Why Is John McCain Afraid to Speak with World Leaders?
by Jonathan Singer, Thu May 15, 2008 at 03:01:52 PM EDT
Today John McCain appeared more than willing to hug George W. Bush again, concurring with the President's ridiculous position that it is a sign of weakness rather than one of strength for America to be willing to speak with other nations of the world, both those that are friendly and those that are not. The McCain campaign went even farther, with the candidate himself becoming unhinged in questioning Barack Obama's qualifications to be President because he doesn't adhere to Bushian views on foreign policy. The response from the Obama campaign was strong:
Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor also weighs in: "It is the height of hypocrisy for John McCain to deliver a lofty speech about civility and bipartisanship in the morning and then embrace George Bush's disgraceful political attack in the afternoon. Instead of delivering meaningful change, John McCain wants to continue George Bush's irresponsible and failed Iran policy by refusing to engage in tough, direct diplomacy like Presidents from Kennedy to Reagan have done."
The Obama campaign is completely right to invoke Presidents Kennedy and Reagan in talking about the importance of speaking with both friend and foe. They might have even invoked Teddy Roosevelt, who McCain claims to model his career after but who in fact McCain seems to know and understand little about, a President who won a nobel peace prize while in the White House specifically because of his willingness to engage with the world.
But I'd go even a step further and ask why John McCain is afraid to speak with Iran. What is it about Iran that scares McCain so much? Or is it that McCain believes Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei are so crafty that they would trick an American President into inadvertently ceding the state of Maine or American Samoa to Iran? Or alternatively, is it that McCain simply does not know how to act in a manner different from his true political role model, George W. Bush?
America shows its strength by being part of the world, not receding from it. If there is any lesson to learn from the period between the two world wars it is exactly that -- it is entirely counterproductive for America to turn inward and be afraid to engage with the world in a meaningful way. But when America is willing to speak with unfriendly nations from a position of strength -- whether President Kennedy speaking with Premier Kruschev, President Nixon speaking with Chairman Mao or President Reagan speaking with Premier Gorbachev, to take three examples -- both America and the world more broadly can reap serious benefits.