A series of misstatements and verbal gaffes hampered Sen. John McCain on the day that unofficially marked the beginning of his general election campaign against Barack Obama.
Appearing at a press conference in Louisiana on Wednesday, McCain claimed that he had supported "every investigation" into the flawed response to Hurricane Katrina, when, in fact, he had twice voted against creating a commission to inspect the tragedy.
The remark immediately bounced around political circles and websites. After all it was just a few months ago when McCain defended those very votes on the back of his campaign bus, casting them as part of a broader campaign against wasteful spending.
"I'm proud of my support of American citizens regarding the taxpayers," the Senator said in April. "I will not vote for projects and programs and bills that are laden with pork-barrel projects that waste taxpayers' dollars."
The entire episode elicited a scathing rebuttal from the Obama camp.
"Whether he simply wasn't aware of his voting record again or he was intentionally misleading the people of Louisiana, John McCain certainly isn't offering us 'leadership you can believe in,'" wrote aide Hari Sevugan. To which, McCain's aides accused Obama of negative campaigning, saying the Senator wasn't familiar with the specific votes and had always supported Senate investigations, just not commissions.
That trip-up, however, was mild in compared to the gaffe that happened earlier in the day, when McCain acknowledged he was not aware that Obama had introduced a bill that called for international divestment from Iran.
Reporter: Are you familiar with his disinvestment bill?
McCain: No, I am not familiar with it at all. I do not know if it passed the senate or had any hearing or anything else. I had, so, literally thousands and thousands pieces of legislation are proposed every year. I know what he did. He voted against the Iranian revolutionary guard being declared a terrorist organization.
The admission could prove damaging for a variety of reasons. For starters, Obama's bill, which passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives, is currently being held up in the Senate by Republican Sen. Richard Shelby. More significantly, two McCain surrogates, Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Rep. Eric Cantor, are co-sponsors of Obama's measure despite, on Wednesday, ripping the Illinois Democrat for not having the experience to deal with Iran.
But a more worrisome issue for the McCain campaign may just be that a theme is emerging, both within the media and political circles, that the Arizona Republican has a penchant for playing loose with the facts. Indeed, last week, McCain lost crucial news cycles after he falsely claimed that force levels in Iraq had been drawn down to pre-surge levels and then, instead of admitting he misspoke, said the whole thing was a debate over verb tense. This, in turn, came after the Senator claimed, again falsely, that Iran was training al-Qaeda in Iraq, when in fact the two groups are religious and political adversaries.
All told, the gaffes have provided Obama an opportunity to re-frame a man who is best known as a "straight talker," a image battle McCain can ill afford to lose.