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

Obama needles McCain on Iran gaffe


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. JayJay

    I watched the speech Itwas almost an hour long on Iraq & our foreign policy AND THIS IS WHAT CNN HAS TO REPORT?

    March 19, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  2. Jermaine

    WOW, it seems to me that Hillary Clinton supporters are as divisive as she is. Get a GRIP let me be as plain and as coherent as I can be. HILLARY NOR MCCAIN WILL WIN THE PRESIDENCY, and just in case they somehow have a FLORIDA 2000 debacle that put it in their favor, this nation will be on the brink of REVOLUTION! Hillary nor MCCAIN will win the white house. OBAMA-GORE 08

    March 19, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  3. JohnS

    You truly ready on DAY ONE BARACK OBAMA.

    Thank You for you deep understanding of our foreign affairs

    OBAMA '08 & '12

    March 19, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  4. neutral place

    war. How it is that everyone knows what is the best right now? How many have the access to intelligence reports? And all facts? And ability to think what is right and what is not?

    I personally hate wars. But how to end this mess is not clear because too much is going on there. ...and we do not know it all. We are just plain citizens. We can only wish for solution. We can only hope that this mess will be over soon, but then what? How far the revenge-fullness from terrorists goes? So far it took centuries..........

    by the way, everyone makes mistakes when talking....
    Obama has the tendency to criticize everybody for every single word, – – but his own.

    March 19, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  5. No support for Isreal

    Joe Lieberman is an Isreali lobbiest and his presence with McCain is very disturbing to me. McCain will certainly pull Lieberman into his cabinet as a sign to Isreal that their voice is heard at the White House.

    March 19, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  6. Steve

    Does anyone here think that the reason Joe Lieberman is with McBush in the Middle East is because he is going to be the Republican VP nominee? The new Dick Cheney? Maybe not, because I saw Liebermann's lips move when McBush was talking.

    March 19, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  7. Lynn

    McCain needs to retire to Arizona and Bush needs an incentive to leave the WH soon, a nice severance package, and a quick return to the ranch. Obama-08

    March 19, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  8. Jesse

    Those who are unsure, benevolent, or just dont like Barack Obama aren't all racists.. A lot of them are knuckleheads, idiots, or Floridians.

    March 19, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  9. Allen, Oklahoma

    McCain is old, angry and confused...not exactly what we want in a President.

    March 19, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  10. Monie

    I am troubled that Mccain can make such gaffes on two separate occasions and people on this site are not bordered by it. What is he really saying here, he is trying to justify a war with Iran if he becomes president and I think he believes that if he repeats it long enough people would believe him. Is that really what we want in America? another war-hungry president.

    March 19, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  11. Sharon Columbia, SC

    Can't we all just unite and prepare to face McCain in November. People please keep your eye on the most important issue here and that's to have a democratic president. For all of you Hillary supporters I honor your support for your chosen candidate but do the math and stop hating on Obama. It's time for the Rev Wrirght for America to wake up from the Rev. Wright nightmare and stop trying to make Senator Obama responsible for Rev. Wrights words. Fact number one these are not the words of Senator Obama and fact two until someone can show me 30 years worth of hate sermons I would say that as of now that these are only isolated situated involving hate and racist remarks.

    It's time to rally around the Democratic Party and get past this nomination process. I love America and I'm proud to be a Democratic regardless of how disfunctional the party seem to be these days.

    March 19, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  12. Chad

    HEY, Stop!!! Listen you fools...

    It is one thing to mis-speak about let's say a verb or noun or maybe the pronunciation of let's say NU-CA-LER....

    But it is another ignorant Republican thing to claim a Sunni extremist group as getting help from a Shiite one.....just goes to show you how deep the ignorance runs.....all the way to the RNC ticket!!!

    OBAMA '08

    Ask yourself one simple question: Are you finally proud of your nation? – For the interpretation of that statement; McCain and wife have it coming.


    March 19, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  13. Bridget

    I, for one, do not want a president who makes the *SERIOUS* blunder that Senator McCain did regarding Iran and Al Qaeda. That mistake from someone who wants to lead our nation is much more frightening than Senator Obama's relationship with his bitter pastor.

    We are at war. John McCain better know who the hell we are fighting if he wants to be our Commander in Chief. Good on Obama for pointing that out. Someone had to.

    By the way, Obama said he had not heard those particular sermons from Rev. Wright. That is different from him saying he had been present when controversial statements were made. He didn't say it was those particular statements. Hate all you want but don't call someone a liar when you don't comprehend the truth.

    March 19, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  14. Clueless in America

    Hey you Republican Saboteurs, just make sure you continue to vote Democrat all the way through the General election O.K.. Obama will except your votes when the Dem turnout is a landslide compared to you cronies. Thanks....

    Obama '08'

    March 19, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  15. Mary

    Obviuosly, Joe Lieberman thought it was more than mis-speaking since he corrected McCain. You have to look at McCain's grasp of world situations, as that is what he is basing his campaign on.

    I think it may also show that we do not need a 72 year old President.

    March 19, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  16. GINA PA

    MCCLINTONS at the end of the day TRUTH will rise and OBAMA will win the nomination and the election in NOV....

    clintons and followers get use to. it happen in the best families misleading and distorting ideas will not get you anywhere may you have to worry about keeping your senate seat when the dust is settle..

    March 19, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  17. Arthur-Texas

    At least Mccain is not a liar like Obama is.

    March 19, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  18. Mark Diplomat

    And again, remember the initial judgment call.

    Had we had President Obama, in the White House, answering the phone at 3:00 am or any other time – perhaps we would not now be saddled with this $3 trillion fiasco, burdensome debt on our children and future generations, in excess of 4000 American deaths, and untold numbers of innocent others.

    Stop and reflect, as today's release of Hillary's White House schedule will reflect, she cannot, and should not, claim to have "experience" greater than others to lead this nation. She simply does not.

    Turn the page and look forward this new, youthful generation to re-embolden and invigorate ALL of US to be what America once was in the eyes of the world: disciplined, filled with integrity, good governance, honest and respect. In Mr. Obama, we have this type of leader.

    March 19, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
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