November 2nd, 2008
06:20 PM ET
14 years ago

Fact Check: Was McCain the "biggest cheerleader" for launching Iraq war?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Was McCain the 'biggest cheerleader' for launching the war in Iraq?."]
The Statement:
At a rally Sunday, Nov. 2, in Columbus, Ohio, Sen. Barack Obama cited Sen. John McCain's "endorsement" from Vice President Dick Cheney. "He worked hard for it," Obama joked, pointing to McCain's support for the vast majority of the Bush administration's policies. And, Obama added, "He had to serve as Washington's biggest cheerleader for going to war in Iraq."

Get the facts!

The Facts:
Sen. John McCain was an early supporter of launching a war against Iraq. "I believe Iraq is a threat of the first order, and only a change of regime will make Iraq a state that does not threaten us and others," he said in a speech to the Center for Strategic & International Studies on Feb. 13, 2003.

McCain was a cosponsor of legislation authorizing the use of force against Iraq. The Web site of the Library of Congress lists him as one of 16 cosponsors. Others included Sen. Jesse Helms, who attended the ceremony in which the president signed the legislation; Sen. Zell Miller, who fervently
supported the war, and Sen. Evan Bayh, who was a co-chair of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, along with McCain. While it is impossible to quantify exactly how much any lawmaker supported launching the war in Iraq, there is no doubt that McCain was one of the most prominent.

At a speech this past August in Orlando, Florida, Obama described McCain as "a leading supporter" of the Iraq war. In recent days, he has repeatedly called McCain "Washington's biggest cheerleader" for it. The CNN Truth Squad asked the Obama campaign Sunday why Obama had made that change. The campaign sent a list of quotes by McCain about the war. Topping the list is a remark McCain made to a radio program, The Mike Gallagher Show, in March: "No one has supported President Bush on Iraq more than I have."

That remark referred to McCain's support for the war in general, not just the drum-up to it in 2003. And it could mean that McCain believes other lawmakers supported the Iraq war equally - just not more. The Truth Squad asked the McCain campaign whether McCain considers himself to have been the biggest supporter in Congress of launching the Iraq war. McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds responded that other lawmakers were equal in their support. And, Bounds added, "John McCain has never been a 'cheerleader' for any war."

The Verdict:
Misleading. In August, Obama called McCain "a leading supporter" of launching the war, which was accurate. McCain was one of 16 cosponsors of legislation authorizing the use of force, and he was among those who spoke out publicly for the war. But there is no proof that he was the "biggest cheerleader."

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Fact Check • John McCain
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