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."
Why do people keep calling it a "gaffe"? If he's stating something that's flatly wrong three times in two days, it's not a gaffe, it's a talking point.
All recent evidence has indicated that McCain has simply internalized the central Bush lesson of his war: if the facts are against your desired policy, make up new facts and continue on your way. A sufficient percentage of the population will believe it.
McCain didn't get where he is today by being stupid. He did get there, however, by being manipulative when the situation has warranted, by misrepresenting facts when they worked against him, and by knowing which wings of the Republican Party to cozy up to at which times. If he's completely misrepresenting one of the most fundamental facts of the war, there's two possibilities. The first is that he's dumb as a post. Possible, but unlikely.
The second is that, like Bush, he simply isn't interested in letting the facts get in the way of a good speech about the shocking, scary, I'm-holding-a-flashlight-under-my-chin-right now bugaboo of the moment. Since Iraq has turned out to be such a disaster, and since McCain supports Bush's bloody legacy, there's only one rationalization possible to explain why things aren't working out: it must all secretly be Iran's fault.
Third Bush term, indeed.