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. SP

    Obama should and will be our next President because he had the right judgement about going into war with Iraq.

    It's been 5 years and nearly 4,000 lives after he showed political courage by speaking out against it.

    He will be our next leader.

    March 19, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  2. Ross in MD

    The thing that bothers me is that this is not a matter of McCain misspeaking but a lack of understanding of the region that he has repeated.

    Obama is absolutely right – this lack of understanding is what got us into the Iraq war. The neocons repeatedly claimed Saddam Hussein was aiding Al-Qaeda, whereas the radical religious group had no love for the secular dictator.

    March 19, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  3. Brandon

    I love it how people always quote experience. Bill clinton had ZERO foreign policy experience when he become president and most Clinton supports now say he was a great president. Fact being, The last 30 years of Clinton, and Bush foreign policy has landed us where we are today, Time for a change. Wake up America we can't take on the world.

    March 19, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  4. Matt in PA

    What a hypocrite. Anything to divert attention from his obscenely racist "spiritual advisor." More and more, Obama represents the thought process of the past. Hillary has her faults, but at least she isn't taking her talking points from a bigot. What if he asks someone like Rev. Wright to be a member of his cabinet? The prospect of an Obama presidency terrifies me.

    March 19, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  5. carlo

    Okay, for all of the Obama haters. OBAMA IS BRILLIANT! Like it or not, this man is a genius, with knowledge and a command of the facts that we haven't seen in many leaders (sure as heck more than Dubya). McCain is supposed to be the authority on the war because he was a POW. Well, my uncle was a POW in Vietnam, and my dad was a Vietnam veteran, and they both said that they wouldn't put McCain next to any button of any kind as a Commander in Chief.

    March 19, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  6. An Agnostic Democrat

    Please challenge Hillary on her inflexibilty in approaching troop withdrawal if conditions happen to change on the ground. This is the exact talking point about which she criticized Samantha Powers.

    Geez, Hillary, that foresight of yours has been so effective in running your campaign that you failed to plan past Super Tuesday. You're so blind with the ambition of occupying the oval office that you can't even see beyond your own nose how things just might need to be liitle different than one of your empty "plans", "solutions" or "promises".

    March 19, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  7. Jim in FL

    Obama was the first candidate to chastise Don Imus over the RU women's basketball team, saying "He should be fired", and "I don't want my daughters hearing this kind of stuff".

    "C'mon kids. We're going to church".

    Obama speaketh out of both sides of mouth !

    March 19, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  8. Enrique

    Hillary joined in with John McCain and George W. Bush in waging this needless war. Hillary doesn't have the courage to admit her mistake and apologize for her vote. That is why Hillary is not fit to be commander-in-chief.

    March 19, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  9. Dylan from CA

    I'm gonna try this again. Maybe you'll post my comment this time...

    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 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  10. Trev

    Obama is right about the need for knowledge. The problem is that he wants to meet with Iran without conditions. That is much more of a big deal than McCain's gaff.

    Hillary 08

    March 19, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  11. flip-flop

    Obama said there's no talk between his aides and Canadian official, then a week later he had to acknowledge the meeting did occur after the Canadian govt shown the document to prove that. His foreign affair adviser told our European allies not to take Obama's talk of withdrawal of our troop in Iraq seriously as they're only campaign talk. Obama last week denied he had any knowledge that his pastor made divisive, anti-American sermon. Now he said he did. All the above incidents happened within a month time. He claims he is honest and he is the new kind of politics. I think the facts and truths speak for itself.
    One more point I would like to make. After Geraldine Ferrao made her controversial comment, Obama immediately came out and said her comments were divisive and ultimately forced Ferrao to resign. If Obama feels so strongly against raicsts comments, how come he could go to Wright's church for 20 years and his sermons are much provocative and divisive. He certainly made a eloquent speech about race yesterday, but he made it only after he's confronted by the media and public.

    March 19, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  12. Rj

    Obama is not going to tuck his tail between his legs and not campaign vigorously. Because of some Rev Wright so even don't think that! He's moving on to discuss the issues....isn't that what you've been wanting... the economy , the war, education
    Dwell if you want to ,but We Obamas have a race to win....Oh thats right we're winning

    March 19, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  13. not a superdelegate

    I love Obama!

    March 19, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  14. Dennis

    John McCain is an old man! Please, send him home to rest! He's made his contribution to our society.

    March 19, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  15. Sam

    What was that opportunist (Joe Lieberman) crawling behind Senator McCain for? Is he looking for a VP position with McCain?
    I bet he would soon switch to the Green Party to try to run for Pres. It was indeed a regret that former Vice President Gore selected him as a running mate. What a drag!

    March 19, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  16. Margaret D

    If Hillary doesn't win the nomination my vote and my family are for McCain
    Obama lies and sweet talk everything wake up

    March 19, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  17. Greg

    How about a McCain- Hillary ticket. Nice known' you for a few months Sen. Obama.

    March 19, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  18. Craig

    Shut Up Obama

    We have seen enough of your good judgement the past four days to last a lifetime.

    Go find some more flags to stand in front of and leave being President to those who are proud and love their country.

    Tell Grandma she had my vote.

    March 19, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  19. Lucy

    Obama was brilliant in delivering his speech. He talked about racial division that for many of us is a taboo. We don't want to leave our comfort zone and discuss issues that may disturb our inner peace, so we simply chose to be ignorant. This man is trying to bring everybody together as one country rich with culture and race. Those who vote for him fully understand and recognize his message. Those who try to nail him to the wall by bringing all the nonsense are missing the point....It is their loss that they are unable to grasp the core of his message. People like Obama are few and between and time to have a leader like him is way overdue.

    March 19, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  20. Sam, Lincoln,NE

    Any presidential candidate who can't tell the difference between Sunni and Shia factions, who supports an open ended commitment in Iraq, and who rattles his saber at Iran makes me worry much more than anything Rev. Wright said. The last time I checked, it was not Senator Obama's place to muzzle him anyway. Senator McCain, on the other hand, obviously either forgets to engage his brain when engaging his mouth or is getting senile. Whichever it is, that and his temper are enough to convince me that he is not worthy of my vote. I'm going with Obama.

    March 19, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  21. dave

    Kinda interesting that Obama would be needling McCain when in one of his last debates Obama didn't know Dmitri Medvedev, even though it had been pasted across the news for days prior.

    Hope and Change?

    We're going to get another Reagan if we're not careful!

    March 19, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  22. Y in PA

    Wow! Reading this blog is frightening. It's frightening because there is so much anger and lack of knowledge and understanding of the issues.
    It just shows how true Obama's words are – we have a long way to go.

    March 19, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  23. Kelly, WV

    as my grandmother says all that glitters isnt gold, Mr Obama can I get my vote back.

    March 19, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  24. vic nashville,Tn

    Hi Obama
    I watched A/C 360 last Friday and I watched your speech yesterday. Do you know there is differences? I will watch A/C 360 today Don’t ever thing Anderson Cooper and his viewers are stupid. Please tell the truth to us

    March 19, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  25. Hillary's Got Huge Nuts

    Obama being a good orator...will not only solve things here in the US but will contribute to us gettting foreign policy straight because our problem with Bush is that he can't speak so he has to act tough....he doesn't have the words to get things moving so he uses the military.....this pride will have our great grandchildren paying for the war.....Obama 08

    March 19, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12