JOHN MCCAIN REGRETS HIS REMARKS ON SECURITY IN BAGHDAD, SAYING HE MISSPOKE, IN HIS FIRST INTERVIEW SINCE HIS TRIP TO THE AL-SHORJA MARKET -- "60 MINUTES" SUNDAY
Only 60 MINUTES Reporters Accompanied Him on the Controversial Visit to Iraq
Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) says he misspoke in comments he made about security in Baghdad and acknowledged that heavily armed troops and helicopter gunships accompanied him when he visited a market there. McCain tells this to Scott Pelley in his first interview since the visit for a 60 MINUTES report that will include the only video camera footage of McCain's market visit, to be broadcast Sunday, April 8 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT).
In two interviews before the Army took McCain and 60 MINUTES on the heavily guarded visit to the al-Shorja market last Sunday, the senator said security had improved in Iraq. Upon his return, he also told a news conference he had just come back from a neighborhood one could walk around in freely. The remarks made headlines and he now regrets saying them. "Of course I am going to misspeak and I've done it on numerous occasions and I probably will do it in the future," says McCain. "I regret that when I divert attention to something I said from my message, but you know, that's just life," he tells Pelley, adding, "I'm happy, frankly, with the way I operate, otherwise it would be a lot less fun."
He continues to maintain that the president's surge policy has improved safety in Baghdad. "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.' I view that as a sign of progress," says McCain.
Continuing America's military presence in Iraq has been a key position in McCain's presidential bid. He says he knows he is out of step with the rest of the country. "I believe we can succeed and I believe that the consequences of failure are catastrophic," he tells Pelley. "I disagree with what the majority of the American people want. Failure [in Iraq] will lead to chaos, withdrawal will lead to chaos," McCain says.
McCain has been critical of the way the war has been executed and has severely criticized former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In the interview Sunday, he lays some of the blame on the president, as well. "I say that [Bush] is responsible and I'll continue to say he is responsible. Should I look back in anger or should I look forward and say, 'Lets support this new strategy, let's support this new general and let's give it everything we can to have it succeed," McCain tells Pelley.