McCain admits blowing Baghdad photo op

U.S. Senator John McCain said in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday he misspoke in his recent upbeat comments about security in Baghdad, where he traveled under heavy military protection.

The Arizona senator, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, maintains progress has been made in the U.S.-led war in Iraq, according to comments to be aired on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” Excerpts were released on Friday.

McCain said he regrets comments he made after a tour of Baghdad last Sunday, when he said he could see progress and the American people were not being told the “good news” about the war, according to excerpts of his comments and a press release provided by “60 Minutes.”

“Of course I am going to misspeak and I’ve done it on numerous occasions and I probably will do it in the future,” said McCain, according to “60 Minutes.”

The excerpted quotes provided by “60 Minutes” did not indicate which comments McCain thought were misspoken.

A strong supporter of President George W. Bush’s plan to send nearly 30,000 more troops into Iraq, McCain said last week after his tour: “I believe we have a new strategy that is making progress. That is not to say things are well everywhere in Iraq. Far from it, we have a long way to go.”

McCain had been upbeat about his drive from the Baghdad airport into the city and his visit to a market where multiple car bombings killed 71 people in February as signs of improved security.

“Never have I been able to drive from the airport, never have I been able to go out into the city like I did today. The American people are not getting the picture of all that is happening here. Things are better … but I am not saying mission accomplished,” he said at the time.”

After he spoke, Iraqi citizens, merchants and others said security had been stepped up for the choreographed visit.

Once seen as the Republican frontrunner for 2008, McCain has been overtaken by former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, in part because of his support for Bush’s unpopular Iraq war policy.

In fund-raising reports released this week, McCain raised about $12.5 million, well behind Republican Mitt Romney who raised more than $20 million in the first quarter and behind Giuliani, who raised more than $15 million.

McCain acknowledged in this “60 Minutes” interview that he had been accompanied by heavy security during his trip.

“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,”‘ he said.

“I view that as a sign of progress.”

McCain also acknowledged many Americans do not agree with his position on the war.

“I believe we can succeed and I believe that the consequences of failure are catastrophic,” he said.

Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited

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