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. RB

    Obama sounds like a used car salesman.

    March 19, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  2. Nerakami

    We do have such a long way to go.... refuse to forgive a man (Rev. Wright NOT Obama) whose anger is a by-product of America's laws of discrimination and yet we want blacks to "get over" the centuries of abuse... how tragic is this?

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

    I love to see the Hillary supporters writhe in agony:-)

    March 19, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  4. Ken

    If its not Obama then McCain 08!

    March 19, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  5. Whiskey

    hey L, TN. I am a war hero as well and think McCain is the biggest fool Ive seen in awhile....well since your last post.

    March 19, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  6. Joseph Morris

    Nice try, McCain. Trying to influence the ignorant and uneducated American public (which comprises 90% of its citizens) by purposely inserting disinformation into your speeches. This man knows that Iran is Shiite and would never support Sunni Al Qaeda. His agenda is to foment public support for a military campaign against Iran. And if he lies in order to do so, no mmater. Sounds a lot like our current president.
    Actually, on second thought, our current president really does not know the difference between Sunni and Shia.

    March 19, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  7. Opal

    . . . .It did seem that John McCain had forgotten where he was. I think that the Iraq heat was too much for him.

    March 19, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  8. Rick

    McCain is the greatest man that ever lived and I pray he will win so the war will continue and new wars will be waged. I hope he picks Newt Gingrich for his VP. I hope the draft is reinstated so we can build a 2 million man army and fight on 3 or 4 fronts at once.

    March 19, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  9. shane

    Due to the "dumbed down" aspect of the current american politcal scene and the nation as a whole, and judging by the sound bite addicted public's reaction to REV wright, sometimes i feel that maybe barack obama is just too intelligent to be the president of this nation.

    March 19, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  10. Charlene in VA

    At least with Mc cain and Clinton we know what we are getting, so no disappointments, however with Obama you can believe anything he says, also i believe once he get in the white house Obama true colors will show.

    March 19, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  11. Hillary is a republican

    of course you see Hillary the republican manchurian candidate supporters on here jealous because your loser leader has "ZERO" talent.

    Vote Hillary the Republican!

    March 19, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  12. Rick

    CNN censors this blog and removes any mention either pro or con about Isreal.

    March 19, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  13. fvp

    4000 american lives wasted, 5 years later and they still have not done their homework. what is wrong with this country?

    March 19, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  14. Bernetta

    Where are all of Senator Obama supporters, did everyone jump ship?
    I will continue to support Senator Obama. I sincerely think that he will bring change and unite this country; if given the chance.

    He shouldn't be held responsible for what comes from the lips of others. Is there anyone out there who can say that they've heard Senator speak in the same manner as Rev. White?
    How would you feel if you were in his position? Should he continue to denounce everything and everyone.

    March 19, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  15. J. McCaskill, MS

    Who is Obama to needle McCain on Iran. At least it was McCain's words and they didn't come form some nutty governor. He is not one to point out others flaws.

    Hillary or McCain '08'

    March 19, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  16. Leslie

    Some of you are such nasty, hateful people that I find it hard to refer to you as human beings. What would you and the media be saying if Sen. Obama had made such a blundering mistake? You would be dragging the rope to the nearest tree.

    March 19, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  17. Andy

    Does Obama still plan to call the "President" of Canada?

    March 19, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  18. s.b.

    Gee, coming from a man who's been to the London airport at least once, I'm sure that will hurt McCain's chances at the white house a lot.

    March 19, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  19. Eric

    Well, it all comes down to this that we have to choose between three useless candidate. I wished we had another JFK in the race that could beat all three.

    March 19, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  20. Haley Rodman Clemson

    Iran and al Qaida are working together, I thought everyone already knew that. Iran trains and funds extremists and doesn't mind seeing their rivals dying in suicide attacks or from American bullets. Leaving Iraq before WE have reached OUR milestones (i.e. ridding the country of insurgent groups and handing provincial control over to the Iraqi government) is surrender and defeat. Iran knows it, Syria knows it and Obama knows it. The King of Syria has endorsed Obama, does that raise any eyebrows? It should.

    March 19, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  21. Aaron Warshaw

    How come CNN's headline is that Obama "needles" McCain, when the real story is what a horrible mistake that McCain made in the first place? Put it this way, if Obama or Clinton had made the same mistake, you would endlessly be covering the story of the mistake rather than their opponent's response. Yet more half-baked journalism and more preferential treatment of "Honest" John McCain.

    March 19, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  22. Angela R.

    Barack is the right man, at the right moment to bring America out of this quagmire of heated discussions on the war, the economy, and yes race.

    We want to face issues as adults, so that our kids will have a better America.

    Obama 08

    March 19, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  23. breh / California

    Bottom line is McCain is equivalent to a third term for Bush. The same goes for Hillary. The only true choice to move us away from this maddness is Senator OBAMA. A clear vision the country that is not mired in the politics of yesterday.

    Clinton & McCain = more of the same!

    Onward to the Democratic nomination.

    OBAMA 08!

    March 19, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  24. Barry, Miami, FL

    One only has to read the posts on this blog to see how bitterly divided this country is on any subject. Did any of you people actually listen to Obama's speech? At some point we as a nation have to transcend our differences or we risk destroying ourselves.

    "We have met the enemy and it is us"


    March 19, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  25. Voter

    in reading the negative comments about Senator Obama just endorses the stupidity of the American population. After the last 7 years one would think that Americans would have educated themselves and learned to actually think.

    March 19, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
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