March 19th, 2008
10:19 AM ET
10 years ago

Dems seize on McCain's Iran gaffe

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/03/18/art.mccainjordan.ap.jpg caption=" McCain misspoke during a press conference in Jordan Tuesday."]
(CNN) - The Democratic National Committee seized on John McCain's apparent gaffe while discussing Iran Tuesday, saying it raises questions whether the Arizona senator "can be trusted to offer a clear way forward."

The misstep in question occurred during a news conference in Jordan earlier 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.

DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney quickly pounced on the misstep.

"After eight years of the Bush Administration's incompetence in Iraq, McCain's comments don't give the American people a reason to believe that he can be trusted to offer a clear way forward," she said. "Not only is Senator McCain wrong on Iraq once again, but he showed he either doesn't understand the challenges facing Iraq and the region or is willing to ignore the facts on the ground."

McCain's campaign immediately responded, 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.”

The DNC later sent out a transcript of McCain's interview Monday with conservative Hugh Hewitt, during which he appeared to make the same mistake.

"As you know, there are al Qaeda operatives that are taken back into Iran, given training as leaders, and they’re moving back into Iraq," he told Hewitt.

Related: McCain warns of increasing Iranian influence

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney


Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (727 Responses)
  1. Will

    I don't feel the need to criticize McCain for a "verbal gaffe." At the same time, however, this may strike at a deeper problem. Those leading this war have shown an increasingly discouraging inability to identify who is and who is not an enemy of the nation.

    The very nature of the statement itself is flawed. Iran is helping to train resistance forces, and has been doing so since 1979 but there are almost no similarities between the goals of these groups and Al-Qaeda.

    This raises two problems. First does McCain really know who Iranian forces are and are not training? And second does McCain know who is and who does not pose an immediate threat to the United States. It's important to understand the difference between groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and groups like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. I just worry that there's a tendency to lump all of these groups together and forget the very important differences.

    March 19, 2008 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  2. JH

    billary got $500.000 from china..

    March 19, 2008 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  3. Ruby

    I think there will be peace to the world if the Sen. Obama is the president of United States of America. Those terrorist people hate us just because we are Americans. Let us not forget 911. I think Sen. Obama will bring change to the world. He will have much more acceptance by the people in the world than Sen. Clinton. Besides, she is changing her mind at all times and I am not sure if I can trust her judgments any more. I believe as woman is created to be a supporter to a man, Sen. Clinton would be the best support to Sen. Obama when he is the president. They would be a good team if Sen. Obama is able to forgive her for all negative comments she made. Why Sen. Clinton spent so much time talk about negatives about Sen. Obama. I would like to hear about her, but all I hear is so much negativity every time she gives speech, which is a turn off for most of us. Why can’t she focus on her plan, proposals, judgments and experience she had than trying to find something wrong with Sen. Obama. American people are so smart and they will not make any decision based on the opponent’s negativity talk. I thought Sen. Clinton hurt herself by focusing talking about Sen. Obama. What ever happens, I would like to see those two candidates to team up and work together for the people of America and for people in the world.

    March 19, 2008 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  4. Ed Snook

    Nom Deplume... a momentary verbal gaffe? He said it at least twice. It was not a momentary lapse of eloquence but rather a revealing example of McCain/Bush's chronic lapse of intelligence on Iraq. Their complete failure to understand the nuances of foreign policy, everything is black and white to them.

    March 19, 2008 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  5. dude serving in iraq

    actually McCain was right the first time, he does not have to correct himself

    March 19, 2008 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  6. Aaron

    Just what we need... another aging, half-senile, war-mongering windbag in the White House that's going to spend a trillion dollars on worthless Defense "projects" and ten cents on roads, environment, prosecuting corruption, etc.

    We can't afford to have another Reagan, Bush I, or Bush II leading this country again. EVER!!!

    March 19, 2008 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  7. Jim Nammack; Kentucky

    It was not a gaffe. McCain did not know what he was talking about. As the story goes on to report, McCain said the same thing again later in an interview.

    McCain is obviously in over his head already.

    March 19, 2008 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  8. Wade Enns

    Obama is a nice fella, I like him, but his group hug of Iran is a dangerous game we can't aford to play.

    We can speak soft but we need a to carry a big McCain Stick.

    March 19, 2008 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  9. mary

    is this what we are going to get if McCain win, a prsident who someone has to whisper in his ear and tell him what to say,if they whisper strike Iran,i guess we will have another war wont we

    March 19, 2008 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  10. Steve, Eugene, OR

    Hey Nom Deplume, Bushie has actually given the Dems plenty to talk about, such as the economy, which Sen. McCain said was not his strong suit. That is a debate that we are more than eager to have with Sen. McCain.

    March 19, 2008 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  11. Jim

    He misspeaks and you morons start ripping him. Wow if this is all you cowards have against Mccain this will be an easy election for him.

    March 19, 2008 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  12. Cari D.

    Have you all noticed that every time McCain takes questions, he always has someone standing there to either a) answer the question for him, or b) correct misstatements like Lieberman did today.

    He came to speak to our company during the Texas primaries, and he pulled up Sen. Cornyn to answer questions with him. Every time the questions got a little tough, he'd look over to Cornyn to answer. He even got tripped up on a question regarding the 2nd amendment, stammered out something, then asked Cornyn to take that one. Not very presidential, if you ask me. As Commander in Chief, I expect more from him. He will not do well in the debates, I predict.

    Even though I grew up Republican, I have to say that I was impressed by Obama's speech today. That's more of the caliber I'm expecting from the nation's highest office.

    March 19, 2008 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  13. Walter

    The senile old war monger is really hitting the wall.

    Maybe Joe Lieberman is looking to be his Dick Cheney.

    March 19, 2008 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  14. May

    McCain doesn't even know the difference between Shiite and Sunni....big shocker. McCain doesn't care, he just wants the power, he doesn't even know what to say anymore since the Cons are feeding him lines all the time, he's against torture for years and all the sudden he changes his mind, how is that ok? how is that not flip flopping? Wake up people this country is in trouble and we need someone who has more of an idea than McCain.

    March 19, 2008 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  15. Murray

    I'm failing to see how Sen. McCain's comments indicate his lack of ability to lead. We all mess up our vernacular from time to time – we're human. Even you Dem's do it, believe it or not. I'm pretty sure he's actually pretty well founded on the current intelligence with respect to the Area of Operations (AOR) we are currently engaged in. In a foil to bad intel that we only now understand with hindsight, information that is being provided these days is from "actual" commanders on the ground maneuvering against a very smart, evolving, and lethal enemy. Anyone silly enough to believe this hogwash from Karen Finney about McCain not being capable at leading this nation "forward" is a victim of their own ignorance. She's rambling, and has only an agenda at being totally bi-partisan. We need to drop this BS about putting a Democrat or Liberal in office and put someone in that has at the very least, some combat experience, and, the same amount of exposure to politics. You must have both to be Commander in Chief. Not that McCain is the best example the nation's ever had (or maybe he is), but he is the only example we have currently running for office.

    March 19, 2008 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  16. Dave

    I don't care what McCain did. I have been die hard democrat but I am switching to Republican party. Our economy is in such a shamble, we need all of us to work together to get out of this economic downturn. All democrats are talking about is racism and how great the Obama speech was. Did you expect anything else. If he disowned Rev. Wright, he loses his #1 backers, black population. He always he can be above any dirty tricks but yet he is pulling the race card and democrats don't even know it. I am so disgusted with democrats, I no longer will support them. No more money and time. What a waste it has been. One chance democrats get to ensure to get the White House back and they are pissing it away with this stupid Obama and his racial rhetoric.

    March 19, 2008 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  17. Jonathan

    "Geez, that all the Dems have to talk about, a momentary verbal gaffe?"

    What was his "momentary verbal gaffe"? He clearly believed that Al Qaeda is in Iran, and talked about it multiple times. Do you think he meant to say some other word that sounded like "Al Qaeda"? If he doesn't understand the huge difference between Shiite and Sunni, does not yet know which one Al Qaeda is and which one Iran is, and doesn't understand Iran's real part in this whole mess, then all his "experience" clearly is for naught.

    March 19, 2008 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  18. Concerned about CNN

    The real story here is not that the Democrats seized on a mistake. The real story is that McCain can't get his story straight on the most important issue facing this country. Even worse, its what he considers to be the most important issue. How can he solve the problems posed by radical Islam if he can't even remember which group he is fighting where. I would propose that the most important skill for a Commander in Chief is to know our enemies at least well enough to name them correctly.

    March 19, 2008 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  19. ellie

    shows mccain is too old for the job

    March 19, 2008 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  20. saul

    The GOP is fubar. I was once a Republican - personal liberty and personal reponsibility, small government, respect for the Constitution. Today the GOP is about "big government conservatism" (whatever that means), the imperial presidency, domestic spying, lover for violence and all in the name of safeguarding the "motherland" and "patriotism". Today's GOP will have us become that which for half a century we fought! I thought I could come back to this party. I imagined I could be a "liberal republican" and help take the party out of the hands of the neo-nuts and other lunatics.

    Forget it. I'd rather be a conservative democrat, whatever that means. The way forward is clearly being shown by the democrats. McCain wants to be a carbon copy of the most idiotic president in US history. This does not show great judgment. Whatever puppet master pulls the strings of the house of Bush, has clearly the strings to house McCain as well.

    March 19, 2008 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  21. Cal Jim 2

    Maybe McCain, knows something we don't. I have heard in the past, that Iran was both supplying and training, al Qaeda. Or at least letting them hide behind there boarders. I don't know that Iran wouldn't work with, any terrorist group, if they thought they could tic off, the American government. Besides, that is an easy slip of the toung to make. Here in the U.S., we most all of us think of al Qaeda, when we think of terrorist. In my opinion, Senator McCain, know exactly whats going over there, and how to deal with it. The question I want to be answered is where's the Iraqi oil. And how come we arn't pumping cheaper gas over here? Fix that, and I'm a pretty happy camper, for right now.

    March 19, 2008 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  22. Christopher in Silicon Valley

    ==================================
    The Dems need to seize on McCain's gaffe.
    ==================================
    They have big problems of their own.
    ==================================
    Their names are MICHIGAN and FLORIDA.
    ==================================

    March 19, 2008 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  23. Scott Brown Palm Bay Florida

    You democrats are all the same. Cat calls from the cheap seats. At least McCain has the courage and corcern for our troops to go visit them. What would happen if Omaba showed up with the troops? He would get booed right out of the room. Hillary? Wouldn't know what end of the gun that shoots! Leave the defending of this country to real men and stay in the cheap seats and enjoy your freedom. This is why the democrats will lose the election again-gutless!

    March 19, 2008 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  24. Greg

    I don't think he mispoke. There has been talk (covered by CNN) that Iran was sending weapons to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afganistan and Pakistan. There has also been reports, even by CNN, that Al-Qeada got at least SAM-7 missles from Iran. Remember the Arabic saying, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." What was pointed out to McCain was that he was being too specific, which was that it's believed (again reported by CNN) that Iran is sending weapons into Iraq to undermine the U.S. and Iran is sending the weapons to more than one group.

    March 19, 2008 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  25. Rob

    I just got back from serving in Iraq with the Army. I met Sen. McCain in Baghdad. Where was Senator Clinton? At least McCain has been to Iraq and has spoken with the front line troops. During my whole year and a half there, not once did I ever see or hear of Senator Clinton coming out to see us in Iraq, yet now she's stating that she knows more about Iraq than McCain.......sadly, I'm not surprised. It's typical of her.

    March 19, 2008 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
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