DNC - John McCain's Katrina Deception Reveals Pattern of Distortions

Washington, DC - During his media availability in Baton Rouge today, John McCain told reporters that he "supported every investigation" into what went wrong during Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately for the people of Louisiana, that is just not true.  John McCain voted TWICE to oppose a Congressional commission to examine the federal, state, and local response to the disaster: once in September 2005 and again in February 2006.

McCain's outright deception today is the latest in a string of misstatements and distortions on key issues that call into question his willingness to mislead the American people, telling them what he thinks they want to hear instead of the truth. Just last week, John McCain falsely claimed that our forces in Iraq had drawn down to pre-surge levels, then used a defense that was so misleading, one fact checker called it "an insult to our intelligence."   He falsely claimed Iran was training al-Qaida in Iraq, claimed he could walk peacefully through a Baghdad market despite requiring a massive security escort, and denied he had ever said he didn't understand the economy--all of which have proven inaccurate.

"John McCain seems perfectly comfortable misleading the American people rather than telling them the truth," said Democratic National Committee Communications Director Karen Finney.  "By refusing to admit that he voted against the creation of a Katrina Commission today in Baton Rouge, John McCain once again demonstrated a willingness to mislead Americans. After voting with President Bush 95 percent of the time and promising more of the same failed Bush leadership, it is no surprise that John McCain is promising more of George Bush's culture of deception and distortion. In recent days the American people have been reminded about the painful consequences of the Bush Administration's misleading propaganda, particularly in the run up to the war in Iraq. John McCain's refusal to tell the truth about his record is one more reason he is the wrong choice for America's future." 


ON A KATRINA COMMISSION: "I have supported every investigation and ways to find out what caused the tragedy." [Media Availability, Baton Rouge (LA), 6/4/08: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TD8X1ZKTsBg]

  • McCain Voted Against Establishing A Commission To Study The Response To Hurricane Katrina...TWICE. McCain voted against amendments establishing a Congressional commission to examine Federal, State, and local response to devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in U.S. Gulf Region, especially in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and other areas impacted in the aftermath; and makes immediate corrective measures to improve future responses. [2006 Senate Vote #6, 2/2/2006; 2005 Senate Vote #229, 9/14/2005]

ON IRAQ TROOP LEVELS:  "So I can tell you that it is succeeding. I can look you in the eye and tell you it's succeeding. We have drawn down to pre-surge levels." [Wisconsin Town Hall, 5/29/08: http://youtube.com/watch?v=42ke9Q-qXg4]

  • Combat Units Sent As Part of the Surge Will Not Be Removed Until End of July. "The increased U.S. presence in Iraq -- which topped out at about 170,000 troops -- is expected to go down to 140,000 by the end of July. U.S. officials plan to keep 15 combat brigades in Iraq through the end of the year, though ongoing assessments could allow commanders to change those numbers." [Washington Post, 5/20/08]
  • Even after planned withdrawal, Troops Won't Reach Pre-Surge Levels. "McCain said Thursday that the troop surge President Bush put in place last year was working. As evidence, McCain contended that there were fewer US troops in the country today than there were before the surge began. 'We have drawn down to pre-surge levels,' he said. But according to Pentagon figures, that's not true. Currently there are more than 150,000 troops in the country; before the surge, there were more than 130,000. Even after planned withdrawals over the next two months, there will still be 140,000 American troops there." [Boston Globe, Political Intelligence blog, 5/30/08: http://www.boston.com/news/politics/politicalintelligence/2008/05/mccain_obama_tu.html]
  • McCain Defense "An Insult to Our Intelligence."  McCain insists that he did not make a mistake, in verb tenses or any other way. "I said we had drawn down," he told reporters today. "I said we have drawn down and we have drawn down three of the five brigades. We have drawn down three of the five brigades. We have drawn down the marines. The rest will be home the end of July. That's just facts, the facts as I stated them.  For the record, those are NOT the facts as he "stated them." What he said was that U.S. forces had "drawn down to pre-surge levels."...Prior to the conference call, I was inclined to give McCain a maximum of two Pinocchios for his misstatement about troop levels in Iraq. Everybody misspeaks once in a while. But the attempt by the McCain media machine to spin the mistake as a simple matter of "verb tenses" is an insult to our intelligence. [Washington Post Fact Checker blog, 5/30/08: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2008/05/mccain_the_surge_and_verb_tens.html]

ON IRAN TRAINING AL-QAIDA FIGHTERS: McCain Claimed Iran Was Training Al-Queda Operatives (And Stuck By His Claim After Correcting Himself)

  • March 17, 2008:  McCain said, "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:  "'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:  In a statement 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]
  • McCain Is Wrong: Iran Is Not Training 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." [New York Times, 3/18/08]

ON THE BAGHDAD MARKET: 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]

  • 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.'"  An op-ed in the Rocky Mountain News called McCain's staged walk through a Baghdad market "a truly Orwellian publicity stunt," that was turned into a "desperate attempt to give some sliver of credence to claims that the dreaded 'liberal media' are failing to report on all the wonderful things happening in Iraq…Chastened, McCain issued a half-hearted apology a few days later, saying he 'mis- spoke' when he pointed to his little walk under the protection of several platoons from the world's most powerful military as evidence of Baghdad's excellent shopping opportunities."  [Washington Post, 4/7/2007; Rocky Mountain News, 4/10/2007]

ON HIS OWN UNDERSTANDING OF THE ECONOMY: McCain denied saying he wasn't well versed in economics.

  • 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.
    "I'm going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated." --Stephen Moore, "Reform, Reform, Reform," OpinionJournal.com, 11/26/05 
    [Fact Checker, Washington Post, 1/25/08, http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2008/01/the_gop_debate_in_florida.html]