Wednesday, March 26, 2008

McCain - Centrist Or Wingnut?

By Cernig

Think Progress has the text of John McCain's latest key speech - on foreign policy and to be delivered to the Los Angeles World Council.

He appears to be trying to span the divide between his wingnut base and the rest of America - and doing so badly.

The speech begins with an implicit appeal to genetic heritability of leadership quality.

When I was five years old, a car pulled up in front of our house in New London, Connecticut, and a Navy officer rolled down the window, and shouted at my father that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. My father immediately left for the submarine base where he was stationed. I rarely saw him again for four years. My grandfather, who commanded the fast carrier task force under Admiral Halsey, came home from the war exhausted from the burdens he had borne, and died the next day.
And I suppose if you're one of those Religious Right wingnuts who don't believe in evolution (and thus genetics), you might think that such qualities can be inherited as the gift of the Sky Spook or achieved by osmosis. For the rest of us...nope.

But he then goes on to appeal to those Religious Right wingnuts and neoconservative wingnuts both with a bit about Manifest Destiny and Harry Truman.

President Harry Truman once said of America, “God has created us and brought us to our present position of power and strength for some great purpose.” In his time, that purpose was to contain Communism and build the structures of peace and prosperity that could provide safe passage through the Cold War. Now it is our turn.
Of course, now the reason "God has blah, blah" is to fight Islamofascism and Islam in general - the "transcendent challenge of our time". It's all pablum for the scared-of-brown-people base.

Then he gets into his policy prescriptions, and here he really wanders of the reservation. One wonders how those on the far Right who are holding their noses while marching in lockstep are going to (privately) react.

- A new League of Democracies which presumably will mean the U.S. can ignore the UN. But if the new League doesn't like a U.S. proposal then the U.S. "must be willing to be persuaded by them". So much for the go-it-alone neocon dream of superpowerdom.

- A new Kyoto deal that America will back first and try to get China and India onboard for later (but still sign even if they don’t).

- Encourage support for the EU and…wait for it…a transatlantic Common Market (the CM was the predecessor of the EU)!

- Removal of border barriers to trade between South, Latin and North America.

- Unilateral nuclear stockpile reductions.

- Kicking Russia - who is on course to be the world's largest energy exporter - out of the G8 (and generally giving the Cold Shoulder to Russia on all fronts - back to the Cold War) but letting India and Brazil in.

But unlike Russia, oddly, "China and the United States are not destined to be adversaries". Must be all those U.S. notes China is holding. Or maybe the Boeing factory.

- A total ban on enhanced interrogation techniques. (For "suspected" terrorists, is the quibble word.)

- But…no withdrawal from Iraq ever until Iraqis forget their sectarian and factional divides and become a "peaceful, stable, prosperous, democratic" state" that poses "no threat to neighbors" and contributes "to the defeat of terrorists". That's the McCain definition of victory. At the same time he wants to throw the Saudis and Egypt under the bus and take on Iran face first (based yet again on faulty translations of the words of an Iranian President who will be gone by 2013 at the latest and spurious claims that Iran has said it wants a nuke).

- So the U.S. under McCain will stay in Iraq while simultaneously pissing of both the main Islamic powerbases in the region. Can anybody say "Proxy Wars"? McCain obviously can't. Not even while the Surge goes into meltdown.

- The same criteria for victory to be applied to Afghanistan, although no mention of how that's to be achieved while about half of promised U.S. aid to that forgotten front goes unspent and what does get spent gets spent on U.S. based contractors who bring most of the money back home again.

The two parts of the speech - the Manifest-Destiny, Cold-War-Redux hard-Right BS and the almost-progressive definitely-centrist policy prescriptions, simply don't go together. It's as if two different speeches were written, one by McCain's neocon advisors and one by his paleocon "realist" team - and then some poor slob had the job of spot-welding the two together.

Oh, and as Fifth Estate points out in TP's comments, Straight Talk McCain is flirting with plagiarism and recycling old speeches as new ones. Right where the spot-weld is.

McCain today:

I detest war. It might not be the worst thing to befall human beings, but it is wretched beyond all description. When nations seek to resolve their differences by force of arms, a million tragedies ensue. The lives of a nation’s finest patriots are sacrificed. Innocent people suffer and die. Commerce is disrupted; economies are damaged; strategic interests shielded by years of patient statecraft are endangered as the exigencies of war and diplomacy conflict. Not the valor with which it is fought nor the nobility of the cause it serves, can glorify war. Whatever gains are secured, it is loss the veteran remembers most keenly. Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the merciless reality of war. However heady the appeal of a call to arms, however just the cause, we should still shed a tear for all that is lost when war claims its wages from us.”

a) Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, July 4 1996–Seawolf Assoc. speech :

“…to the Navy for sending us to war. At the same time, none of us feel that in Vietnam there is a romantic remembrance. War is awful and when nations seek to resolve their differences by fighting, a million tragedies ensue. Look at Bosnia today. The story line should be hatred and ignorance. War is wretched beyond description. Nothing, not the valor with which it is fought, nor the cause with which it serves can glorify war. Neither do we share the exhilaration of combat ”

b) McCain, speech at the RNC in NY, 2004
War is an awful business. The lives of a nation’s finest patriots are sacrificed. Innocent people suffer. Commerce is disrupted, economies are damaged. Strategic interests shielded by years of statecraft are endangered as the demands of war and diplomacy conflict. However just the cause, we should shed a tear for all that is lost when war claims its wages from us. But there is no avoiding this war. We tried that, and our reluctance cost us dearly. And while this war has many components, we can’t make victory on the battlefield harder to achieve so that our diplomacy is easier to conduct. That is not just an expression of our strength. It’s a measure of our wisdom.”
All in all, a speech that tried to appeal to two very different constituencies at total odds with one another - the hard Right and the rest of America - and will end up satisfying neither.

Update It's a recycling of a recycling! The HuffPo points to almost the exact same wording again, in a 2001 WSJ op-ed McCain wrote to drum up support for the war-of-choice in Iraq he'd been wanting for a decade. It appears originality isn't "maverick" McCain's strongpoint. Just war and more war. The HuffPo's Stein writes:
What these two, nearly identical, remarks suggest is that McCain's view of combat -- and, perhaps more importantly, its human costs -- has not really changed throughout the course of war. That is, despite five years of military operations in Iraq and more than 4,000 troop deaths, he still sees the "lives lost" and the "merciless realities" as necessary sacrifices to make.

It is a position that undoubtedly remains popular with a great number of primarily conservative voters. But it is also a sign of an unbending, almost stubborn, nature on the war that McCain's critics will certainly hold over his head during the presidential campaign.
You betcha. Because "Shed a tear, and then get on with the business of killing our enemies as quickly as we can, and as ruthlessly as we must" just doesn't cut it when the enemies are ones of choice. It's illegal warmongering, plain and simple, and more than just a solitary tear should be shed to compensate for the blood on the hands of McCain and the other warmongers. A Nuremberg Trial is what is called for.

Update 2 It's a recycling of a recycling of a recycling! Think Progress now notes that the good Rear Admiral appears to have copied his words from an even earlier speech by McCain - back in the 90's, no less. Rinse and repeat.

No comments: