Democratic National Committee: John McCain's 'Missed Opportunity'

Another No Good Very Bad Week for John McCain

WASHINGTON, March 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following was released today by the Democratic National Committee:

In an effort to burnish his foreign policy credentials, John McCain made a taxpayer-funded campaign swing through Europe and the Middle East this week. But the trip was not the success the McCain campaign had hoped for.

Instead, McCain made a series of missteps, making false and misleading statements about al-Qaeda, Iran , and Iraq . It's no wonder then that one foreign policy expert is asking, "Who is the real John McCain?" On Iraq , McCain missed an opportunity to offer a change in course, choosing once again to side with President Bush 's failed policies instead of General Petraeus who said that there has not been "sufficient" political progress in Iraq . [AFP, 3/14/08]

It didn't help that McCain also equated Purim with Halloween while in Israel , said Baghdad's neighborhoods are safe as a suicide attack occurred, and held a fundraiser whose host made his fortune advising a shady Russian oligarch -- all on the taxpayers' dime.

Below is a selection of articles chronicling McCain's no good very bad week abroad.

Oh, those pesky little FACTS about Iraq...

On Monday:

McCain Gets Al-Qaeda Iran Facts Wrong. "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 ." [ Hugh Hewitt Radio Show, 3/17/08]

Things Get Worse on Tuesday:

And He Does It Again. "'We continue to be concerned about Iranian [operatives] taking al-Qaeda into Iran , training them and sending them back,' he said in comments after meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II on Tuesday afternoon. Pressed to elaborate, McCain said it is '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 I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), standing just behind McCain, stepped forward and whispered in his ear. McCain then said, 'I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda.'" [Washington Post, 3/19/08]

No One's Impressed...

McCain Misspeaks on Iran , al-Qaeda. " Mr. McCain said several times during his visit to Jordan - during a news conference and a radio interview -- that he was concerned that Iran was training members of al-Qaeda in Iraq . The United States believes that Iran , a Shiite country, has been training and financing Shiite extremists in Iraq , but not al-Qaeda , which is a Sunni insurgent group...Mr. McCain has based his campaign in large part on his assertion that he is the best prepared candidate to deal with Iraq , and the Democrats wasted little time in jumping on his misstatement to question his knowledge and judgment. 'After eight years of the Bush Administration's incompetence in Iraq , McCain's comments don't give the American people a reason to believe that he can be trusted to offer a clear way forward,' Karen Finney , a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement. 'Not only is Senator McCain wrong on Iraq once again, but he showed he either doesn't understand the challenges facing Iraq and the region or is willing to ignore the facts on the ground.'" [New York Times, 3/18/08]

Dems seize on McCain's Iran gaffe. "The Democratic National Committee seized on John McCain's apparent gaffe while discussing Iran Tuesday, saying it raises questions whether the Arizona senator 'can be trusted to offer a clear way forward...' DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney quickly pounced on the misstep. 'After eight years of the Bush Administration's incompetence in Iraq , McCain's comments don't give the American people a reason to believe that he can be trusted to offer a clear way forward,' she said. 'Not only is Senator McCain wrong on Iraq once again, but he showed he either doesn't understand the challenges facing Iraq and the region or is willing to ignore the facts on the ground.'" [CNN Political Ticker, 3/18/08]

McCain mistaken on Iran and al-Qaida. " Sen. John McCain , the Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting, mistakenly said Tuesday that Iran was allowing al-Qaida fighters into the country to be trained and returned to Iraq . McCain, expressing concern about Iran's rising sway in the Mideast, said, 'Al-Qaida is going back into Iran and is receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran .' He made the comments Tuesday at a news conference in Jordan ; he made similar comments earlier to radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt...McCain's gaffe immediately drew criticism from the Democratic National Committee, which insisted he must not understand the challenges facing Iraq . 'Not only is Senator McCain wrong on Iraq once again, but he showed he either doesn't understand the challenges facing Iraq and the region or is willing to ignore the facts on the ground,' said Democratic National Committee Communications Director Karen Finney ." [Associated Press, 3/18/08]

McCain makes pointed error on foreign affairs. "Republican presidential nominee John McCain today alleged that al-Qaida in Iraq is being aided by Iran , an error that threatens to undermine his claim to be the most experienced foreign policy expert in the race...The Democratic party leapt on McCain's remarks as evidence he's incapable of leading the country through war in Iraq . 'After eight years of the Bush administration's incompetence in Iraq , McCain's comments don't give the American people a reason to believe that he can be trusted to offer a clear way forward,' said Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Karen Finney . 'Not only is Senator McCain wrong on Iraq once again, but he showed he either doesn't understand the challenges facing Iraq and the region or is willing to ignore the facts on the ground.'" [The Guardian, 3/18/08]

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2008/03/18/a_mccain_gaffe_in_jordan.html" Sen. John McCain , traveling in the Middle East to promote his foreign policy expertise, misidentified in remarks Tuesday which broad category of Iraqi extremists are allegedly receiving support from Iran...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.' The mistake threatened to undermine McCain's argument that his decades of foreign policy experience make him the natural choice to lead a country at war with terrorists. In recent days, McCain has repeatedly said his intimate knowledge of foreign policy make him the best equipped to answer a phone ringing in the White House late at night." [The Trail, WashingtonPost.com, 3/18/08]

http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2008/03/19/mccain-camp-again-links-al-qaeda-to-iran/ "For the second day in a row, Sen. John McCain 's campaign linked al-Qaeda in Iraq to Iran -- an assertion Democrats say is misleading if not outright inaccurate. The McCain campaign, which acknowledged that the senator misspoke on Tuesday, insisted that its statement today is fully supported by facts...Democrats saw no distinction between the two statements and pounced -- again. 'Either John McCain is purposely playing politics with the facts on the ground or he doesn't understand the threat facing Iraq and our brave troops,' said a statement today from DNC Communications Director Karen Finney ." [Wall Street Journal, 3/19/08]

Not Backing Down on Wednesday:

And Again. In a statement, McCain said "Al-Qaeda and Shia extremists -- with support from external powers such as Iran -- are on the run but not defeated." [johnmccain.com, 3/19/08]

NOT MAKING ANY FRIENDS ABROAD

http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-na-mccainpolicy16mar16,0,7782992.story "The presumptive GOP nominee for president, McCain -- who leads a congressional delegation to Europe and the Middle East this week -- has adopted a surprising diversity of views on foreign policy issues during his 25 years in Congress. It is a pattern that brings uncertainty to the path he would take if elected...One sign of the internal contradictions in his views is growing friction between rival camps of McCain supporters -- between neoconservatives and those with more traditional views, widely called 'realists.' Both sides believe they have assurances from McCain that he would largely follow their path, and that like-minded allies would have key roles in the new administration. The conflicting signals have caught the attention of foreign policy experts. 'Who is the real John McCain?' asked Dimitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center, a Washington think tank and stronghold of the realist thinkers." [Los Angeles Times , 3/16/08]

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/19/AR2008031902778.html "But I have a hunch that the senator from Arizona may look back on his stopover in Baghdad on Sunday and Monday as a missed opportunity. It is obvious that the Democrats are planning to run against McCain by linking him as tightly as possible with President Bush , the instigator of the Iraq war and the captain of a seriously shaky economy...For a man with a reputation for 'straight talk,' that sounds suspiciously like pulling his punches. My sense is that voters would be more willing to give McCain the open-ended commitment he desires in Iraq if they thought the Iraqis were fulfilling their part of the bargain. McCain had a chance to deliver that message publicly in Baghdad , and, as far I can see, he missed it. Instead, he twice mistakenly said that Iran was aiding the Sunni-based al-Qaeda in Iraq , not the Shiite militants -- until corrected by Lieberman, thus denting his claim to expertise in the region." [Washington Post, 3/20/08]

McCain: 'Al-Qaeda is on the run' in Iraq . "In response to McCain's visit, Democrats Abroad, the Democratic Party's arm that represents Americans living overseas, released a statement saying that 'while John McCain travels abroad to try to look presidential, Democrats know that the next president will have hard work to improve America's standing around the world.'" [USA Today, 3/20/08]

Baghdad is Just Like Your Neighborhood, Only Different.

McCain: Iraqis are "Going About Their Normal Lives." The Guardian newspaper reported "McCain said he thought that the situation in Iraq was improving. 'People are going about their normal lives,' he said." [The Guardian ( London , UK), 3/20/08]

Some Baghdad Neighborhoods Are Safe. Traveling with McCain in Iraq , CNN's John King interviewed McCain. King noted that McCain had famously visited the nearby market "And a year later, the neighborhood remains highly volatile, unsafe for an American to visit, and under the control of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army. McCain: 'All I can say is that, yet, there are other neighborhoods of Baghdad where kids are out playing soccer and people are in the street.'" [CNN Transcript, 3/17/08]

WELL, BOTH HAVE COSTUMES, RIGHT?

McCain: Purim - It's Just Like Halloween . In a visit to Sderot, Israel , a town close to Gaza that often receives rocket fire, the New York Times reports " Mr. McCain said the situation in Sderot, where children dressed up for Purim walked the streets on Wednesday, highlighted the urgency to pursue the peace process. At a news conference here with Israel's defense minister, Ehud Barak, he said there had been some 900 rocket attacks in the past few months. 'Obviously this puts an enormous and hard-to-understand strain on the people here, especially the children as they celebrate their version of Halloween here,' said Mr. McCain , of Arizona, referring to Purim," a Jewish holiday that has little in common with Halloween . [New York Times, 3/20/08]

OH THE COMPANY THEY KEEP...

McCain Holds Fundraiser in London , Hosted By Advisor to Shady Russian Figure McCain Has Also Met. In London , McCain is holding a fundraiser at the Spencer House , owned by Lord Rothschild and Nathaniel Rothschild . Nathaniel Rothschild is quite wealthy and can attribute a portion of that wealth to his role as an advisor to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. As Harper's Magazine points out, "Back in early 2006, lobbyist Rick Davis , who now serves as McCain's campaign advisor, helped introduce the senator and the oligarch during an international economic conference in Switzerland... About eight months after the meeting, the State Department revoked Deripaska's visa to the United States , due to concerns that he may have amassed his wealth illegally. That's embarrassing to the Russian, and he's hoping to reverse his ban on entry to this country, which he blames on 'stupid and ignorant bureaucrats.' During one interview last fall, Deripaska said, 'Maybe I'll get the visa when the next (U.S.) administration comes in.' Given his contacts to McCain, through Davis and Rothschild, one can guess whom Deripaska will be rooting for this fall." [Harper's Magazine, 3/19/08, http://www.harpers.org/subjects/WashingtonBabylon]

AND WHO'S PAYING FOR THIS LENGTHY CAMPAIGN TRIP, er, CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION?

Co-Del Trip Not About Presidential Politics. "But lemme emphasis to you I'm going on this trip as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and I had planned this trip before I had the nomination of my party. We will be talking about mutual national security issues, whether it be Iraq , Afghanistan , area of the world - Darfur. But those issues that are up before the Senate Armed Services Committee of which I am the Ranking Member, the senior republican. We will not be talking about presidential politics or presidential campaign. I'm going with two other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, that's what this trip is about." [CNN Live Feed ( Springfield , PA), 3/14/08]

And Yet, It is. With news of a fundraiser in London , McCain's claim of a campaign-free trip officially evaporated. The Washington Post reported " Sen. John McCain and his staff have been adamant for days that his upcoming overseas trip to Britain, France and Israel is not political. Some political staffers have gone so far as to refuse to talk about the trip with reporters, arguing it would be inappropriate to mix politics with his Senate business... Jill Hazelbaker , McCain's campaign spokeswoman, said today that Congress will be reimbursed for the political portions of the trip. The campaign is paying for McCain's flight home, since he is flying separately from the rest of the Congressional delegation. 'We are also paying for the fundraiser and his hotel that evening in London ,' Hazelbaker said. 'We will reimburse the Treasury for the cost of a flight to London .'" [Washington Post "The Trail," 3/15/08, http://blog.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2008/03/14/mccain_invites_fundraisers_to.html ]

Paid for and authorized by the Democratic National Committee, www.democrats.org.

This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

SOURCE Democratic National Committee



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