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. Ryan

    Obama was just returning the McCain needles about AlQueda in Iraq.

    Go Obama.

    And Republicans, please stop pretending to be Democrats on these blogs and saying things like "If Obama wins, I'm voting McCain." Its pretty transparent. Nobody believes you.

    March 19, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  2. Maya

    Mary – you're right more educated support him because we research and question everything...I guess not everyone does....and to all who say caucuses are useless they're acutally better because you have to know your candidate of choice and talk about them unlike blind voting primaries(not that all primary voters randomly chose).

    March 19, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  3. BobP

    McCain did not mis-speak, nor did he correct himself. Joe Leibermann corrected him and he has made this mistake repeatedly. For someone with 'experience', he knows nothing about the economy and thinks al qaeda is supported by Iran. Anyone consider thats why he is itching to bomb Iran?

    Obama had the judgment to oppose the war when it was unpopular to do so.. McCain had the judgment to invade Iraq under false pretenses. I know which one I will choose.

    March 19, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  4. Joe

    Clintonistas, answer me this: If moral courage is displayed by deeds, particularly in standing up for your beliefs, then where does Clinton display that? Five years ago, she sat on her hands while Bush lied and brought us to war. That war has now gone on five years too long, cost us over 4,000 lives, killed countless Iraqis, and bankrupted our treasury. Why didn't she stand up and walk out of the Senate, if she so disagrees with the war now? How can you disagree with Obama's position about his pastor, but somehow accept this failing and subscribe to the position that Clinton is more of a leader.

    March 19, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  5. Greg

    The very honorable: John McCain for PRESIDENT.
    Obama WHO??????????

    March 19, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  6. curious yankee

    Why do the HRC republicans posing as democrats and the monkeys posing as republicans sound so angry and irrational? What were you listening to? You're so used to being lied to that you can not discern truth. Have a seat with a view of the real world, some peanuts and a banana and let others get on with the business of intelligent government. You're cynicism and pseudo-intellectual insights are reeking of ignorance.

    Change '08

    March 19, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  7. Andre, Hyattsville MD

    Those of you how do not see this as a big deal clearly do not understand foreign policy or international relations. Mixing up Sunni and Shiite while stating that one or the other is training Al-Qaeda can have potentially troubling after effects.

    Whenever I read some of these comments, I become amazed at the level of ignorance that exists in America.

    March 19, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  8. Reason

    Obama will certainly not the guy I can trust about what church to go to, that shows his lack of religious judgement-howerver, he has proven to have a political judgement. That's at the end, what we need more than ever. Morgage, heathcare, education-not white/black nor blessing/cursing words.

    March 19, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  9. Matt, Nebraska

    What a loser.

    Obama lost my vote a long time ago.

    Obama still thinks Iran is our Ally.

    Who do you trust more with the security of this country???

    John McCain '08

    March 19, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  10. Amy, Kazoo

    I'm kind of surprised that someone with so much foreign policy experience, a decorated veteran, a former POW would make such a mistake. I think it's a fairly major slip up considering his history and experience.

    March 19, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  11. nmt

    there is an old chinese saying that goes.....never argue with a fool..people will never tell the difference.

    It truly is hard to educate the uneducatable. It is really hard to argue with people who do not have the capacity to understand fatcs. Many clinton supporters coments really prove the point the Hilary supporters fall in a certain demographic...( education wise) and Obama's fall in the demographics that they do.
    I hope more american's reasoning are truly not what we see on these blogs.....the blogs are international. Some comments are appalling..and downright embarrasing to the intelligents of others....

    March 19, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  12. La Petite Sorciere

    McCain and Hillary ONE and the SAME

    both voted for the war and both will have us there100 more years

    March 19, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  13. not a superdelegate

    FACT – Obama has been a Senator longer than Hiliary.

    I love Obama and dont mind HIliary
    but Hiliary supporters dont represent well.
    They want her in office so bad that they just sit there and spew hate.
    Sad really.

    March 19, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  14. SAN fa

    Are we going to allow Shawn Hannity to derail Sen. Obama's campaign? I certainly hope that we are above those fear tatics.

    March 19, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  15. Robert Laing

    This girl at FSU told me that she gets paid to blog. She's a Clinton supporter, so I wanted to witness how it worked.

    March 19, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  16. Margaret D

    Dylan wake up obama lies look at the facts............... he is racist

    March 19, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  17. Ryan

    McBush and Hillary need to take lessons from this man on how to be presidential.

    Honesty and soul...not just blowing smoke up our behinds like those two.

    By the way...Hillary has no mathematical chance of winning the nomination. Go to Slate's delegate counter and see for yourself.

    March 19, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  18. Jack

    If John McCain used teleprompters like Obama, he'd be a great orator too

    March 19, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  19. Jacob

    No matter what, Barack Obama has my vote. And if for some strange reason he is not the nominee I will still be voting against McCain.

    Let's come together this election instead of bashing each other, we are all in the same party and most importantly one nation.

    Go Obama '08!

    March 19, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  20. BobP


    that was a record number of lies in one post. well done sir.

    March 19, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  21. Fort Smith, AR

    I don't think it's a matter of "mis-speaking" but rather not having a general understanding of the situation well enough to prevent you from mis-speaking.

    March 19, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |

    George Bush and John McCain are the same, out of touch, out of reality, no judgment, no knowledge of what is going around the world and in America-two ignorants of the twenty-first century.

    March 19, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  23. Shawn - GA

    I would rather have a President who did not care about his/her poll numbers or public opinion, but got the job done!! Obama and his "yes we can" hype with no substance s scary as hell. This man sat and listened to the hate of his pastor and has a speak saying we should all forgive and live.. bla bla bla. But jumps all over Mc Cain for misspoken words???

    March 19, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  24. George from Minneapolis


    Far from sarcastic. Obama clearly has the courage, judgement and moral authority to lead this country into a new future.

    As the father of a 5 year old boy and a 7 month old girl, when I think of what kind of world I want my kids to live in, supporting Barack Obama for President of the United States is natural. I believe that Obama has superior character compared to Hillary and McCain and to be honest I trust his character better than any presidental candidate in my life time.

    So, yes, Barack Obama is a gift to my country. America

    March 19, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  25. Independant2

    Obama is all things to all people all the time! Yes he is.
    The super man of all gropies. Yes he is.
    The biggest bull shooter on the planet. Yes he is.
    Just believe everything I tell you cause it's all doable and true. Yes it is.
    Vote for Obama. No I won't.
    Clinton ain't a bit better. No she ain't.
    I don't care much for McCain but will wait to see who he chooses as VP.

    March 19, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
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