This morning on NBC’s Meet the Press, host Tim Russert asked NBC political director Chuck Todd if Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) false claim that Iran is training Al-Qaeda — which he has made on at least three occasions — will “hurt” his candidacy for president. Todd said probably not because McCain has “enough” national security credibilty “in the bank with media that he can get away with it”:
RUSSERT: Does that kind of stumble hurt a McCain candidacy? [...]
CHUCK TODD: Even if he gets dinged on the experience stuff, “Oh he says he’s Mr. Experience, doesn’t he know the difference between this stuff?” He’s got enough of that in the bank at least with the media that he can get away with it.
While Todd noted that McCain’s Al-Qaeda-Iran link was a “talking point that he’d been using” for “over a week,” he fell victim to his own prediction, later saying that McCain simply “misspoke.”
Indeed, Fox News’ Brit Hume gave credibility to Todd’s prediction as well on Fox News Sunday this morning, dismissing McCain’s gaffe as “a blip” and a “senior moment” adding that “we all” agree that McCain has understanding and knowledge of world affairs.
McCain has a cozy relationship with the press. After a brief falling out, he hosted a make-up barbecue for reporters covering his campaign and it paid off. One reporter who attended wrote a story shortly there after calling McCain a “man of the people” for traveling by train despite noting that he rode first class.
RUSSERT: Chuck Todd, John McCain has been travelling in Europe and in the Middle East, had some problems when he was in Jordan when he talked about Al Qaeda being trained by the Iranians and then Lindsey Graham who he was with and then Joe Lieberman both tried to say to him that Al Qaeda is Sunni, not trained but the Shiite Iranian government. Does that kind of stumble hurt a McCain candidacy?
TODD: Well what’s odd about that stumble. Is it a stumble or was it this talking point that he’d been using for actually a couple weeks or over a week where he was talking about almost blurring the enemy of Al Qaeda and the enemy of the Shia trained Iranians and sort of blurring them as one enemy. The question is – he truncated it to the point where he ended up misspeaking.
The problem of course McCain has is that he can’t – he doesn’t want to make it so that he forgot it for a minute. Because of the age issue he can’t ever make it look like he’s having a senior moment. So instead he’s better off going ahead and saying “Ok so he misspoke.” Even if he gets dinged on the experience stuff, “Oh he says he’s Mr. Experience, doesn’t he know the difference between this stuff?” He’s got enough of that in the bank at least with the media that he can get away with it.
The irony of this is either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama misspoke like that it would have been on a running loop and it would have become a big problem for a couple of days for them.
Media Matters notes that on the Chris Matthews Show today, Matthews and his guests wondered if McCain was “showing off his foreign policy credentials” during his Middle East trip but none mentioned that he linked Al-Qaeda and Iran.