John McCain: Shadow President?
John McCain is taking advantage of Barack Obama’s “foreign vacation” in Hawaii and using the crisis in Georgia to showcase his foreign policy prowess.
The idea is to showcase himself as a man of action during a time of international crisis and to remind people that the world is a dangerous place that’s still filled with aggressive actors, something that the McCain camp presumably thinks will play in his favor.
McCain’s announcement of his key campaign allies’ trip abroad also seems designed to shoulder Bush aside as the primary GOP leadership figure here.
Politico‘s Jonathan Martin agress and observes, “McCain’s declaration has something of a shadow government feel to it, as though he’s sending his own emissaries into the war zone.” Over at News Hounds, Melanie finds that FOX News — or at least Neil Cavato — is treating McCain like he’s already president. Why, they’re even covering McCain’s foreign policy speeches!
Andrew Sullivan thinks we’re getting a preview of what a President McCain would look like and he’s less than impressed:
He’s giving press conferences. He’s warning of a new Tsarist empire. You can tell what sends him into high-energy zones: a clear enemy abroad. He knows black and white; and he knows war. It gives him clarity and strength. Up next: Iran and China. Oh, the conflicts we can have …
Various comment sections have the inevitable jokes about McCain being “presumptuous” and “uppity” for acting like he’s already president, an allusion to recent controveries over Barack Obama’s overseas adventures and various campaign logos.
Even AllahPundit thinks this is a bad idea.
Do Committee members really need to conduct their own fact-finding missions in the middle of a hot war? State and Defense briefings could probably get them up to speed. And what would the reaction have been if The One had made this move first with Bayh and Webb in the surrogate roles? Would have seemed to me like a transparent attempt to squeeze a photo op from a crisis that the administration’s already straining to manage without needing any extra distractions.
Foreign policy isn’t golf. One doesn’t get to shush the galleries. Presidents have to juggle multiple international crises, make domestic policy decisions, and deal with political campaigns all at the same time.
I say: More of this, please. After months of campaigning about nothing, we’re seeing how the two men who could plausibly get elected president less than three months from now are reacting to a big time foreign policy situation. While I’m frankly not sure what Lieberman and Graham could possibly accomplish by going to Georgia, at least we see that McCain gets how important this is.
Interestingly, as Dave Schuler and I discussed on last night’s installment of OTB Radio, there’s very little light between McCaina and Obama on this issue, at least on substance. Obama is more low key and McCain is more emphatic about Russia’s outrageous conduct but they’re landing in pretty much the same place: work with our NATO Allies, use the G8 and WTO for leverage, and otherwise engage in diplomacy; military force is decidedly not an option.
McCain’s more visible on the issue, to be sure, which points to both his being behind in the race and thinking foreign affairs is his long suit. Aside from Obama surrogate Bill Richardson’s bizarre suggestion of having the UN Security Council — where Russia has a veto! — solve this and McCain’s rather humorous suggestion that “In the 21st century, nations don’t invade other nations,” both teams are playing this rather well.