Feature

McCain: Different from Bush?

For those of us who love a great political speech, said David Broder in The Washington Post, these are heady days indeed. The latest reincarnation of Cicero would appear to be Sen. John McCain, the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee, who last

For those of us who love a great political speech, said David Broder in The Washington Post, these are heady days indeed. The latest reincarnation of Cicero would appear to be Sen. John McCain, the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee, who last week delivered a lengthy address on the subject of foreign policy that was every bit as nuanced, honest, and effective as Barack Obama’s remarks last month on race. McCain “refused to back off his support” for the unpopular war in Iraq, but at the same time made it clear that America cannot lead “by virtue of its power alone,” and emphasized the need for international alliances. The anti-war brigade will never forgive McCain for supporting the war in Iraq, said Investor’s Business Daily in an editorial, but this speech should at least dispel any “notions that he would give the world a third term of George W. Bush.”

If McCain’s goal was to distance himself from Bush’s foreign policy, said Glenn Greenwald in Salon.com, then why did he deliver a speech that “was essentially a replica of the speech George Bush has been giving for the last seven years?” Anyone can say they believe in diplomacy; Bush, in fact, rarely misses a chance to pay lip service to the “pretty concepts of internationalism and democracy,” while actually carrying out a policy of “endless militarism, occupation, and war.” Like Bush, McCain insists against all evidence that “victory” is possible in Iraq, and is perfectly willing to keep troops there forever to pursue it. Both men think it’s better to bomb Iran sooner rather than later. And both are infected with the neoconservative delusion that America will be safe only if we use military force to transform “the Middle East to look the way we want it to look.”

You’re forgetting something, said David Brooks in The New York Times. Unlike certain other presidential candidates, McCain actually has a track record on foreign policy. Back in 1983, he defied his party and opposed President Reagan’s decision to send U.S. Marines into Lebanon. Why? Because the mission lacked both a concrete objective and a clear exit strategy. That’s hardly the behavior of a militaristic ideologue. Until a few months ago, let’s not forget, McCain was a reviled figure in the Bush White House, thanks to his constant and justified criticism of how the administration had conducted the war. Say what you will about this plainspoken pragmatist, but “anybody who thinks McCain is merely continuing the Bush agenda is not paying attention.”

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