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GOP fights ad attacking McCain's "100 years"

  • Story Highlights
  • Democratic ad targets Sen. John McCain's comment on the U.S. in Iraq
  • But Republicans say the Arizona senator's comments were taken out of context
  • Sen. Obama's controversial ex-pastor also says his comments were unfairly used
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From Ed Hornick
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Democratic National Committee TV ad released Sunday uses Sen. John McCain's remarks on U.S. troops staying in Iraq for "100 years" to paint a portrait of a candidate fixated on keeping a permanent presence in the war-torn country.

But Republican National Committee officials believe that McCain's comments are being misused, and they're firing off a missive to TV stations: Pull the ad from the airwaves.

The DNC ad includes an exchange between McCain and an unidentified man who asked about staying in Iraq.

The man remarks, "President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years."

The ad uses a sound bite of McCain saying, "Maybe 100. That would be fine with me."

It then shows video of violence and destruction in what appears to be Iraq, with the phrases "5 years," "$500 billion," "Over 4,000 dead" superimposed over the images. Watch the DNC ad

But the exchange, in its entirety, is not so cut and dry.

The full remarks show that the man does ask the same question, and McCain responds with "Maybe 100."

But the DNC ad does not include McCain's explanation.

"How long -- we have been in -- we have been in South Korea -- we have been in Japan for 60 years. We have been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That would be fine with me ... as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. Then it's fine with me. I hope it would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al Qaeda is training, recruiting and equipping and motivating people every single day," McCain said.

The RNC, in an April 28 letter to TV stations across the country, argues that its Democratic counterpart is using misleading sound bites and failing to give context.

The ad "falsely and maliciously accuses Sen. McCain of stating that prolonging the Iraq war for '100 years' would be 'fine' with him. ... Sen. McCain made no such statement," the letter reads. Read more of the letter

But the issue of words taken out of context is affecting not only McCain but also Sen. Barack Obama, by way of his controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Some of Wright's sermons, circulated and widely discussed on the Internet and on television, became an issue in the Democratic presidential race this year because of the former pastor's ties to Obama.

Wright is a retired pastor from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois, where Obama worships.

In one sermon, Wright said the U.S. had brought the September 11 attacks upon itself and said "America's chickens are coming home to roost."Video Watch as Wright explains his 9/11 comments »

Speaking before the National Press Club on Monday, Wright sought to give insight into the black church and clarify some of his remarks that have sparked a firestorm.

Asked to explain those remarks, Wright said, "Have you heard the whole sermon? ... No, you haven't heard the whole sermon. That nullifies that question."

CNN contributor Roland Martin says critics have failed to listen to the entirety of the speech.

"And I had heard people say, 'Rev. Wright said this, this and this.' And I'm like, 'No, he didn't,' " Martin said Monday. "I actually heard the sermon. And then when you ask them, 'Did you actually hear?' They said, 'No, I actually didn't hear.' "

Wright also criticized the notion that Obama has walked away from him, saying the candidate "had to distance himself, because he's a politician, from what the media was saying I had said, which was un-American."Video Watch as Wright questions his critics' patriotism »

Obama, when asked what he could do to keep Wright's latest comments from dragging him down, replied: "I think people will understand that I am not perfect and that there are going to be folks in my past like Rev. Wright that may cause them some concern."Video Watch more of Obama's comments »

Wright said sound bites from his sermons were taken out of context and said the black religious tradition, despite its long history, is in some ways "invisible to the dominant culture."

But Tara Wall, deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Times, says Wright "can't have it both ways."

"This idea about him being a victim, a victim of what, his own words?" she asked CNN's Campbell Brown on Monday. "On one hand, he is saying his words are taken out of context but is not being responsible for what those words are or what he meant."

Wright's remarks came a day after he addressed an audience of 10,000 at a dinner sponsored by the Detroit chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"I'm not here for political reasons," Wright said Sunday. "I am not a politician. I know that fact will surprise many of you, because many in the corporate-owned media have made it seem as if I had announced that I'm running for the Oval Office. I am not running for the Oval Office.

"I've been running for Jesus a long, long time, and I'm not tired yet."

McCain weighed in on the controversy Monday, saying he does not think Obama and Wright share the same "extremist views." Video Watch McCain comment on Wright »

On Sunday, McCain broached the topic of Wright unprompted for the first time despite suggestions that the issue would be out of bounds in the presidential race.

McCain said his shifting stance was justified because Obama told "Fox News Sunday" that the controversy surrounding his ex-pastor was "a legitimate political issue."

The senator from Arizona last week told the North Carolina GOP not to run an ad linking the state's Democratic candidates for governor -- Richard Moore and Beverly Perdue, both Obama supporters -- to Wright.


But on Monday, McCain said he would no longer get involved in such matters.

"I will not be a referee," he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report.

All About John McCainJeremiah WrightRepublican National CommitteeDemocratic National Committee

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