McCain Regrets Remarks to Press on Baghdad Safety, But ‘That’s Just Life’

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By: E&P Staff

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in a ’60 Minutes’ segment coming on Sunday says he misspoke in comments he made about security in Baghdad earlier this week and admitted that heavily armed troops and helicopter gunships accompanied him when he visited a market there.

’60 Minutes’ correspondent Scott Pelley accompanied McCain to Baghdad and then interviewed him afterward after the senator drew wide criticism.

“I’m happy, frankly, with the way I operate,” McCain explained, “otherwise it would be a lot less fun.”

CBS previews the segment as follows:

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In two interviews before the Army took McCain and 60 Minutes on the heavily guarded visit to the al-Shorja market last Sunday, the senator said security had improved in Iraq. Upon his return, he also told a news conference he had just come back from a neighborhood one could walk around in freely.

The remarks made headlines and he now regrets saying them. “Of course I am going to misspeak and I’ve done it on numerous occasions and I probably will do it in the future,” says McCain. “I regret that when I divert attention to something I said from my message, but you know, that’s just life,” he tells Pelley, adding, “I’m happy, frankly, with the way I operate, otherwise it would be a lot less fun.”

He continues to maintain that the president’s surge policy has improved safety in Baghdad. “I can understand why [the Army] would provide me with that security, but I can tell you that if it had been two months ago and I’d asked to do it, they would have said, ‘Under no circumstances whatsoever.’ I view that as a sign of progress,” says McCain.

Continuing America’s military presence in Iraq has been a key position in McCain’s presidential bid. He says he knows he is out of step with the rest of the country. “I believe we can succeed and I believe that the consequences of failure are catastrophic,” he tells Pelley. “I disagree with what the majority of the American people want. Failure [in Iraq] will lead to chaos, withdrawal will lead to chaos.”

McCain has been critical of the way the war has been executed and has severely criticized former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In the interview Sunday, he lays some of the blame on the president, as well. “I say that [President Bush] is responsible and I’ll continue to say he is responsible.”
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For E&P Editor Greg Mitchell’s column on the fallout from McCain’s “from the ridiculous to the maligned” trip to Baghdad,

click here.

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