During all-GOP Fox News panel, Fleischer touted "stature gap," McCain as "look[ing] like he is best prepared to be commander in chief"

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

During a panel discussion on America's Election HQ that included two former Bush administration officials but no progressives or Democrats, Ari Fleischer said Sen. John McCain's questioning of Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker showed "he had the best intuitive understanding of the issues." But no participant in the discussion noted that during his questioning of Petraeus, McCain asked of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQ-I): "Certainly not an obscure sect of -- of the Shiites all -- overall?" In fact, AQ-I is a Sunni Muslim, not Shiite, group.

On the April 8 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ, during a panel discussion that included two former Bush administration officials but no progressives or Democrats, former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer lauded Sen. John McCain's questioning of Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. Fleisher asserted, "I think there is a stature gap when you look at the three senators [McCain, and Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama]. I think that Senator McCain by far looked like he is best prepared to be commander in chief, and that he had the best intuitive understanding of the issues." However, no one participating in the discussion, which was led by co-host Megyn Kelly and also included former Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor, pointed out that during his questioning of Petraeus, McCain again appeared to conflate Al Qaeda, a Sunni Muslim group, with Shiite Muslims, much less challenged Fleischer's broader assertion that McCain "by far looked like he was the best prepared to be commander in chief."

During the hearing, McCain asked Petraeus: "Do you still view Al Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat?" Petraeus replied: "It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was, say, 15 months ago." McCain then asked, "Certainly not an obscure sect of -- of the Shiites all -- overall --," prompting Petraeus to reply, "No," as McCain went on to finish his question: "or Sunnis or anybody else?"

As Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented, during a March 18 press conference in Amman, Jordan, and on the March 17 edition of Hugh Hewitt's nationally syndicated radio show, McCain similarly falsely claimed that predominantly Shiite Iran was training members of Al Qaeda -- which is Sunni -- for fighting in Iraq.

An April 9 New York Times article noted that "Mr. McCain did seem to get momentarily tangled over Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. ... Senator McCain was embarrassed last month when, on a trip to Jordan, he stated several times that the Iranians were training Iraqi Qaeda operatives in Iran and then sending them back into Iraq. After one of his traveling companions, Mr. [Sen. Joe] Lieberman [I-CT], corrected him, Mr. McCain explained that he had meant to say that the Iranians, who are Shiites, were training other extremists."

From the April 8 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ:

KELLY: All right, let me ask you quickly: Just observing the dynamics, Hillary Clinton cross-examining, John McCain, Barack Obama -- your thoughts?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think there's a stature gap when you look at the three senators. I think that Senator McCain by far looked like he was the best prepared to be commander in chief, and that he had the best intuitive understanding of the issues. I think Senator Obama here was kind of at a -- groping for words. He was nowhere near the normal eloquent Obama he usually is.

KELLY: And a lot of Republicans think that if we go forward into a general election with McCain on one side and Obama on the other, we'll see more of that, because their feeling is he's better on the stump than he is in a debate forum.

Posted In
Elections, National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Megyn Kelly
Show/Publication
America's Election HQ
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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