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. Dude

    So, you say you're a democrat... unless Obama is the candidate? You will vote for Hillary Clinton or John McCain only?! How is this even a viable option? For those of you subscribing to this idea, are you that bitter or just insanely moronic?

    March 19, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  2. Sharon

    So you guys haven't caught on to the fact that Senator Obama's candidacy is over yet? Once Sean Hannity is done with him, he'll be lucky to save his Senate seat. McCain may have made a mistatement, or temporarily confused the two groups, but at least he didn't attend a radical anti-American church for 20 years.

    March 19, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  3. Eli

    We need to stand up and tell OBAMA that we will not drink his kool-aid any longer , he is close to Jim Jones and the other so called prophets but his problem is hes trying to con us all not a select few that he can control.

    March 19, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  4. LTfromWA

    Dan from USA – this is not a 'mis-speak,' it's a glimpse into the tentative grip on the situation that this man really has. A mis-speak would be if he were to confuse the labels Shiite and Sunni. To say that Iran is aiding the enemy, this is either a blatant lie (I think we've all had enough of those over the last 7 years) or someone spouting off rhetoric – in the most unfortunate of arenas, by the way – who really doesn't know or understand what he's talking about. Either way, you must admit that this 'gaffe' characterizes John McCain as a dangerous, confused person who should not be trusted with the power to lead the free world.

    March 19, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  5. Enrique

    It's funny reading Hillary supporters on here. Like Hillary, just a bunch of sore losers.

    March 19, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  6. Lt Webb

    It has been proven that we spend more money on Illegals than for the war in Iraq, And as far as this democrat is concerned , Obama no longer has any qualities and is just a Racist Lier Period He needs to go back to Chicago and his Hatefull Preacher, with his Wife who Isn't Proud to be an American unless every thing favors her

    March 19, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  7. DRS

    What is interesting to me is that self-professed Democrats are willing to vote for McCain if Obama get the Democratic nomination. The GOP would NEVER vote for an oppenent. Look at what you are doing and saying. How pitiful we are. Have some loyalty, if not for the party but for yourself. The GOP is keeping this mess going to keep you from focusing on the real issues, GAS PRICES, FORECLOSURES, HEALTH CARE, JOBS! You can't see the forest for the trees. Wake up or we'll have another 4 years of BUSH!!!!

    March 19, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  8. Jeff D.

    May I respectfully point out that the copyeditors missed "Jordon" (misspelled word!) in the lead of this story.

    I think Senator McCain is a great American and would probably make a good a decent president. I think Obama might be the better choice though.

    March 19, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  9. Stacy Clarks, Texas

    Debby: Obama has been to Iraq while in office, thanks!

    To all those who said McCain just mispoke, he did it in EVERY interview he has had, and in every speech, its not a mistake when you do it over and over again. He clearly did not know. This is the person you are all touting as experienced on foreign policy.....WHATEVER!!!

    VOTE OBAMA 08!!!!!!!!!!

    March 19, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  10. grant

    "I will not vote for Obama if he gets the nomination, I will vote for McCain. GO HILLARY….GO HILLARY…GO HILLARY…"
    Donna B.

    No wonder this country is in such a mess, democrats would vote for McBush over the their own party nominated candidate. Four more years of Republican leadership is just what we need! FOOLS.

    March 19, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  11. Note

    Hillary and Mcain should retire!!! Go Obama!!!

    March 19, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  12. Jenn

    Quoting Mardaret D:

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

    Seems like Margaret and her chosen candidate are on the same page: If I dont get my way, then I am going to throw a temper tantrum.

    Wake up... Hillary aggreed to those rules when she thought that she had the nomination on a silver platter... now that she realizes that people dont want more of the same old crap the rules should no longer apply to her... I dont think so... The rules cannot be changed in the middle of the game because they do not suit her highness.

    March 19, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  13. jo anne daddario

    I don't think Obama should start his kindergarten antics with John McCain. Let him continue to fight with Hillary. The USA will not be safe with Obama as our president...

    March 19, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  14. Never McCain

    Despite the haters who are blogging for Obama to "go home" and "go away", I will support him all the way to the Presidency. It is a waste of time and effort to change some of your ignorant views. What a shame you all are.

    March 19, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  15. edn

    John "the pain train" McCain looks like he is on his last leg. So all the right-wingers should be more concerned of who his running mate will be. With regards to his latest gaffe, they haven't come up with a cure yet. Another thing, why does he always repeat what he says after finishing a sentence? Gonna cal him "Johnny two times". lol

    March 19, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  16. Will-South Dakota

    McBushMcCain just the same old poor intelligence that lead Bush/Cheney to take America to war for 5 years, Year 6 begins, 12 BILLION a month, Gas prices at home hitting $4 per gallon, the economy sliding further into a recession and the everyday average hard working American having to pay for it all. Corporate bigwigs are safe their golden parachutes are safe, McSame will protect them. McSame is wrong for this country.

    March 19, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  17. JayJay

    I watched the speech. It was almost an hour long about Iraq and foreign policy. And this is all CNN has to report

    March 19, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  18. Mike

    "I appreciated him appointing me to the position, however I still did not like the man. Not for his Idea's or leadership, but the fact he was white".

    For anyone wondering where that quote came from, read "Dreams from my Father" by Barack Hussein Obama.

    Enough said.

    March 19, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  19. Holden Litgo

    After 8 years of gaffes, missteps and ineptness, there are still apologists for McBush? Wow. We need to see a repeat of the misguided policy decisions – not just in the case of Iraq but the Republican tendency to deregulate our country into further failures and taxpayer bailouts. Heads in the sand, folks, wake up. And you Hillary supporters on this board are looking more like Swiftboaters all the time. Congratulations for lowering the level of discourse to Rovian depths. Come on, people. Quit your sniping and think beyond your own petty beliefs. Talk issues, talk substance.

    March 19, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  20. prakash chand for HILLARY

    What does Obama know anything about war,he didny support the war in first place even when terrorists attack in our fron yard.

    SHU UP LIAR and step down ,you a rae a burden to America.

    March 19, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  21. Dan

    McCain's mis-statement was made repeatedly (on three different occasions). Sounds more like a misunderstanding than mis-statement.

    Given that, it's not just fair game for criticism but raises reasonable questions about McCain's grasp of the facts.

    March 19, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  22. PKS

    ESTABAN-–You worry about Obama lying but, supports Clinton? What a joke. Everyone knows they are crooks but her dittohead followers!

    I like McCain as a person, but it's clear he doesn't know much either.

    March 19, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  23. John

    If Clinton wins you Yanks are on your own you can say bye to all the European allies.

    March 19, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  24. Peter

    Senator Obama's aides can put as many flags as they want behind him when he speaks. That will not make him presidential. He is clueless on defense policy. He is clueless on foreign policy.

    It does not matter where he lived when he was 10 years old. It does not matter in how many foreign countries his relatives live. It does not matter how he claims he might have voted if he had held national office prior to 2005. He has no experience. He has demonstrated his poor judgment. On what basis is he qualified?

    March 19, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  25. kenny

    The old man needs to go home and play with his grand kids and let OBAMA lead this country. GO OBAMA

    March 19, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
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