March 19th, 2008
01:59 PM ET
10 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. Independent

    another great speech that explains his vision

    March 19, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  2. Esteban

    Obama should just SHUT UP!!! He doesn't know anything and anything he says is nothing but lies!

    Hillary '08

    March 19, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  3. Dan, USA

    Obama has never mis-spoke? how about Hillary? Why doesn't Obama as S. reyes, the Democratic Chair of the House intel Committee to explain the difference...OH! thats right the Democratic leadership put him in that role when he could not answer a question explaining the differences. A big difference from mixing them up during a speech!

    March 19, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  4. Dave, SC

    What a cheap shot.. Obama get a life...You have no experience whatsoever.

    March 19, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  5. maya

    Obama gives a great speech, but a great orator does not automatically make a great president. I do not think that Obama handled the Wright situation well initially at all- his answers to questions were muddled and contradictory. He only did well after he had time to prepare a speech. Presidents need to think and react ON THE SPOT. I am concerned about Obama's judgment in putting a RACIST preacher IN HIS STAFF. I don't believe that Obama is a bad person at all- but I am very concerned about HIS JUDGMENT. Why did he open himself up to this? Why support and call family such a RACIST EXTREMIST such as Rev Wright?!

    Obama does not seem to be a viable candidate.

    March 19, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  6. Bill, Cool Springs

    BO you need not worry about McCain, you'll not get the chance to ask him anything. Yet I'm sure you have the need to learn. We dems are sick of you and your politics. Hillary will be the one to lead our nation.

    March 19, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  7. g4hillary

    its a good thing obama never miss spoke about anything. its a good thing he never makes a mistake. i don't care for mccain, but will vote for him over obama if it comes down to that

    March 19, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  8. dem

    What is the big deal here??? Everyone can make such mistakes.

    March 19, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  9. Steve

    Obama mocked Mccain's Iraq Gaffe where Mccain immediately corrected himself. I guess Obama forgets that he has a gaffe of his own by condoning hate speech with his silence....however, he waited 20 years to correct himself. The slogan for the Obama campaign should be "Hyprocisy, we can believe in".

    March 19, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  10. Terry

    Wow!!!!! It feels good to have a leader with a brain!!!!!!!! God that felt good!! We are a nation again!!!!!

    March 19, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  11. Matt

    Obama is toast.

    I'll just take the pop corn, seat and relax, watching the beginning of his end.

    March 19, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  12. GINA PA

    mccain need to go home for good
    retirment will be the best thing for his and the country good to do.

    OBAMA 08

    March 19, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  13. Hill Supporter from Minnesota

    I don't think Obama is in a position to needle anyone.

    March 19, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  14. SR

    He should talk, Mr. I'll go back into Iraq if I find out Al Qaeda is there!!!

    March 19, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  15. matt

    Obama needs to just go away. I was going to be happy with either him or Hillary but after last few days, there is no way I would vote for Obama if he is chosen. As a democrat, I will vote for McCain before Obama. He true side was shown by his minister!

    March 19, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  16. west palm beach, Hawk

    John McCain and Hillary Clinton are the politics of the past. Obama is the politics of the future. The US can't afford to engage in more wars and expect to remain the World leader. What happened to the Soviet Union after their ill adviced war in Afganistan?

    March 19, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  17. Gee

    You should not say anything about McCain gaff, you have a 20 year worth of gaff from your spiritual leader to deal with. We do not need another speech on McCain gaff.

    March 19, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |


    March 19, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  19. California Independent

    Is this all he's got? Obama is in no position to take on either candidate on experience. He needs to try and get back on his message. The media will be more than happy to help.

    If it isn't Clinton, McCain '08

    March 19, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  20. George from Minneapolis

    Wow !!!! This man is so presidental. Watch the video. Who in their right mind can argue with anything he said. Obama makes the most sense, he does not b.s the people and talk to us like we are idiots. I appreciate the fact that he speaks to me like an adult who is a critical thinker rather than a mindless follower who can't decifer political spin.

    The other candidates dont compete with the straightfowardness, good judgement and strong character that this man displays.

    Obama is a gift to America.

    March 19, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  21. sozzi

    The Republican Party shouldn't talk about the Democrat Candidates as incapable to be Commander-In-Chief, because thier candidate doesn't even know who is fighting in Iraq.

    March 19, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  22. Michelle in Philly

    Go Home Obama

    March 19, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  23. Obama support in Iowa

    Too old. Too interested in fighting.
    put an end to the drama – elect Obama

    March 19, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  24. Charles, MN

    I'm an Obama supporter and I think he should have let the McCain gaffe go. Everyone makes mistakes.

    Having said that, he still gets my vote.

    March 19, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  25. David C. In Indianapolis

    HRC is so much a hypocrite. If the situation was reversed, she would definitely be an obstructionist. She signed on to a pledge about the DNC rules about early primaries, and when she started losing, she wants to change the rules in the middle of the game. She is currently being an obstructionist in TX Why? Because even though she won the state's primary, Obama is poised have more pledge delgates. Double standard is alive and well in politics.

    March 19, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
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