McCain Says Terrorists May Try to Influence Election

John McCain say al Qaeda might try to influence the November election to keep him from winning.

McCain Says Terrorists May Try to Influence Election Presumptive Republican US presidential nominee Sen. John McCain talks to supporters during a town meeting event at the Springfield Country Club in Springfield, Pennsylvania, March 14, 2008.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain said on Friday he fears that al Qaeda or another extremist group might attempt spectacular attacks in Iraq to try to tilt the U.S. election against him.

There’s probably a “Barack Hussein Obama” joke in there somewhere but I’m not in the mood to think one up.

McCain, at a town hall meeting in this Philadelphia suburb, was asked if he had concerns that anti-American militants in Iraq might ratchet up their activities in Iraq to try to increase casualties in September or October and tip the November election against him.

“Yes, I worry about it,” McCain said. “And I know they pay attention because of the intercepts we have of their communications … The hardest thing in warfare is to counter someone or a group of individuals who are willing to take their own lives in order to take others.”

Pat Lang cringes at this, observing that, “Members of Congress have access to classified material by virtue of their constitutional office. He ought to know better than to say something like this.” I’m a bit fuzzy as to where the lines are and it’s not like al Qaeda doesn’t know we’re listening in on them as a general principle. Still, it’s probably best not to allude to our intel intercepts on a casual basis whilst stumping for votes in the hustings.

Presuming, however, that we actually have such intercepts, it’s not entirely clear why al Qaeda is so desperate to avoid a President McCain. I suppose there’s some propaganda value to a female president that could be exploited; if anything, the opposite would be true in the case of a President Obama. Do they envision a radically more terrorist-friendly foreign policy?

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Congress, Terrorism, US Constitution, , , , , , ,
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. DL says:

    John, those terrorists who may try to influence the election -could any of them possibly come across our open borders?

    It is one thing to accept a trojan horse in our midst -it is another to help build the damned thing.

    This man is called a “perfectly acceptable substitute” for Hillary or Obama.

  2. Scott_T says:

    “Pat Lang cringes” Is he serious?

    John McCain is talking about AQ, who seriously tried/pleaded with the American people to elect a Democrat/John Kerry in 2004.

    Pat Lang is worried that McCain is “disclosing classified information”?

    Seriously? Seriously??

  3. Scott Swank says:

    Dennis Hastert said that Al Qaeda would back Kerry.

    However, political analysts

    and career diplomats

    seemed to think (in 2004) that Al Qaeda prefered Bush in the White House because he would continue the conflict in Iraq.

    Poke around a bit yourself.

  4. KJ says:

    Let’s see…

    Between the Americo Apologist ACLU, the US House of Representatives, the NYT, the ‘free’ press overt efforts to push the economy into recession before the 2008 election, and the obvious efforts of any number of Islamo Fascist groups to bring an end to the USA I grew up in and fought for.

    Why am I surprised???

  5. Anderson says:

    Ron Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine, on bin Laden’s Oct. 29, 2004 videotape:

    Inside of CIA, of course, the analysis moved on a different track. They had spent years … parsing each expressed word of the al Qaeda leader and his deputy Zawahiri. What they’d learned over nearly a decade is that bin Laden speaks only for strategic reasons — and those reasons are debated with often startling depth inside the organization’s leadership….

    Today’s conclusion: bin Laden’s message was clearly designed to assist the President’s reelection.

    At the five o’clock meeting, once various reports on latest threats were delivered, John McLaughlin opened the issue with the consensus view: “Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the President.” ….

    But an ocean of hard truths before them — such as what did it say about U.S. policies that bin Laden would want Bush reelected — remained untouched.

    I’m sure that OBL considers President McCain the next best thing.

  6. Cernig says:

    James, did I fall through a hole in the internets and end up with Hot Air’s comments thread below your post by mistake?

    I think McCain is either blatantly fearmongering, overcome by his own self-importance, or both.

    Regards, C

  7. C.Wagener says:

    And the 3/11/03 bombings were meant to keep Spain in Iraq?

    Of course AQ wants to keep getting their asses kicked in Iraq. Why would they want to have an American president that promises to lose? I mean, come on, no need to think for yourself. Don’t waste time with what the U.S. military in Iraq thinks. Don’t pay attention to the Iraqis. The apparent desperation in AQ correspondence means nothing. Just believe whatever a Washington based Ivy League journalist tells you to believe. Just because it makes absolutely no logical sense … oh look at that pretty shiny thing.

  8. glasnost says:

    Of course AQ wants to keep getting their asses kicked in Iraq.

    AQ likes to kill Americans. It’s the key to their organizational survival. Since we invaded Iraq, that takes a heck of a lot less planning. Just because you’ve read the odd bit of psy-op cleared foot soldier memos having a bad day doesn’t mean the kingfish isn’t glad to have us there. AQ is bigger and badder in Iraq than before we got there, and no one denies it. Our arrival is a lucky strategic break, even if no fun for the bottom of the ladder.

    If we weren’t in Iraq, we’d probably have Bin Laden’s head on the White House lawn, what with the massive amount of additional resources we’d have to throw at the problem.

    OBL doesn’t want someone in the White House who seems like a reasonable guy to Muslims – it makes their recruitment efforts harder. He wants tough guy who serves as an effective focus of hatred. Kind of like how Israel has a harder time blasting the PA to bits with Machmoud Abbas in there than they did with Arafat. Think with your brain, not with your stomach.

  9. Anderson says:

    Just because it makes absolutely no logical sense

    … to some guy commenting on a blog. Right, I should listen to him, rather than to a well-known journalist who’s interviewed CIA sources who are experts in studying al Qaeda.

    But as Glasnost indicates, something’s “making absolutely no logical sense” may tell us more about your own “logic” than about the matter at hand.

  10. WR says:

    Let’s see… If things get better in Iraq, we should vote for McCain because the Surge was his idea. And now if things get worse in Iraq, we should vote for McCain because it’s proof that the tairists are scared of him. And someone named Pat Lang cringes at this because she thinks he’s revealing classified information? How about cringing out of embarassment, like the rest of the world?

  11. fredw says:

    A tet offensive in Iraq one month before the election and it sways the vote against the war hawk, but which way do you think the public reacts for the first two days. The first two days or so we react in fear and become more hawkish, think about it. So an attack close enough to the election elects McCain and keeps the training ground in Iraq going, well, for the next 100 years. As a previous poster pointed out – OBL’s statement helped Bush as it came just a few days before the election.

    BTW – Bush did the same thing for Ahmadinejad that OBL did for Bush, except that OBL did it on purpose. The moderate candidate was on schedule to win in Iran until Bush called the election a joke and insulted Ahmadinejad. That got people pissed off and they turned out in droves and voted for the idiot.

  12. Mamn says:

    This is just plain and simple fear monger policy by McCain and the republicans.The did the same thing before 2004 election and they will spread the fear again before the election to win the election.
    McCain and Bush is same policy , more wars, 100 years in Iraq and no health care or no economy restoration.

  13. Bruce Moomaw says:

    Of course McCain is implying that Hillary or Obama would set up “a radically more terrorist-friendly foreign policy” than himself. This might even have some plausibility if it hadn’t become painfully clear by now that McCain has the intellect of a boiled turnip.

  14. jukeboxgrad says:

    mamn: “no health care or no economy restoration”

    You’re sort of suggesting the GOP isn’t interested in nation-building. But they are, as long as it’s some nation other than the USA.

    And there’s actually some very solid logic behind this. Huge contracts to build/rebuild a nation are much easier to steal from when it’s all taking place on the other side of the planet, and behind the fog of war. These contracts (to build all sorts of new infrastructure, to replace what we blew up) are infinitely more profitable, as a result of being carried out there, instead of here.

    Americans don’t even know how many of us have died, so they surely don’t know how much of our money is being stolen. And of course it’s actually our kids’ money, since it’s all being done on a Chinese credit card.

    A bit off-topic, but I think you see the connection.

  15. Our Paul says:

    You see with your eyes and imagination, and you hear with your ears…

    Unless we have constant visual reminders of threats, we cannot really substantiate the verbal fear mongering. Hence the long lines at boarder crossings, and airports, and passports, and boarder fences. And now, for your visual comfort, armed guards and random searches at railroads!

    Unless there is continued cries of eminent threat, one cannot claim that we have successfully prevented them…

    Hence McCain’s statements, perfect logic to its extreme. I stand here to protect you, and I am not afraid, and I have information you do not have, and the approach we (I and Bush) have chosen succeeded…

    Will it work this time around?

  16. jukeboxgrad says:

    paul: “Will it work this time around?”

    Consider what a smart person once said: “Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”