The Sunday shows just can’t quit Senator John McCain (R-AZ), especially not when it comes to war. Near war. War drums. General threats. And of course, the GOP favorite, the perpetual re-do of the Cold War.
So it was that McCain was on CNN’s State of the Union to give his expert opinion on Ukraine and Russia, which is that while it’s not the Cold War (so fresh!), and we don’t need boots on the ground, we need to offer military assistance to Ukraine and impose economic sanctions against Russia. This is pretty much what the President has been saying, and is a far cry from McCain’s recent “the President needs to be stronger against Russia” rhetoric.
It’s also a big reversal from his Vice Presidential pick’s announcement that the only way to stop a bad guy with a nuke is with a good guy with a nuke. (And here Sarah Palin promised us she was keepin’ an eye on Putin.)
McCain was ostensibly on because he had just returned from a Congressional trip to Ukraine. (Remember McCain’s secret trip to Syria, where he said we should arm Syrian rebels because we can tell who the good guys are, and then he was accused of posing with rebels who kidnapped 11 Lebanese Shi’ite pilgrims? Maybe it’s time for Republicans to hang up the whole good guy versus bad guy fairy tale.)
Bomb-bomb-bomb McCain is gone for the moment. This new McCain, a reasonable McCain, said we don’t need boots on the ground, “No boots on the ground. It’s not the Cold War over again.” And then he championed economic sanctions – hello, President Obama! — against Russia and military assistance to Ukraine in terms of sending aid to their military, but no boots on the ground for the U.S. McCain bolstered his “argument” for economic sanctions (Obama’s strategy from the beginning) by saying that since Russia depends on oil and gas exports, this is a great idea. HUH. Thank God he’s here to parrot as the actual President. It’s better than his attempts to be a shadow president.
Also, this McCainism, “Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country.” So that’s a no for nuance. He can parrot Obama but he just can’t quite get to the place where he’s not inflammatory and seeing the world in high relief.
McCain made the seemingly profound statement that we need to reassess our relationship with Putin, saying we need a “fundamental reassessment of our relationship with Vladimir Putin.” I’m not sure to whom this is directed, because his party is the only party embracing Putin.
I’m wondering if McCain knows that his Vice Presidential pick can’t stop talking about how Putin is a real man whereas the President of the U.S. is a weak loser because Palin can’t picture Obama wrestling a bear or something equally irrelevant and bizarre. It might behoove Republicans to follow McCain’s lead on this, as it appears like they are jumping into bed with Putin at the worst of times. It’s going to be awkward to wave that red, white and blue in campaigns as they salivate over Putin and his naked chest.
Earlier McCain was pushing for Obama to be stronger against Russia, demanding that the President spell out the consequences if Russia failed to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty. This is pretty much a demand for Obama to threaten some kind of force, since Obama had already been pushing for economic sanctions. It’s also really bad strategy unless you want war, because only weak, foolish leaders make specific threats. Foreign policy is dynamic — the landscape is constantly shifting. A smart leader has to leave room to respond to the changes. Republicans don’t like the vagueness, but the vagueness is necessary. Life is not black and white.
President Obama has already issued a strong warning to Russia. While urging dialogue instead of escalation, he further noted that the US would be consulting with the UN and other international groups over Russia’s continued violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He said, “The United States will suspend upcoming participation in preparatory meetings for the G-8. Going forward, Russia’s continued violation of international law will lead to greater political and economic isolation.”
Vice President Joe Biden made sure everyone understands that this administration, unlike the previous Republican administration, respects the sovereignty of other nations, in this case Ukraine.
In other words, John McCain reiterated President Obama’s foreign policy, in what can only be seen as a huge downshift from his previous saber rattling. McCain does have hard core values, unlike many in his party and he would rather stand with his President to stop what he sees as a Commie dictator than allow his bitterness to rule the day. He also seems to be trying to lure his party out of Putin’s bed and back home in time for election season.