McCain-Obama Flak-Flack Flap

A silly exchange between the candidates currently in second place for their respective party nominations, Barack Obama and John McCain, is getting plenty of attention in the blogosphere.

McCain said that Obama’s vote against the supplemental war funding bill amounts to “a white flag to al Qaeda.” The Obama camp responded:

“This country is united in our support for our troops, but we also owe them a plan to relieve them of the burden of policing someone else’s civil war. Governor Romney and Senator McCain clearly believe the course we are on in Iraq is working, but I do not. If there ever was a reflection of that it’s the fact that Senator McCain required a flack jacket, ten armored Humvees, two Apache attack helicopters, and 100 soldiers with rifles by his side to stroll through a market in Baghdad just a few weeks ago.”

The McCain camp came back with this: “While Sen. Obama’s two years in the U.S. Senate certainly entitle him to vote against funding our troops, my service and experience combined with conversations with military leaders on the ground in Iraq lead me to believe that we must give this new strategy a chance to succeed because the consequences of failure would be catastrophic to our nation’s security.

“By the way, Senator Obama, it’s a ‘flak’ jacket, not a ‘flack’ jacket.”

For good measure, a McCain aide added, “Obama wouldn’t know the difference between an RPG and a bong.”

Mark Kleiman gets this one right. Not only is it silly to try to score cheap political points over a misspelling on a press release likely written by a junior staffer, but it’s even a defensible spelling.

Further, Obama’s response to being accused of surrender to al Qaeda was both reasonable and restrained. McCain chose to compound his initial cheap shot with a variant on the silly “only veterans have a right to speak about the war” meme. And, certainly, the bong reference is simply unseemly coming from a Senate office.

Score this one for Obama.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Blogosphere, Military Affairs, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. randall says:

    It may seem silly to try and gain political points over a miss-spelling. Does anyone remember the potatoe/potato misspelling incident with Dan Quayle? The left is still getting mileage out of that one. And did he not claim that he was given flash cards with the words on them provided by the school that he was at? Misspelling or misspeaking are really only newsworthy when it’s done by someone of republican party.

  2. Triumph says:

    A silly exchange between the candidates currently in second place for their respective party nominations, Barack Obama and John McCain, is getting plenty of attention in the blogosphere.

    It’s not a silly exchange between the candidates–rather its a couple of desperate cheap shots by McCain. Remember, this isn’t the first time that McCain went after Obama. In February of last year McCain levied another highly-publicized and unwarranted attack on Obama that had no basis in reality.

    Randall, by the way, as James says Obama’s people DIDN’T misspell “flack”–so your Quayle analogy doesn’t hold.

  3. Pug says:

    Misspelling or misspeaking are really only newsworthy when it’s done by someone of republican party.

    Randall, why do Republicans whine so much? If you think Democrats never get attacked perhaps you should check with Bill Clinton, John Kerry or Al Gore. Be a big boy and quit sniveling.

    In fact, the anonymous bong comment was as gratuitous a cheap shot as you’ll see published by an allegedly respectable news organization. The sleaze who made the comment shouldn’t have allowed to make it anonymously. That’s just poor journalism. Of course, it is Politico, so no surprise there. These guys prefer to write about haircuts.

  4. Jabba the Tutt says:

    I’d like to help Obama out here. The ‘flack jacket’ he was talking about, were the reporters surrounding McCain in Baghdad. No, no, don’t thank me, Senator Obama. Oh, 25 brownie points to the first person, who can post where the word ‘flak’ came from.

  5. William d'Inger says:

    Obama’s flack misspelled flak, and James wants to cut ’em some slack, but I think they oughta sack that hack and get back on track to blunt McCain’s attack on what they lack.

  6. spencer says:

    Etymology: German, from Fliegerabwehrkanonen, from Flieger flyer + Abwehr defense + Kanonen cannons

  7. randall says:

    Pug, I don’t think I’m sniveling, I’m so disgusted with some in the republican party that I’m thinking about getting on Obama band wagon. I was trying to point out that when it comes to what should be a trivial issue, the media seems to pay more negative attention to persons on the political right than the left. As for the bong comment, someone needs to apologize to Sen. Obama and his family.

  8. Jabba the Tutt says:

    @William: Man, you have a future in Rap.

    @Spencer: Bzzzzt. Wrong. Close but wrong.

    @Randall: McCain’s comment at least was funny. But wrong. I’m positive Obama knows what a bong is, he’s admitted to cocaine use and everyone know pot is a gateway drug.

  9. Beldar says:

    I agree with Dr. Joyner’s scoring here. McCain and his supporters ought never have to get into reminding people of his military/war hero background. He’s got massive name recognition, and it’s the A#1 fact that everyone knows about him.

    It’s a trump suit that will play and play if they’ll just let it; but deliberately flashing it now is a sign of desperation.

    He’s not going to be the nominee. In fact, I actually don’t think he’ll still be in the race come Thanksgiving.

  10. Anjin-San says:

    I used to respect McCain, but he has gotten to the point where he needs to think about retiring from public life before he embarrasses himself further…

  11. Jabba the Tutt says:

    The answer is FLugAbwehrKannone FLAK = Flight (or air) Defense Artillery