Sen. John McCain has done it again.
For the third time in two days, the Arizona Republican has pushed the definitively false statement that the terrorist group Al-Qaeda was getting assistance from Iran, even though he was publicly ridiculed for the same false assertion on Tuesday.
This time, in a statement from his campaign honoring the fifth year anniversary of the war, McCain wrote:
“Today in Iraq, America and our allies stand on the precipice of winning a major victory against radical Islamic extremism. The security gains over the past year have been dramatic and undeniable. Al Qaeda and Shia extremists — with support from external powers such as Iran — are on the run but not defeated.”
On Tuesday, the senator, appearing in Israel, made a nearly identical assertion that al-Qaeda was leaving Iraq to retool and regroup in Iran.
So what is it? Is Mr. “National Security Over Radical Extremists Trumps Everything” not smart enough to actually know what’s going on or is it a series of senior moments? Either way, it doesn’t reflect well on him. Max Bergmann doesn’t think it’s a gaffe:
Many in the media seem willing to dismiss McCain’s statement that Iran is training Al Qaeda as a simple slip of the tongue. This is wrong. McCain did NOT misspeak. If he had simply made the statement once, he could perhaps expect to be given a pass.
But he didn’t just say Iran was training Al Qaeda once. He said it in his initial statement (watch it here). He was then asked about it in a follow up question where he repeated it. It is not a simple slip of the tongue if when challenged on the “slip” you then REPEAT IT. [He also repeated it on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show]
That is not a gaffe. That is called believing something that isn’t true. It is called being confused. And being confused about the differences between Shia and Sunni when claiming that you should be elected president of the United States on your foreign policy knowledge and experience, is simply not okay.
When McCain makes a gross misstatement, Dems would do well not to ever say "senior moments", or allude to age at all. However, repeatedly characterizing McCain's false claims as him likely being "confused" is defensible, and within the bounds of bare-knuckled political brawling. Still, it's a pretty insidious play.
The media has been slow to cover McCain's foreign policy "confusions", but they will, eventually. (The later the better, actually.) And you can be sure McCain will make more blunders. And when he does, watch how lathered up the Goops get if a few Democratic talking heads start saying "McCain is confused", over and over.
Trust me, that will touch a nerve.
Suddenly the innocent "What, now we can't say Obama's middle name?" crowd will be very quick to find "ageist" subtexts in Democratic talking points.
Update: And again!