DNC - John McCain's Top 10 Misstatements and Outright Deceptions

Washington, DC - For a candidate who regularly brags about his experience as a Washington insider, John McCain has a troubling pattern of flubbing key facts and echoing obviously false statements about his own record. To help voters keep track of all the gaffes and distortions, the Democratic National Committee today released a list of John McCain's top 10 misstatements and outright deceptions.

"Whether he is talking about a country that hasn't existed in 15 years, flubbing the fundamental facts on the ground in Iran and Iraq, or blatantly misleading on his own record, John McCain's history of gaffes and deceptions raises serious questions about whether he has the judgment to lead," said DNC spokesman Damien LaVera.  "At a time when we are fighting two wars abroad and facing an economic crisis here at home, McCain just doesn't understand the challenges we are facing.  The more voters learn about John McCain, the more they see he's the wrong choice for America's future."

The following is a list of John McCain's Top 10 Misstatements and Outright Deceptions:
1. McCain doesn't even know who is in charge in Iran.
2. Iraq/Iran, Sunni/Shia: McCain doesn't know the difference.
3. McCain still thinks Czechoslovakia (which split into two countries in 1993) exists.
4. McCain wrongly claimed that Baghdad was mostly normal.
5. McCain called Baghdad market safe.
6. McCain can't even remember how little he knows about the economy.
7. McCain falsely claimed he never requested pork.
8. McCain falsely claimed that tax cuts increased government revenues.
9. McCain's claim to be untainted by special interest money is false.
10. McCain wrongly claimed he never supported amnesty.


McCain Gets Basic Facts on Iran Wrong.
QUESTION: I've done some research, and um -
MCCAIN: I have too.
QUESTION: Also checked, also checked with the Obama campaign and he never, he's never sai -- mentioned Ahmadinejad directly by name. He did say he would negotiate with the leaders, but as you know - Ayatollah,
MCCAIN: (Laughing) Ahmadinejad is, was the leader.
QUESTION: But if -
MCCAIN: Maybe I'm mistaken.
QUESTION: Maybe you are, because -
MCCAIN: Maybe. I don't think so though.
QUESTION: The Supreme, you know, according to most diplomatic experts, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the guy who's in charge of Iranian foreign policy and also in charge of the nuclear program, but you never mention him. Do you, you know, um, why do you always keep talking about Ahmadinejad since he doesn't have power in that, in that realm?
MCCAIN: Oh I thin-Again, I respectfully disagree. When he's the person that comes to the United Nations and declares his country's policy is the extermination of the state of Israel, quote, in his words, wipe them off of the map, then I know that he is speaking for the Iranian government and articulating their policy and he was elected and is running for reelection as the leader of that country. Yes sir, go ahead.
NEW QUESTION: One more quest-
MCCAIN: I mean, the fact is he's the acknowledged leader of that country and you may disagree, but that's a uh, that's your right to do so, but I think if you asked any average American who the leader of Iran is, I think they'd know. Go ahead. Or anyone who's well-versed in the issue.
[CNN Live Feed, Press Conference (Savannah, GA), 5/19/08]

The CIA's World Factbook States that "Ultimate Political Authority" in Iran is Vested in the Supreme Leader. "Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling monarchy was overthrown and the shah was forced into exile. Conservative clerical forces established a theocratic system of government with ultimate political authority vested in a learned religious scholar referred to commonly as the Supreme Leader who, according to the constitution, is accountable only to the Assembly of Experts." [CIA - The World Factbook, accessed 5/19/08; (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ir.html#Govt)]

Ultimate Authority in Iran Rests With Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. "[Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei heads a theocratic Shiite Muslim state with elements of a democratic republic, including regular elections for parliament and the presidency. . . . Iran's constitution does not recognize political parties. But authorities regulate political groups and even fund some organizations loyal to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. These groups battle one another for power and influence through the parliament, although ultimate authority rests with Khamenei, a high-ranking cleric." [Los Angeles Times, 1/25/08]

At least four times as a candidate, three times in March 2008 alone, McCain said publicly that Iran (a Shiite nation) was supporting Al-Queda (a Sunni group) in Iraq. Despite being corrected by the press and his colleagues, McCain continued to repeat the assertion.

  • March 17, 2008: McCain said on the Hugh Hewitt radio show "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." [New York Times, 3/19/08; Entire Transcript at: http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/talkradio/transcripts/Transcript.aspx?ContentGuid=ae522a49-6c82-4791-a76e-44ebb718bf32]
  • March 18, 2008: In Jordan after a trip to Iraq, McCain said a press conference that " '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]
  • March 19, 2008: The next day however, in a press release on the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, McCain said "Al Qaeda and Shia extremists -- with support from external powers such as Iran -- are on the run but not defeated." [McCain Presidential Campaign Press Release via Targeted News Service, 3/19/08]
  • November 2007: McCain Said that Al Qaeda Is Getting "Supplies and Equipment" From Iran. "Al Qaeda is not defeated," McCain told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week. "They're on the run, but they are not defeated, and they continue to get supplies and equipment through Iran, and they continue to get suicide bombers through Syria." [ABC, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, 11/25/07]
  • April 8, 2008: McCain Referred To Al Qaeda As A "Sect Of Shi'ites"
    [McCain]: Do you still view al Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat?
    [Petraeus]: It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was say 15 months ago.
    [McCain]: Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shi'ites overall? [CNN, 4/8/08, view video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdNKQ8XapIA]

Mistake Undermines Central Assertion of McCain's Campaign. The Trail wrote, "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]


Czechoslovakia Separated in Czech Republic & Slovakia on January 1, 1993. On January 1, 1993 the nation of Czechoslovakia separated into two independent countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Alluding to Czechoslovakia's peaceful "Velvet Revolution" in 1989, the break-up was known as the "Velvet Divorce," because it was, "hassle-free, peaceful and as amicable a breakup can be." [Associated Press, 9/11/07; International Herald Tribune, 9/11/07]

2008: McCain Says "I Would Work Closely With Czechoslovakia and Poland" on European Missile Shield. During a conversation with Don Imus on his "Imus in the Morning" radio program, John McCain voiced support for installing the European Missile Defense System in Poland and the Czech Republic: "Yes. Yes," he said on installing the shield despite Russia's opposition, "And I would work closely with Czechoslovakia and Poland and other countries." [WABC Radio "Imus in the Morning," 4/2/08] (emphasis added)

2007: McCain Says He'd make Sure "We Have a Missile Defense System in Place in Czechoslovakia & Poland." During an October 2007 Republican presidential primary debate, McCain sharply criticized Vladamir Putin's bullying and attempts "to get a control of the energy supply of Western Europe," telling the audience: "The first thing I would do is make sure that we have a missile defense system in place in Czechoslovakia and Poland, and I don't care what his objections are to it." [Fox Orlando (FL) Debate, 10/21/07] (emphasis added)

1999: At IRI Dinner, McCain "Twice Thanked the Ambassador From 'Czechoslovakia' For His Efforts." During McCain's 2000 campaign against George Bush for the Republican nomination, the Washington Post reported McCain "sometimes has trouble keeping things straight. McCain, chairman of the International Republican Institute, speaking at the group's gala awards dinner last week, twice thanked the ambassador from 'Czechoslovakia' for his efforts. The country split in 1993 into the Czech Republic and Slovakia." [Washington Post, 10/25/99]


McCain: Iraqis are "Going About Their Normal Lives." During his March 2008 trip, "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]

REALITY: March Actually Saw Rise In Baghdad Attacks. Soon after McCain's visit, a military report conclude that "After an overall decline in attacks against civilians and American and Iraqi security forces in Baghdad over the past several months, the number more than doubled in March from the previous month, according to statistics compiled by the American military in Baghdad." There were 631 attacks in March 2008, up from 239 in February [New York Times, 4/8/08]


First, McCain Claimed He Could Safely Walk Around Certain Baghdad Neighborhoods. "McCain's latest problem began before he left for the region, when he told Bill Bennett on the radio that 'there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk today.' After Michael Ware of CNN's Baghdad bureau accused the senator of living in 'Neverland,' McCain charged that it's reporters who are living in a 'time warp of three months ago.'" [Newsweek, 4/16/2007]

Then McCain Was Forced to Admit He "Misspoke" When He Failed to Mention His Massive Security During Baghdad Market Trip. "Wearing a bulletproof vest and surrounded by 100 soldiers in Baghdad's central market, McCain said: 'Never have I been able to go out into the city as I was today.' Headlines soon after called his statements 'propaganda' and a 'magic-carpet ride.'" Chastened, McCain issued a half-hearted apology a few days later, saying he 'mis-spoke" [Washington Post, 4/7/2007]


McCain Claimed That He Never Acknowledged He Wasn't Well Versed In Economics. [Tim Russert]: You have said repeatedly, quote, I know a lot less about economics than I do about military or foreign policy issues. I need to be educated. is it a problem for the campaign that the economy is the most important issue, one by your own acknowledgment you're not well versed on. [John McCain]: I don't know where you got that quote from. I'm very well versed in economics. I was there at the Reagan revolution. [Fact Checker, Washington Post, 1/25/08, http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2008/01/the_gop_debate_in_florida.html]

McCain Has Acknowledged That He Doesn't Understand Economics Well. "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should," McCain said. "I've got Greenspan's book."--Boston Globe, Dec. 12, 2007. [Fact Checker, Washington Post, 1/25/08, http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2008/01/the_gop_debate_in_florida.html]


RHETORIC: McCain said, "In 24 years as a member of Congress, I have never asked for nor received a single earmark or pork barrel project for my state." [PolitiFact.com /St. Petersburg Times (Florida), 1/26/08]

REALITY: "We find three examples of McCain seeking pork-barrel projects for Arizona, which puts a few blemishes on an otherwise stellar record against pork" [PolitiFact.com/St. Petersburg Times (Florida), 1/26/08]


McCain: Tax Cuts "Dramatically" Increase Revenue. McCain said, "And the fact is that tax cuts have dramatically increased revenues." [GOP Debate In SC, 5/15/07]

CBPP: Bush Tax Cuts Have Contributed To Dropping Federal Revenues. "According to analysis conducted by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the Bush tax cuts have actually "contributed to revenues dropping in 2004 to the lowest level as a share of the economy since 1950 and have been a major contributor to the dramatic shift from large projected budget surpluses to projected deficits as far as the eye can see." In an updated analysis, the CBPP asserts that recent increased revenues in 2005 and 2006 has not made up for the lack of growth in recent years. Furthermore, "while the Administration has credited the tax cuts with the drop in projected fiscal year 2006 to 'only' $248 billion, this year's budget would be essentially balanced were it not for the tax cuts." [CBPP Report, 4/23/04; CBPP, Tax Cuts: Myths and Realities, 3/20/07]

Fact Check: McCain's Claim That Tax Cuts Increase Revenue Is "Highly Misleading." Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain has said that the major tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 have "increased revenues." He also said that tax cuts in general increase revenues. That's highly misleading. In fact, the last half-dozen years have shown us that we can't have both lower taxes and fatter government coffers. The Congressional Budget Office, the Treasury Department, the Joint Committee on Taxation, the White House's Council of Economic Advisers and a former Bush administration economist all say that tax cuts lead to revenues that are lower than they otherwise would have been - even if they spur some economic growth. And federal revenues actually declined at the beginning of this decade before rebounding. The growth in the past three years that McCain refers to brings revenues back in line with the 40-year historical average as a percentage of gross domestic product." [Fact Check.Org, 6/11/2008]


McCain: The Special Interests Haven't Given Me "Any Money." McCain said, "Everybody says they're against the special interests, but I'm the only one the special interests don't give any money to." [Fact Checker, Washington Post, 2/29/08, http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2008/02/pinocchios_for_john_mccain.html]

McCain Has Collected $453,000 Self-Identified Lobbyists. "According to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, the Arizona senator has collected more than $3,000,000 from lawyers and employees of law firms, and $453,000 from self-identified lobbyists. Companies whose employees have contributed most to his campaign include big financial houses like Citigroup and Merrill Lynch and telecommunications companies like IDT and Univision. His top contributor is the Philadelphia-based law firm Blank Rome LLC." [Fact Checker, Washington Post, 2/29/08, http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2008/02/pinocchios_for_john_mccain.html]

McCain Has The Most Lobbyist-Bundlers. "According to Public Citizen, McCain has more lobbyist-bundlers than any other candidate in the race, past or present. The list includes:

  • Former Congressman Tom Loeffler (R-Tex.). Loeffler heads a lobbying law firm known as the Loeffler Group. His clients have included the Saudi government, Southwest Airlines, AT&T, and the pharmaceutical industry's lobbying group, PhRMA. As national finance committee co-chairman, Loeffler is in effect McCain's top fundraiser.
  • Former Congressman James Courter, chief executive officer of the telecommunications group IDT, and national finance committee co-chairman for McCain. His past clients have included Goldman Sachs, Lockheed Martin, NBC, Merrill Lynch, and Microsoft.
  • Wayne Berman, managing director of government relations at Ogilvy Government Relations, whose clients include Citigroup and the Carlyle Group. Berman is a major fund-raiser for McCain, as well as being a senior adviser.
  • Charles Black, chairman of the lobby group BKSH & Associates, who also functions as McCain's top political adviser. A recent article in the Post quoted Black as saying that he conducts much of his lobbying business these days from the senator's campaign bus, Straight Talk Express. [Fact Checker, Washington Post, 2/29/08, http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2008/02/pinocchios_for_john_mccain.html]

McCain Has Lobbyists Working For Him Who Have Business Before His Senate Committee. "There are abundant facts to contradict McCain's claim, both in the present election and the last time he ran for president, in 2000. Public Citizen, a non-profit group researching campaign finance, has identified 59 lobbyists or former lobbyists who serve as major fund-raisers or 'bundlers' for McCain. Many of the lobbyists who are raising money for McCain or working for him on his campaign have had business before the Senate Commerce Committee that he chaired between 1997 and 2001 and 2003 and 2005." [Fact Checker, Washington Post, 2/29/08, http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2008/02/pinocchios_for_john_mccain.html]

Claim is "Patently False." "His claim that he is the only presidential candidate not to receive money from 'special interests' is patently false. I was tempted to award four Pinocchios, but I am subtracting one because it is an old quote. Let me know if McCain has repeated the claim recently." [Fact Checker, Washington Post, 2/29/08, http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2008/02/pinocchios_for_john_mccain.html]


RHETORIC: Sen. McCain said, "Now as far as "amnesty" is concerned, I have never, ever…Joe Lieberman, one of the really great experiences of my life, just a few nights ago, he and I did a town hall meeting here together; me and an independent Democrat, one of the great Americans. And this allegation of amnesty came up. Joe Lieberman said I worked with John McCain on this bill and anybody who says that he's ever supported amnesty is a lie. My friends, I do not support amnesty." [John McCain for President New Hampshire Town Hall, 1/5/08]

REALITY: In 2003, McCain Said "Amnesty Has To Be A Component" Of Immigration Reform. The Politico reported that "McCain himself embraced the term ["amnesty"] during a news conference a few years ago in his office in Tucson, Arizona. "McCain Pushes Amnesty, Guest-Worker Program," reported the Tucson Citizen of May 29, 2003. The senator is quoted as saying: 'Amnesty has to be an important part because there are people who have lived in this country for 20, 30 or 40 years, who have raised children here and pay taxes here and are not citizens. That has to be a component of it.' The newspaper also quoted McCain as saying: 'I think we can set up a program where amnesty is extended to a certain number of people who are eligible and at the same time make sure that we have some control over people who come in and out of this country.'" [The Politico, 6/4/07]