Sen. McCain says Obama 'directly responsible' for Orlando shooting, issues clarification

After days spent attacking the NRA, “Republicans politicians,” Christians and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi the media has finally drawn a red line over who can be blamed in connection with the Orlando shooting. Thursday Senator John McCain told reporters President Obama was “directly responsible” for the attack, though he was clearly talking about the president’s foreign policy and the rise of the Taliban. Here is what McCain actually said (video pulled by the DCExaminer):

McCain: Barack Obama is directly responsible for it because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq Al Qaeda went to Syria, became ISIS and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures, utter failures, by pulling everybody out of Iraq thinking that conflicts end just because we leave. So the responsibility lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies.

The statement quickly blew up with stories by the AP, MSNBC, Politico, the Hill, etc. A short while later McCain began the effort to clarify:

He then released a full statement clarifying his earlier statement on his website:

I misspoke. I did not mean to imply that the President was personally responsible. I was referring to President Obama’s national security decisions, not the President himself. As I have said, President Obama’s decision to completely withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 led to the rise of ISIL. I and others have long warned that the failure of the President’s policy to deny ISIL safe haven would allow the terrorist organization to inspire, plan, direct or conduct attacks on the United States and Europe as they have done in Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino and now Orlando.

McCain really was mistaken to claim that Obama is “directly responsible” for Orlando. One can certainly make the argument, as McCain did, that Obama is responsible for the conditions that brought about the rise of ISIS, for long underestimating the group and, even more indirectly, for the attacks against the west that have followed. But that’s not the sort of thing most people would cite as “direct” responsibility.

That said, the media backlash on this is pretty hypocritical. Just yesterday the NY Times editorial board wrote that “Republican politicians” were somehow responsible for a climate that encouraged the shooting, despite having no evidence whatsoever to support this claim. Today the paper is more directly saying the NRA is “complicit in terrorism.” As James Taranto pointed out on Twitter, the NY Times seems fine with spreading blame for the shooting on anything other than radical Islam:

The inconvenient truth here is that the killer pledged his allegiance to ISIS and framed his attack (while it was still going on) as revenge for the bombing the Islamic State. From Fox News:

“I pledge my alliance to (ISIS leader) abu bakr al Baghdadi..may Allah accept me,” Mateen wrote in one post early Sunday morning. “The real muslims will never accept the filthy ways of the west” …“You kill innocent women and children by doing us taste the Islamic state vengeance.”


Mateen proclaimed his hatred for Westerners in one Facebook post uncovered by Johnson’s committee.

“America and Russia stop bombing the Islamic state,” Mateen wrote.

The bombing campaign that the killer used to justify his attack was authorized by President Obama in September 2014. Here’s what the Guardian wrote at the time:

In a markedly interventionist speech on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Obama announced an aggressive offensive to combat Isis, which has been responsible for the beheading of two American citizens in the past month and captured a swath of territory in northern parts of Iraq and Syria.

I certainly don’t believe that makes the President responsible for the actions of a murderer. In fact, like a lot of Republicans, I support the bombing campaign against ISIS and wish it were more aggressive. So, even if that’s what prompted the killer’s actions, I don’t regret the policy.

However, the left has been engaged in four days of blame-casting intended to turn this into a partisan issue. So if we’re looking for the party or individual to blame here, Barack Obama is a better choice than any of the alternatives being offered up by the NY Times. In fact, he may be the only person who could plausibly be said to be directly responsible based on the killer’s stated motive.

Strangely, this doesn’t sit well with the media (or in some cases even seem to occur to them). McCain was right to walk back what he said. When will the rest of the media follow suit and retract some of their own unsupportable accusations?