Republican Senator John McCain confirmed his much-expected presidential run on "Late Show With David Letterman" Wednesday night — and was promptly caught up in fresh controversy less than a day later.
"Americans are very frustrated, and they have every right to be," McCain said on Letterman's program, in regards to the Iraq war. "We've wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives."
That statement drew ire from Democrats, prompting the Democratic National Committee to demand on Thursday (March 1) that he apologize for using the term "wasted."
"Senator McCain should apologize immediately for his callous comments," DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney told The Associated Press Thursday. "How is it that John McCain now believes American lives are being wasted, yet he so stubbornly supports the president's plan to escalate the war in Iraq and put more American lives in harm's way?"
McCain subsequently responded, saying, "I should have used the word 'sacrificed,' as I have in the past," according to AP. "No one appreciates and honors more than I do the selfless patriotism of American servicemen and women in the Iraq War," he added.
The DNC's demand that the senator apologize comes less than a month after Democratic presidential contender Senator Barack Obama was asked to apologize for using the same word. He had said, "We have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted," but later apologized, saying, "Their sacrifices are never wasted."
The Arizona senator, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2000 against George W. Bush, used his Letterman appearance to reveal that he will make his formal announcement speech in April after a visit to Iraq (see "2008 Presidential Race Heats Up — Here's A Scorecard Of Hopefuls").
McCain, the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, also stood by his beliefs that U.S. troops must remain in Iraq rather than withdrawing early.
The former Navy pilot, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has been a supporter of the Iraq war and is considered an architect of President Bush's recent "surge" strategy — although he makes no secret of his criticisms toward Bush as well.
In the battle for the 2008 Republican ticket, McCain is expected to face former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has recently widened his lead in popularity polls, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, among others.