Reporting on Sen. Barack Obama's foreign-policy positions, The Washington Post repeated Sen. John McCain's false assertion that Obama “misspell[ed] 'flak jacket,' ” uncritically referenced McCain's false assertion that Obama said that Al Qaeda is not currently in Iraq, and ignored the fact that McCain has made comments similar to those he criticized Obama for making about Iraq becoming a base for Al Qaeda.
A March 3 Washington Post article about Sen. Barack Obama's foreign-policy positions reported that Sen. John McCain, who “once dismissed Obama for misspelling 'flak jacket,' has also belittled his credentials, accusing him last week of making ill-informed comments about Iraq and al-Qaeda.” But in recycling McCain's attacks on Obama, the Post advanced his misrepresentations. The Post simply repeated the false claim that Obama “misspell[ed] 'flak jacket.' ” As Media Matters for America previously documented, McCain responded to a May 25, 2007, statement in which Obama referred to a “flack” jacket by falsely accusing Obama of misspelling the word. In fact, “flack” is an acceptable alternative spelling of “flak” and is used in numerous materials put out by the military. Further, in reporting that McCain accused Obama of “making ill-informed comments about Iraq and al-Qaeda” -- a reference to a statement Obama made during the February 26 Democratic presidential debate -- the Post failed did not note that McCain was falsely suggesting that Obama had said that Al Qaeda is not currently in Iraq. Nor did the Post note that McCain himself has made comments similar to those he criticized.
Obama wrote in a May 25, 2007, statement that “the course we are on in Iraq” is not “working.” Obama said that “a reflection of that [is] the fact that Senator McCain required a flack jacket” and other military protection when walking through a Baghdad market during a trip to Iraq in April. McCain responded: “By the way, Senator Obama, it's a 'flak' jacket, not a 'flack' jacket.” In fact, the word “flack” appears on numerous official military websites. Moreover, as MSNBC congressional correspondent Mike Viqueira noted at the time, Webster's New World Dictionary says “flack” is an alternative spelling for “flak.” According to Dictionary.com, the American Heritage Dictionary lists “flack” as an alternative spelling of “flak” when referring to "[a]ntiaircraft artillery" or "[t]he bursting of shells fired from such artillery."
During the Democratic debate on February 26, Obama said that after he withdrew troops from Iraq, he would -- as president -- “reserve the right to make sure that we are looking out for American interests. And if al Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad.” Mocking Obama over the debate comment, McCain said: “I have some news: Al Qaeda is in Iraq. Al Qaeda, it's called Al Qaeda in Iraq.” But, contrary to McCain's suggestion, Obama did not say that Al Qaeda currently has no presence in Iraq; he was speaking of the future, saying: "[I]f Al Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad." Furthermore, the Post simply reported that McCain accused Obama “of making ill-informed comments about Iraq and al-Qaeda” -- it did not point out that McCain made comments similar to those he criticized. For example, a September 13, 2007, Quad-City Times (Iowa) article reported that McCain said, “We cannot set a date for surrender, which would be a date for withdrawal from Iraq,” and that "[i]f we leave under those conditions, you will see chaos, genocide in Iraq, and we will be back. And we will be back because it will become a base for al-Qaida activities."
From the March 3 Washington Post article:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) has seized on such remarks -- along with Obama's pledge to meet with enemies such as Iran, North Korea and Cuba -- as proof that her rival for the Democratic nomination lacks the experience and judgment to lead in a dangerous world, and the two candidates engaged in a furious exchange over each other's foreign policy credentials over the weekend. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the war hero and likely Republican nominee who once dismissed Obama for misspelling “flak jacket,” has also belittled his credentials, accusing him last week of making ill-informed comments about Iraq and al-Qaeda.
Far from backpedaling from his original comments on Pakistan, however, Obama incorporated the remarks into his “change” mantra and regularly uses them to highlight differences with his opponents. Their caution, he has said, stems from a “mind-set of fear ... fear of looking weak, fear of new challenges, fear of the unknown.”