McCain Backtracks After Blaming Obama for Shooting in Orlando
Sen. John McCain backpedaled hard on Thursday. In earlier comments, he blamed President Barack Obama for the recent Orlando shooting.
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“I misspoke,” McCain said in a statement.
“I did not mean to imply that the President was personally responsible. I was referring to President Obama’s national security decisions, not the President himself.”
The Hill reports:
The Arizona senator earlier Thursday said Obama was responsible for the shooting because he allowed for the growth of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) during his presidency, ABC News reported.
“Barack Obama is directly responsible for it, because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al-Qaida went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures, utter failures, by pulling everybody out of Iraq,” McCain said, according to ABC News, which described the senator as “visibly angry.”
The comments came as Obama was in Orlando to meet with the families of victims of Sunday’s shooting.
In the statement he issued to clarify his comments, McCain reiterated that the president’s decision to completely withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 “led to the rise of ISIL,” using an alternate acronym for the group.
“I and others have long warned that the failure of the President’s policy to deny ISIL safe haven would allow the terrorist organization to inspire, plan, direct or conduct attacks on the United States and Europe as they have done in Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino and now Orlando.”
McCain, who lost the presidential race to Obama in 2008, is facing what may be the toughest reelection race of his Senate career against the likely Democratic nominee, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.).
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Kirkpatrick said, “Elected leaders have a moral duty to work together to root out terrorism and keep Americans safe. But today, we saw John McCain cross a dangerous line in comments that undermine our Commander in Chief on national security issues — at the very moment the president was in Orlando to comfort victims’ families. It’s difficult to imagine the old John McCain being this reckless with something so serious. John McCain has changed after 33 years in Washington.”
Arizona has been a relatively safe state for Republican presidential candidates, but Democrats believe their likely nominee, Hillary Clinton, has a chance of turning it blue.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office seized on McCain’s comments, calling them “unhinged” and “just the latest proof that Senate Republicans are puppets of Donald Trump.”
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on Thursday tweeted a Washington Post article on McCain’s comments, with a link to the article. Trump has come under fire this week for suggesting that Obama sympathizes with terrorists.
After the shooting early Sunday morning, Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, said the president either didn’t understand the radical Islamic terrorist threat or he “gets it better than anybody understands.”
“We’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind,” Trump said earlier this week.
“And the something else in mind, you know, people can’t believe it, people cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ There’s something going on — it’s inconceivable. There’s something going on.”
Trump’s presidential campaign is one of the headwinds facing McCain in Arizona, a state with a large and growing Hispanic population. The businessman attacked a judge overseeing a case against Trump University as biased because of his Mexican heritage.