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Caution: Can Iran cigarette jokes be dangerous to McCain's political health?

July 8, 2008 |  9:22 pm

Eighteen months into a 22-month presidential campaign, actually his second time around, some might think presumptive Republican nominee John McCain would have learned to knock off the Iran jokes.

The Arizona senator got abundant grief last year for turning the words from the Beach Boys' tune “Barbara Ann” into “Bomb Iran,” and singing the altered chorus in response to a question from a man in South Carolina, who'd asked when the U.S. was going to send an “airmail message” to Iran.

But it seems the straight-talking Arizona senator can’t help himself.

An Iranian woman lights a cigarette like the one GOP presidential nominee John McCain has not smoked in 28, no, 29 years

Tuesday while waiting with his wife Cindy for cheesesteaks during a trip to Pittsburgh’s Primanti Bros., a restaurant famous for its thick sandwiches piled high with French fries, an Associated Press reporter asked McCain for comment on the news organization’s report that U.S. exports to Iran increased tenfold during the last seven years — with cigarettes ranking as the top export to Iran.

"Maybe that’s a way of killing them,” McCain responded. He quickly followed up: “I meant that as a joke, as a person who hasn’t had a cigarette in 28 years.”

After his wife corrected him –- it’s actually been 29 years since the veteran's last smoke -- McCain said he’d like to look into the Iran export issue more thoroughly and might have a better answer later.

-- Maeve Reston

Photo credit: Hasan Sarbakhshian / Associated Press