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. Tim in Canada

    Mankind has been at war with each other since the begining,I hope and pray that one day they will rise above their animalistic nature and attain the status of Human Beings. It takes time I guess.

    March 19, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  2. jab

    Mr. Obama needs to "needle" Jeremiah Wright – he has a much bigger problem there before he can ever get to John McCain.

    March 19, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  3. LGriff

    if I'm not mistaken, didn't Mccain correct Obama at one time?

    Get a life all of you Obama haters!!!!!

    OBAMA 08!!!!!

    March 19, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    If you think John is confused now at this ripe age wait a few more years. This so called expert in foreign policy doesn't even know the name of his enemies even when he is right on the battlefield... while Johnny was on the spot sort of speak.

    March 19, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  5. Joanie

    Well, is this jerk going to now give us another History lesson? Retire like your preacher, and leave this country, and take your wife with you. Check with your uncle-and your terriorist friends.

    March 19, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  6. m

    You commentators and opinion contributors, think and reason . Obama gave a comprehensive speech. It wasn't a speech on Maccain's mistake. The problem is this media who pick and choose just to creat confusion in the society for the American People. THE SPEECH WAS NOT ON MACAIN. THIS CNN IS THE PROBLEM. WATHC THEM – THE MEDIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 19, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  7. Josh who doesn't get it....

    Why do people always call Obama a liar?
    Why would he lie to millions of Americans?
    All of you who thinks Obama is a liar, you are seriously trippin.....

    Stop accusing everyone of lying and focus on the candidate's opinion on the issues!!!

    People are just mad b/c Obama's views are pure and right!!!!

    Obama '08

    March 19, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  8. Objective

    Typical politics. He made a mistake, immediately corrected it. We all make mistakes. Obama should be careful about throwing stones.

    I am still proud to be an American.

    God bless America.

    March 19, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  9. Judi

    To George from Minneapolis,

    I truly hope you are being sarcastic.

    March 19, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  10. Jack

    McCain lying about foreign policy reminds me of George W. Bush

    March 19, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  11. Jim in CT

    As a very liberal unaffiliated voter I grow more tired each day of Senator Obama's smugness! If he was so opposed to the Iraq war before he began running for president why didn't he vote to end funding of the war when he got to the senate? And if he truly believed that the Iraq war diverted attention away from Afghanistan – why has he still not held a single hearing on that war? With Senator Obama – it really is all just WORDS!!!

    March 19, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  12. IAMWMD

    Who cares about you Billaries voting for McCain. My advice is to change parties now. We will win without you. She will NEVER catch up and you idiots seem to be getting more irate since you are starting to realize that the con woman's gonna loose.

    March 19, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  13. Sabrina

    Obama is that all you got? Have you ever mixed anything up? You who sat in that church pew listening to such a racist man and with your two young girls. Great message for your girls, shame on you and thier mother!!!!!!! I'm a independent and would never vote for someone like you that says one thing but really does something else. I will vote for McCain if it is not Hilary!!!!!!!!

    March 19, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  14. Nancy

    Are all you people really this ignorant??? McBush said this not once, not twice, but three times!!! This was not a gaffe, it was ignorance pure and simple. You people jumped all over Obama for answering a hypothetical question posed by Russert in the last debate, but will excuse mcbush for not knowing the difference between Shia and Sunni??? This man is dangerous and is looking for any excuse to attack Iran. We do not need another liar like dumbya getting us into endless wars. GO OBAMA!!!

    March 19, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  15. Bob the builder

    Barry, Barry, Barry you are doing so well. You just keep digging your hole deeper and deeper. You are making me so proud not to be on your team. All these speeches will look good in your resume when you're lookin for a new job. I don't think the people of IL will put up with you. Hey Rev. Wright could set you up with his.

    March 19, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  16. Ralph

    Please, memorable speaches and the ability to motivate and unite millions is just not important. Vote for Hillary and we can have just the opposite. Go Hillary!

    March 19, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  17. HAM

    I think Obama's fall will be as legendary as his "Through Grandma to the wolves speech"...

    Hillary is being very quiet... just letting enough rope get out... HA...

    Done in 08

    March 19, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  18. Paulinus

    McCain should be excused for his inability to remember things. His time as a prisoner of war must have affected him. Not sure if he is a good choice for President.

    March 19, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  19. Amondo

    Obama, do us all a favor and go away. I am so tired of your speeches. Save it for church!

    He says that he wants change, but whenever he has a change, he starts a flight with a candidate. Sounds like same old politics to me.

    Hillary and McCain, the only two choices in 08 in my opinion!

    March 19, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  20. Cindy

    This is.. kinda funny, actually. I agree, Obama should leave the gaffe alone. It speaks for itself.

    It reminds me of the times we've overheard Nancy Reagan coaching Ronald on what to shout out to the press, when he couldn't hear their questions. SNL is going to have a field day with McCain.

    March 19, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  21. michelle brians


    March 19, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  22. cool

    I see you white folks can't move past race.You keep bring up the pastor.Worry more about oil price and the housing mess.Get a life

    March 19, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  23. mary, Dallas, Tx

    It appears from the polls that the people who support Obama are educated, so I guess that this makes full of it the mindless little gullible lemmings that just keep jumping on the bandwagon. You are right that is why this country is in a mess, people like you supported Bush.

    March 19, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  24. Dylan from CA

    How is it that we have a post about Obama going after McCain on the issue of war in Iraq, some extremely important which will ultimately be the chief strategy of the Democratic candidate's campaign in the fall, and all the responses are from rabid-Clinton cheerleaders bashing a Democrat for doing exactly what he should be doing????

    This really shows how blinded and utterly rediculous so many of Clinton's supporters are. They honestly care more about getting this deceitful woman into the White House more than the good of the nation. And another thing, time and again Barack has proven he is a heck of a lot more knowledgable about the war than Hillary. Some one needs to shut up, and it ain't Obama.

    March 19, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  25. Larry, Michigan

    My state knew the consequences of moving up the primary. We should not have a revote no matter who pays for it. Live with your decisions just as every other red blooded American has to.

    March 19, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
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