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. America

    America listen to the our 44th president Barack Obama. He is the only and only one who can get us out of the mess in Iraq, get out econmy in track again, as you know our economy had been damaged by the stubun president for seven years, Obama will the president who can get america to march in the positive direction and heal this nation. If some one can not see that I will call that person Hannity, Bill O'Rilley, Lou Dobbs or Wolf Britzer, because this are the people in the media who are trying dived as only for their own interest and to full fill their racisits ambition.

    March 19, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  2. Kevin

    First of all I have nothing against Obama, I still may vote for him, but McCain misspoke that's all. Let's leave it at that, it happens. For instance, Obama misspoke last week when he said he never heard Pastor Wright make divisive comments while in his church's pews, but said last night that he actually had. No one has said anything about that.

    March 19, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  3. Uncle Sam

    If Senator Obama lacks the moral courage to confront wrongdoing in his own church, how can we expect him to act differently as president?

    March 19, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  4. Sarah

    Some people on here are really stupid.

    Go Obama!!!!!!

    March 19, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  5. Kareem from Hampton VA

    Its funny how just a few weeks ago words didnt today the words of someone ELSE matters more than his! WOW!!

    March 19, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  6. John

    I trust God, to allow things to happen for the right reason....Maybe tomorrow will show who is really the right leader for this country...No doubt the leader will reflect the maturity, the intellect of the majority of the Americans.... Bush has been a perfect example....we probably need him for 4 more years, since he has the most experience foreign policy than any candidate who is currently running for his post!!! 8 more years to Bush,...probably, by then, we'll learn to be serious about who we elect as a nation!

    March 19, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  7. brian

    give me a break, its just a mistatement of words. We knew what he meant.

    March 19, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  8. Undecided in California

    One word: Aging.

    March 19, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  9. Aboomah 4 Obama

    McCain in The White House will be forwarding his calls to Lieberman when he goes to bed at 8PM – after his cookies with milk and Hogan's Heros reruns!

    March 19, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  10. Lee From Treasure Island Florida

    Shame on you CNN.
    This speech was NOT about your HEADLINE suggests
    Gees.... Whats with your spin? I do not get it. Yesterday you turned down the sound on his speech, so we could not hear the applause, I switched channels, to check. And now you start REALLY spinning the headlines. What happened to honest reporting? I always expected more, a

    March 19, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  11. Jim

    I am surprised at avowed democrats claiming that this gaffe was not a big deal. McCain has claimed that Iran is funding Al Qaeda more than once. Either he truly believes this, which makes him an incapable fool, or he doesn't believe it and is repeating the fact as a further justification of a future war with Iran, which is just plain scary. This was not a slip of the tongue. He said Iran was funding Al Qaeda, plain and simple. He said it earlier on a radio interview. This is not a small matter. This kind of confusion and ignorance got us into the war in the first place. Please, regardless of who you support, Obama or Hillary, this "momentary" lapse of memory tells me McCain is not fit to lead, especially if he is running mainly on the Iraq war.

    March 19, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  12. Lena

    Obama is right in pointing out that McCain is merely emulating the same old republican message. Whoever the republicans deem their next threat is automatically accused of sponsoring terrorism. We need to put an end to this mindset.

    March 19, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  13. LT

    Obama, for the person he is, has ability to lift this country up and get the respect of other nations back. Hi is a leader that we need and longing for. Those that are attacking him with some nonsense are blinded by Clinton's manipulation. If people will not weak up on time, we may end up with Clinton as a nominee, but then McCain, the extension of Bush philosophy, will become our president. I would rather vote 1000 times around than for Clinton, simply because I know what she is made of.

    March 19, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  14. Glory

    Haha some of you make me laugh. The funniest thing is that that is not even his best hit on McCain. Some of you call McCain a great hero, well Obama says that too often. Some of you call Obama's pastor a racist, then you are just stupid. Some of you even go as far as say Obama is all words and no action. Well that is just the dumbiest thing I have heard in this election.

    If words doesn't matter why does Wirght words matter. If words doesn't matter why are the best way we learn is through words or that we can run away from a candidate if they say something stupid.
    Words doesn't matter, well then you are voting for someone you believe will not delieve on snything they say because it is just words.

    The biggest changes in America started with just words and followed by action. So let's talk about action WAR that's action. WAR a dumb war that is action right. Please give me a break. If you think that Obama is all words then give evidence of how he has said one thing and done nothing or changed his mind.

    March 19, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  15. Thall999

    The issue isn't MCain made a honest mistake (which I think he did and he's human).

    The real issue is why should be keep spending 12 billion dollars + a month on Iraq when the Iraqis themselves are not in a hurry to deal with their country issues.

    McCain mistake yesterday is very trivial and Obama is just needling him and being a politican. However, how much are we willing to spend in money and lives in Iraq while be come apart here in this country?

    What is a win in Iraq and when will we know? Surely Al Queda can keep putting out a 100 or so operatives to keep 150,000 troops in Iraq. Who do you think wins with these figures? I say al Queda!

    March 19, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  16. Ozzy, NYC

    Are you really Hillary supporters, or the republicans trying to destroy the democrats? I am so confused by the rhetoric of racist and republican responses made in the name of Hillary. I was a Hillary supporter and I decided to switch to Obama. Those hate-mongers cannot destroy our party. Not this time. Please decent Hillary supporters I beg you, don't let the republicans destroy our party. McCain is not better than Obama, you all know that. Please don't help republicans.

    March 19, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  17. Jones in California

    Another ignorant and empty brain of the twenty-first century...running for the president of the United States.
    Over 50 million people elected incompetent man, and are still ready to elect another empty, incompetent man. shame people....

    March 19, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  18. LT -correction

    I would rather vote for McCain 1000 times around than for Clinton, simply because I know what she is made of.

    March 19, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  19. NoObama

    Obama before you going to attack John McCain and Hillary please clearing the one you said to Anderson Cooper on TV you said you wasn't
    in the church, so now you are lied.

    Obama do your home work first buy some more flags and try to put you hand on your heart before become a President.

    March 19, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  20. Kevin, Louisville, Ky

    meant "should not"

    March 19, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  21. concerned

    I cannot trust Obama at all. I am shocked by the latest . After all those problems he had, and has on him.
    He just talks and talks miles, but what is the result? Division, hate, racism renewed, refreshed if you wish. Not unity at all.
    He showed us how good is his judgment – to stay in racist church 20 years. Is this his judgment? That all whites are not worthy people? That this country is ...?
    Then we do not need him, we do not want him, or anyone like him.
    He is taking advantage of many people, events, words twisted to his profit.
    He is manipulator, he is actor, he is not a person I would call good politician, good leader.
    I can care less about his flamboyant speeches.
    Obama, would be better to go back to church, stay away from politics.

    March 19, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  22. Robert J. Goatse

    Most of the comments on here have absolutely nothing to do with the article. If yuo want to bash Obama for Rev. Wright, go someplace else. If yuo want to bash Hillary, who wasn't even mentioned in this article, go someplace else.

    That being said; why is it that because McCain is old and has been in politics that he automatically knoas what he's talking about? He has outright said he knoas nothing about teh economy. Now apparently he doesn't knoa foreign affairs. We cannot have four more years of ignorance.

    March 19, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  23. Luanne

    I'm sick of this. Why is this racist, arrogant man still in the race? I can't understand how anyone can see a president in him. I know alot of people that give good speeches and they would make a better president than him. His history dealing with real issues are blinded by what he has learned from his pastor. Our problems are real, our economy is in default and he wants to stoop to a miss spoke word? Grow up and shut up.

    March 19, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  24. Tim, Cincinnati, OH

    Why is McCain getting heat over this? He misspoke. Who doesn't do that?

    March 19, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |

    CNN – why have clips from his Tuesday speech (that all you networks plastered all over the place) for this issue that he commented on today?

    Quit fueling the hot air balloon.

    March 19, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12