THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Derrick Z. Jackson

Forgotten memories on the trail

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Derrick Z. Jackson
Globe Columnist / April 1, 2008

LANCASTER, Pa.
FORGET charisma. Forget experience. Presidential candidates John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton need to find their memories.

Obama and Clinton are running largely on antiwar sentiment. Under normal circumstances, McCain handed the Democrats a hammer to bop him over the head with from now to November. On a trip to the Middle East, McCain said not once, but twice, that Iranians were training Al Qaeda.

In one radio interview, McCain said, "there are Al Qaeda operatives that are taken back into Iran, given training as leaders, and they're moving back into Iraq." At a news conference, McCain said, "We continue to be concerned about Iranian (operatives) taking AlQaeda into Iran, training them, and sending them back." McCain said it was "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."

Unfortunately for McCain, none of that, like Saddam Hussein being behind 9/11 or the Iranians taking Al Qaeda into Iran, has been proven. McCain stopped his fear mongering only when Senator Joseph Lieberman, the Democrat-turned-independent-turned-supporter of McCain, whispered in his ear. McCain responded by saying, "I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not Al Qaeda."

Later, McCain said, "I just simply misspoke when I said Al Qaeda." This harkened, of course, of the good old days when Vice President Dick Cheney had to admit that "Yeah, I did misspeak" about Hussein having reconstituted nuclear weapons and his forever trying to tie the former Iraqi leader to Al Qaeda. With two-thirds of Americans opposing the war in Iraq, and McCain saying he could be comfortable with a "100-year" presence there, it would seem that McCain is helping the Democrats write the script for Democrat attack ads in the fall.

"Maybe that is why he voted to go to war with a country that had no Al Qaeda ties," Obama said yesterday in an appearance in Lancaster. "Maybe that is why he completely fails to understand that the war in Iraq has done more to embolden America's enemies than any strategic choice that we have made in decades."

It might help if Obama understood his own ties. Fresh off his minister problem that culminated into a spiraling speech about race in America, The Washington Post reported Sunday that a romantic part of Obama's "Camelot" biography was not true.

Obama has said that the Kennedy family funded the 1959 airlift that brought his Kenyan father to the United States to study. The Kennedys funded an airlift in 1960. Ironically, it could have been a better story had Obama had it straight - funders of the first airlift, according to the Post, included black sports and entertainment pioneers Jackie Robinson and Harry Belafonte. The Obama campaign told the Post that Obama "mistakenly suggested" the Camelot connection. I don't know about you, but my dad is from Mississippi. If I knew that either the Kennedy family or Jackie Robinson or Harry Belafonte paid for him to leave segregation to study in the North, you might think I'd get that story straight before making it part of my life story.

Then there is Clinton, who took the cake by admitting she "misspoke" about ducking sniper fire in Bosnia as first lady. How can you confuse whether or not you were shot at?

For Obama and Clinton, the lapses and their infighting have been costly. Despite opposition to the Iraq war, both are now slightly behind McCain in a new Gallup poll. Clinton has been particularly hurt, running 8 points behind Obama. Voters are answering the question: How can you run for president if you do not know the difference between a reception line of bullets and the flowers that you actually received?

Derrick Z. Jackson can be reached at jackson@globe.com.

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