Normally, we’d give John McCain the benefit of the doubt if he flubbed an obscure foreign policy factoid and hastened to correct himself. But in the past two days, McCain has managed to botch a piece of information central to the conflict in Iraq not once, but twice .
Speaking to reporters in Jordan yesterday, he said the United States must remain vigilant in combating Iran, since "al-Qaida is going back into Iran and is receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran." This is, according to every piece of intelligence, just plain wrong. (Iran is supporting Shiite militias aligned against al-Qaida, which is Sunni.) Sen. Joe Lieberman, standing beside McCain, leaned in to whisper his mistake. McCain corrected himself: "I’m sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaida."
Embarrassing, yes, but forgivable—maybe he just misspoke. Right?
Sadly, no. On conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt’s radio show the night before, McCain had said the exact same thing : "As you know, there are al-Qaida operatives that are taken back into Iran and given training as leaders and taken back into Iraq."
Add this to the list of things that, come September, McCain will wish he’d never said. Topping that list would be the time he told the Wall Street Journal , "I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated." McCain’s opponent in the general election could have some nasty fun coupling that statement with the al-Qaida/Iran flub. The only thing worse than admitting ignorance is displaying ignorance.