McCain Killing Iranians with Cigarettes, Risks Killing Presidential Chances with Bad Jokes
John McCain’s secret plan for Iran: kill them with cigarettes.
Presidential candidate John McCain, who once sang in jest about bombing Iran, on Tuesday reacted to a report of rising U.S. cigarette exports to the country by saying it may be “a way of killing ’em.”
McCain, known for acerbic comments and for sometimes firing verbally from the hip, was responding to a report that U.S. exports to Iran rose tenfold during President George W. Bush’s term in office despite hostility between the two states. A rise in cigarette sales was a big part of that, according to an Associated Press analysis of seven years of U.S. trade figures.
“Maybe that’s a way of killing ’em,” McCain said to reporters during a campaign stop in Pittsburgh. “I meant that as a joke, as a person who hasn’t had a cigarette in 28 years, 29 years,” he added, laughing.
It’s both rather weak as a joke and a stupid thing to say for a man who needs to assure moderates that he in fact does not shoot from the hip but is really a serious leader in foreign affairs, let alone a man who could be elected president and have to lead our diplomatic relations with Iran. Still, it’s probably not worth all the hubbub it’s generating.
Michelle Malkin gets it right: “I can hear it coming already: faux outrage, MSM feeding frenzy, Worst Person in the World designation, and a 24-hour cycle of cable TV teeth-gnashing over McCain’s off-handed joke about cigarette exports to Iran. ”
- Kathy @ Liberty Street: “That’s not the response of a U.S. president. That’s the response of a 6th grader who can’t answer the question in class because he hasn’t studied.”
- Matt Yglesias: “John McCain once again “jokes” about his desire to kill Iranians. This time, the joke is a little bit more of a real joke, but the targets of his lust for killing foreigners are clearly ordinary Iranian civilians. If a major Iranian political leader were to repeatedly joke about bombing the United States and killing Americans, you can just imagine the shit-storm about how Iran isn’t a normal country with normal interests, that it’s run by irrational fanatics, appeasement won’t work, etc.”
- David Knowles: “It’s one thing to declare that you’re not interested in public diplomacy with Iran. And another to continue with the macabre knee-slappers.”
- Satyam Khanna doesn’t really say anything in a post titled, “McCain jokes about ‘killing’ Iranians by getting them addicted to smoking.”
In the immortal words of Sergeant Hulka, “Lighten up, Francis.” Serious people in high visibility offices ought be careful about their jokes, to be sure, but it’s not as if the Iranian mullahs are going to suddenly become anti-American as a result of an off-the-cuff one-liner. For one thing, they’re already anti-American. For another, they’re grownups who aren’t going to let something like that get in the way of their larger interests.
Ronald Reagan famously joked, as president, about bombing the Soviets, whom he repeatedly referred to as the Evil Empire. He negotiated two major arms control deals with them and presided over the beginning of the collapse of that empire.
Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters