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Four Strikes and You're Out: McCain on Al Qaeda and Iran

March 20, 2008

If the contest for the White House followed the rules of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," John McCain would be going home empty-handed. At last four times in the past month, George W. Bush's would-be Republican successor sounded the alarm over a non-existent Al Qaeda-Iran alliance in Iraq. But for a lifeline from Joe Lieberman, McCain would have been booted off the stage by now.
As ThinkProgress detailed this morning, McCain's confusion over friend and foe began at least as far back as February 28th. During an appearance at the Baker Institute for Public Policy in Houston, McCain warned:

"But Al Qaeda is there, they are functioning, they are supported in many times, in many ways by the Iranians."

McCain's troubles started in earnest during his much-hyped Middle East tour this week. Apparently lacking the playbill or even crib notes, McCain on Monday told right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt:

"As you know, there are al Qaeda operatives that are taken back into Iran, given training as leaders, and they're moving back into Iraq."

But it was during his startling Tuesday press conference in Jordan when McCain failed to understand that when it comes to Iran and Al Qaeda in Iraq, the enemy of our enemy is not our friend. As the Washington Post reported, it took that lifeline from his ersatz Democratic sidekick Joe Lieberman to save McCain from himself:

He said several times that Iran, a predominately Shiite country, was supplying the mostly Sunni militant group, al-Qaeda. In fact, officials have said they believe Iran is helping Shiite extremists in Iraq.
Speaking to reporters in Amman, the Jordanian capital, McCain said he and two Senate colleagues traveling with him continue to be concerned about Iranian operatives "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back."
Pressed to elaborate, McCain said it was "common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that's well known. And it's unfortunate." A few moments later, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, standing just behind McCain, stepped forward and whispered in the presidential candidate's ear. McCain then said: "I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda."

Finding itself in a hole, the McCain campaign decided to keep digging. On Wednesday, McCain's team issued a written statement perpetuating its error:

"Al Qaeda and Shia extremists -- with support from external powers such as Iran -- are on the run but not defeated."

Seeing the distress of its man McCain, a candidate whose entire claim to the White Houe is premised on his supposed national security credentials, the right-wing amen corner rushed to his defense. The Weekly Standard and Powerline fought a rear-guard action, citing incidents of "cooperation" pre-dating the 9/11 attacks to justify McCain's repeated claims of Tehran's backing for Al Qaeda in Iraq. By Thursday, the McCain campaign itself was echoing their claims:

But while the McCain campaign is backing away from the specific claims about Iranian training of Al Qaeda, it is asserting that Iran collaborates with Osama bin Laden's organization.
Mr. McCain's national security adviser, Randy Scheunemann, told The New York Sun, "There is ample documentation that Iran has provided many different forms of support to Sunni extremists, including Al Qaeda as well as Shi'ia extremists in Iraq. It would require a willing suspension of disbelief to deny Iran supports Al Qaeda in Iraq."

Scheunemann might have wanted to check with the candidate before making that statement. During an interview Wednesday, John McCain told NBC's Kelly O'Donnell he simply misspoke:

"I don't claim that I won't misspeak on occasion, but I will correct it immediately."
"To think that I would have some lack of knowledge about Sunni and Shia after my eighth visit and my deep involvement in this issue is a bit ludicrous."

Given McCain's repeated demonstrations that he doesn't know his ass from his elbow about the players in Iraq without a scorecard, the concerns are far from ludicrous. All of which raises the question: why is John McCain getting Al Qaeda-Iran alliance wrong?
I'll offer three theories, each as disturbing as the next. The first is simple ignorance: McCain simply can't track all the moving pieces in the sectarian conflict in Iraq. Second is that this foot soldier in the Reagan revolution is displaying some of the same creeping cognitive shortfalls as the Gipper himself. But just as likely is that the statements are intentional. McCain, like President Bush and the supposed leading lights of the Republican Party, is pursuing the rhetorical strategy of conflation. That is, McCain like his possible running mate Mitt Romney is fear mongering by hyping an "Islamofascism" which conflates all Muslims - Sunni and Shiite, friend and foe, guilty and innocent, and especially Tehran - into a single unified threat.
In that same interview Wednesday, McCain himself offered support for all three theories.

"Al Qaeda is military. Al Qaeda is killing Americans as we speak. Islamic extremists are being trained in Iran and they are being sent back into Iran, I mean into Iraq."

No doubt, John McCain's endless errors would get him kicked off "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." But judging by recent polls, his mistake filled, five-year record on Iraq has not yet led the Americanpeople - and certainly not the American press - to conclude John McCain is unfit for command.

3 comments on “Four Strikes and You're Out: McCain on Al Qaeda and Iran”

  1. YouTube Video McCain, Iran, Parsley, Hagee CALL FOR "ARMAGEDDON"
    COMMERCIAL YOUTUBE CHALLENGE: The only way the MSM will pick this story up is with a YouTube video ... the only way to get the media start talking about something other than Wright ........
    John McCain, Iran, Rod Parsley, John Hagee & Armageddon. Yes, Armageddon and their desire to invade Iran to begin Armageddon. Scenario and Details below.
    Factual SCENARIO
    John McCain falsely claims that al Qaeda is in Iran. Is McCain making those false statements because he believes the same things his spiritual guide Rod Parsley and John Hagee, who both want American son's and daughters to invade Iran to "usher in Armageddon," believe. Yes, you read that right, Armageddon.
    * McCain's spiritual guide, Rod Parsley said, "Israel must be defeated by a Russian-Arab military alliance, perhaps preceded by a U.S. invasion of Iran, in order to usher in Armageddon and the second coming of Jesus."
    * John Hagee said, "The United States must be in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan ... a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ."
    Look, McCain actively sought and fought for the endorsement of both Hagee and Parsley.
    McCain knew before he actively sought and fought for their endorsement that BOTH Hagee and Parsley have wanted for YEARS for America's sons and daughters to invade Iran to begin "rapture, tribulation and the second coming of Christ." McCain knew their desires of Armageddon for years now and in spite of what he knew, McCain sought their endorsement and he named Parsley his spiritual advisor.
    I mean, it wasn't like they came to McCain. No, McCain went to them, met with them and broke bread with them. The whole while McCain knew, in advance, that both those men want the world to end and they want American sons & daughters to be the first ones at ground zero invading Iran.
    Now, while I think they're both crackpots, what a SCARY thought if John McCain became president and his spiritual advisor wants to invade Iran to begin Armageddon. And John McCain is walking around lying about al Qaeda working with Iran. That is the same false scare tactic Bush used to invade Iraq.
    John McCain either showed WAY BAD JUDGMENT or he wants to invade Iran to being Armageddon too.
    No one can say McCain was having a senior moment when on March 20, 2008 McCain said, without a flinch and without correction, that Iran is working with al Qaeda. He had said that 4 times in 1 day prior to that only to be corrected all 4 times ... then finally the 5th time he said it he said it was TRUE, no corrections, no senior moment. It was a deliberate untruth from McCain. Even the generals in Iran on the ground say al Qaeda is not working with Iran.
    Does McCain have a hidden agenda to lead Armageddon? I am not sure America is safe with a President who thinks like that.
    My COMMERCIAL YOUTUBE CHALLENGE: Make as many creative commercials as you can with McCain, Parsley, Hagee, Iran & Armageddon on YOUTUBE so we can watch Sean Hannity air those commercials incessantly while simultaneously listen to Hannnity talk about McCain's poor judgment for going out of his way to seek out Parsley & Hagee. Get some popcorn because you just KNOW Sean Hannity go in detail about how scary it would be to have a president like John McCain and his spiritual advisors in the White House.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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