Since publius already posted on Obama's speech, I have the luxury of mulling over my reaction, while doing errands. But I didn't want to let this gem from John McCain pass unremarked:
"Sen. John McCain, traveling in the Middle East to promote his foreign policy expertise, misidentified in remarks Tuesday which broad category of Iraqi extremists are allegedly receiving support from Iran.
He said several times that Iran, a predominately Shiite country, was supplying the mostly Sunni militant group, al-Qaeda. In fact, officials have said they believe Iran is helping Shiite extremists in Iraq.
Speaking to reporters in Amman, the Jordanian capital, McCain said he and two Senate colleagues traveling with him continue to be concerned about Iranian operatives "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back."
Pressed to elaborate, 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." A few moments later, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, standing just behind McCain, stepped forward and whispered in the presidential candidate's ear. McCain then said: "I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda.""
It's important to be clear about exactly how clueless this is. It's like saying that some neo-confederate group is secretly funneling money to Louis Farrakhan, and then having an aide have to whisper: no, no, it's the Aryan Nation; wrong extremists! It's like suggesting that McCain is making a play for Kucinich voters, and having to be told that, no, you really meant Ron Paul: wrong losing candidate! No one who had any understanding at all of Iraq, or for that matter about the Shi'a/Sunni split and which side Iran was on, would get confused about this, any more than someone with any knowledge of US politics would get confused about whether neo-confederates were likely to be supporting blacks, or conservatives were likely to be supporting the Socialist Workers' Party. It is exactly that clueless.
Every so often, I run into a poll showing that McCain is essentially tied against both Clinton and Obama. Sometimes I then run into someone on the left who thinks this spells Big Trouble. I wouldn't pay polls like this much mind under any circumstances: it's much too early for them to matter. But in this case in particular, I have a couple of further reasons for not worrying about them. One is that McCain gets to say silly things like this without being challenged. His reputation as a serious thinker on national security can only survive so long as people don't notice things like this.
But the second is that people have not yet had the chance to see Obama and McCain go head to head. Today we saw exactly how intelligent and nuanced Obama is. In this series of remarks by McCain (and others; it's not unique), we can see exactly how unprepared he is to win an argument against Obama.
In terms of intellect, grasp of policy details, nuance, and depth of knowledge, McCain is just not in Obama's league -- or, for that matter, Clinton's. When we have a chance to see McCain debate a Democratic nominee, I have every confidence that this fact will become painfully obvious.