain confuse Sunni and Shiite, Iran and Al Qaeda," Obama said during a speech on Iraq Wednesday morning. "Maybe that is why he voted to go to war with a country that had no Al Qaeda ties. Maybe that is why he completely fails to understand that the war in Iraq has done more to embolden America’s enemies than any strategic choice that we have made in decades.

The gaffe in question occurred during a news conference in Jordan Tuesday, when the presumptive Republican presidential nominee repeatedly said Iran was supplying al Qaeda. Iran is predominately a Shiite country and is not aiding the Sunni dominated Al-Qaeda.

McCain ultimately corrected himself after Sen. Joe Lieberman whispered in his ear.

"I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al Qaeda. I am sorry," the Arizona senator said.

The Democratic National Committee immediately seized on the comment, saying the misstep raises question over whether McCain "can be trusted to offer a clear way forward." It also forwarded a transcript of a recent interview in which he appears to make the same mistake.

McCain's campaign hit back on the DNC comments, saying the "Democrats have launched political attacks today because they know the American people have deep concerns about their candidates’ judgment and readiness to lead as commander in chief.”

In his speech Wednesday in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Obama also criticized McCain for his continued support for an "open-ended war."

"Now we know what we’ll hear from those like John McCain who support open-ended war. They will argue that leaving Iraq is surrender," he said. "That we are emboldening the enemy. These are the mistaken and misleading arguments we hear from those who have failed to demonstrate how the war in Iraq has made us safer. "

UPDATE: Responding to Obama's comments, McCain senior adviser Mark Salter said, "John McCain wants American forces to come home when our clear and serious interests at stake in Iraq, which nearly 4,000 Americans have given their lives to secure, are truly safe, when al Qaeda is defeated; Iran's influence is contained, and the potential for a truly cataclysmic civil war in Iraq is remote. That, I think, is what is called 'making us safer.'

"Senator Obama's plan, if it can be charitably described as one, would do the reverse."

– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (293 Responses)
  1. Mike in Houston

    Bet McCain can spot racial bigotry and hatred being spewed from a pulpit better than Obama can.

    March 19, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  2. Ryan

    Amen.

    Just say no to McBush.

    March 19, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  3. carol

    Knowing. My bad.

    March 19, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  4. Common Sense

    LOL!
    And what makes it even funnier is that Joe Lieberman had to "tell" McCain he was wrong... lol!
    Let the McBushism begin!! lol

    March 19, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  5. Ruben

    "Now we know what we’ll hear from those like John McCain who support open-ended war. They will argue that leaving Iraq is surrender," he said. "That we are emboldening the enemy. These are the mistaken and misleading arguments we hear from those who have failed to demonstrate how the war in Iraq has made us safer. "

    -> Yes Obama tell it like it is. You show time and time again you have the best judgement to lead America.

    OBAMA '08

    March 19, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  6. PA Voter

    At least McCain is addressing the security issues facing our country. Obama is doing anything he can to pull the focus off of his "Uncle". I've always understood that "we are a product of our family values". These are the values we have installed in our persona on a regular basis. I take offence that he didn't deal with this sooner in his campaign. He didn't address it until his his hand was caught in the cookie jar.

    March 19, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  7. Donna B.

    I really dont care what Obama says...He is a liar. So he can needle McCain all he wants....Obama should watch what he says....
    I will not vote for Obama if he gets the nomination, I will vote for McCain. GO HILLARY....GO HILLARY...GO HILLARY...

    March 19, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  8. Nancy

    Obama has my vote come November.

    If Hillary is the Domocratic nominee, McCain has my vote.

    Plain and simple.

    March 19, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  9. Daniel in Michigan

    It is clear that the Republicans are firm in the belief and quickly equate Iran with Al-Queda, which is a perpetuation of the same old speech act of making the whole of the Middle-East as being terrorists. This is nothing more than a practice in racial prejudice and their practice of misinformation to justify their ultimate mistake.

    March 19, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  10. Tim

    McCain misspoke and Obama exploits it in a campaign speech. Doesn't Obama rail against this form of 'gotcha' politics on a daily basis? This seems hypocritical to me.

    March 19, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  11. Jeff in Ohio

    While I believe that Senator McCain did misspeak, and did not actually believe that Iran was training Al Qaeda, I think this slip reveals that, in McCain's mind, there really isn't that much difference between Sunnis and Shiites, Al Qaeda and the people we are actually fighting in Iraq, or terrorists and Iraqi nationalists.

    March 19, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  12. Relle Boston

    Mccain seems to be just as lost at times right along with Bush.

    March 19, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  13. norb

    Interesting to see that John McCain, who has problems with the conservative right. Now, getting corrected information from all people..........Joe Lieberman. Is John McCain the Republican's token candidate this year?

    March 19, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  14. Brian

    it's not like Americans are dying or we are paying billions to be in Iraq.. We might as well stay there for at least a few decades.

    McCain '08

    P.S. the rich are still paying too much taxes.

    March 19, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  15. Johnboy

    Of course... just like Obama
    Everyone else is always clearly wrong- but he is never wrong.

    All he has to do to remain in the right, is to give a sppech to justify hate and explain all his lies away.

    Why doesn't the rest of the country think as highly of Obama as he thinks of himself?
    You lost my vote 10 or 15 hypocritical speeches ago.

    March 19, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  16. Tina

    The POINT of the speech was NOT to make fun of McCain's mistake, that was a very very minor point. Read or listen to the entire speech before you jump to such specious conclusions, folks. It was a very intelligent foreign policy speech, something the American people don't get very often from our politicians.

    Obama 08

    March 19, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  17. Sam

    Had to read it twice to see the needeling...

    I like Obama, but he didn't need to mention this. I mean, it is a valid statement, but not the Obama i know...

    I hope America wakes up to see that this man, while not perfect, is great for the country.

    However, I am worried the press (who is so used to dumbing things down they dumbed themselves) is going to finish him off.

    When was the last time we had an intellect for president? Wilson? or does Clinton count....nah..not Clinton..

    March 19, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  18. a lilley texas

    Time to wake up obamba is a great speaker but does not have the experence to be president or the ability to make major decision

    March 19, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  19. Tammi Showell

    Newsflash-for Obama! Americans are not stupid!! You are going to have to come up with more than this to stop John McCain. As far as proving the war in Iraq is making us safer, how can we prove what we have prevented? How about you tell us how you plan to make a difference in America when you get spiritual guidance from a racist?

    March 19, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  20. Rom,NY

    This old pathetic guy should be at a retirement room
    Are you guys really ready to allow this guy to answer the 3AM phone call ??? - I recall you he will be 72 on August before the presidential election
    Come on !!!
    I don't think he only misspoke I think his brain is tired

    March 19, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  21. Ruben

    Some of you are forgetting that McCain "misspoke" about the same thing more than once. I think it shows that more than being an error, it is what he actually believes in.

    What Obama has stated is right on spot. Hillary supporters just do not want to hear what he has to say.

    By the way, i think Obama led the issue of pastor Wright to rest during his speech yesterday. It is idiotic to think he would agreer to the inflamatory comments made by his pastor (NOT HIM)... you people need to lay the issue to rest.

    March 19, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  22. DRS

    Why does CNN have to use incendiary terms like "needles"? Is CNN trying to sway an election?

    March 19, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  23. pennythoughts

    Sorry, Obama but needling someone else over their gaffes doesn't give you foreign policy experience.

    March 19, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  24. Jack

    John McCain will say anything to get elected...

    he's become a one-issue candidate: national security... and he can't speak accurately on that subject

    if he says he doesn't know much about the economy and is stumbling on foreign policy, what makes him qualified to be president?

    March 19, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  25. mrland

    This was not a one time mistake. McCain made the same gaffe several times before Lieberman corrected him. Go after him Barack! It's not like McCain is going to take the high road anyway.

    March 19, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
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