July 24th, 2008
09:56 AM ET

McCain's Foreign Policy Frustration

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/24/art.mccain.plane.jpg]
Joe Klein
AC360° Contributor
TIME columnist

"I had the courage and the judgment to say that I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war," John McCain said during a Rochester, N.H., town meeting on July 22. "It seems to me that Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign."

It was a remarkable statement, as intemperate a personal attack as I've ever heard a major-party candidate make in a presidential campaign, the sort of thing that no potential President of the United States should ever be caught saying. (A prudent candidate has aides sling that sort of mud.) It was also inevitable.

You could see McCain's frustration building as Barack Obama traipsed elegantly through the Middle East while the pillars of McCain's bellicose regional policy crumbled in his wake. It wasn't only that the Iraqi government seemed to take Obama's side in the debate over when U.S. forces should leave (sooner rather than later).


Filed under: Barack Obama • Joe Klein • John McCain • Raw Politics • T1
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Caycee

    McCain's desperate statement hits a new political low. But, he's too confused to realize how deep he's already sunk.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:42 am |
  2. K

    I don't understand the people who support Mccain, have we not come into an agreement that global warming is a serious problem. Mccain want to drill more oils to put in the atmosphere, he doesn't care about our fishes on the cost of Florida, plus hurricane passes by there all the time, that will keep cost always on the rise.

    Its funny to see that Mccain is still something we talk about, I am so happy he was not in the news that much, yet, he was able to show his true color. Angry Mccain only had negatives thing to say, even using their own supporters to leak a fake lie about naming their VP so they can get some attention.

    Mccain has been in congress for over 100 years and he had done nothing for us, you think he will do much as a president, I don't think so. Mccain doesn't have experience, he has never been a president, so where is the experience. Mccain supporters you guys are just a bunch of imbeciles....

    July 24, 2008 at 11:32 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    Seems to me both candidates would do or say anything to get elected – isn't that the purpose right now anyway? McCain is too hung up on the war and I haven't heard much from him on environmental policy, the economy or health care – market conditions aren't going to resolve those no matter how much you hope they will. But Obama is low on specifics as well. With all the candidates we had to choose from I'm discouraged that the two getting the nomination are not better than what they are. Candy Crowley said in one of her reports while Obama was in Iraq that he came there with the idea of pulling out in 16 months and his visit had not changed that view – did he look at other viewpoints or just the ones that supported his? We'll never know.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 24, 2008 at 9:29 pm |
  4. Kent Fitzsimmons,Kewanee, IL

    If we, again, this year elect in a Republican we are just asking for more of the same. When Clinton was in office we had years of prosperity. That same prosperity can be had again by electing in another Democrat. McCain is a terrrrrrrrrible candidate. The GOP don't even want him as their nominee. What would happen if Sept. comes and they choose another candidate instead of McCain. It could happen........It can happen............

    July 24, 2008 at 8:40 pm |
  5. Ann

    There were clearly other factors than just the "Surge" alone, that brought about lessening of violence in Iraq. McCain was wrong to keep claiming the "Surge" was in itself a success, when infact, it hasn't been success, far as the purpose was to establish greater peace, so that Iraqs New Government could complete the work within their new constitution, and resolve oil business, and other factors within their various parties, of Sunni, Shia, and Kurds. The Kurd Rebels, PKK, which is not talked about much on the news, was a problem for Turkey, when they attacked over a hundred Turks, before Bush allowed them to defend themselves. I notice "Israel" never has to exercise that degree of restraint. Anyway, the Administration paid Turkey to stop their aggressive defense against PKK, so McCain, could boast about success of the surge. It remains, "Unfinished Business".

    July 24, 2008 at 7:18 pm |
  6. Salvador Trabanino in New Orleans

    The truth about the cancellation of McCain's trip to New Orleans to meet with Gov. Jindal has been revealed:
    McCain was coming here to tout the benefits of offshore drilling, but when the diesel spill in the Mississipi river, right in front of the city of New Orleans, was shown to be a massive one, McCain decided to cancel, citing "bad weather" as his reason.
    Yeah, bad weather it is!
    We are breathing this stuff, as I live 5 blocks from the river, and jogged there this morning. The smell is making people sick!
    Sick of politicians like John McCain

    July 24, 2008 at 6:54 pm |
  7. karen-phoenix

    Joe: McCain is just toooo old!!! Thats the bottom line that no one wants to say!!! He's loosing it!!! And all his help have white heads too! And I'm in my 60's, a born republican and I realize he is tooo old. I'm retire next year and McCain should tooo. He's taking this weekend off again. Back to Sedona AZ. Most expensive piece of property in AZ. How can this man relate to us, average America? He can't and he needs to retire!

    July 24, 2008 at 5:54 pm |
  8. Wil

    Are we serously in 8th grade. If McCain would like to be president, be Presidential. Please quit your crying. Your constant attacks on people are tiresome.

    July 24, 2008 at 5:19 pm |
  9. Kay

    Mccain seems to be arguing that I should be President because I am right about the surge. But, my friends, Mccain was and is wrong about everything else.He was wrong about supporting the war in Iraq but he refuses to admit that or even talk about it because he does not care about the billions squandered or the loss of thousands of American lives. In his mind, he can do no wrong--a very fatal flaw.

    July 24, 2008 at 4:58 pm |
  10. Roger Kelley Paris, TX

    Obama has stated that he will withdraw as conditions on the ground permit. Does that sound like a Bush statement? He supported the amendment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Bush has pushed the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative since February 2003. He has encouraged ethanol production. Obama is pushing alternatives. Bush has been slow to listen possible tactical change. Obama extremely slow to listen to possible tactical change. While Bush has been president, France and Germany have voted to support pro-American leaders which helps our relationships around the world. Obama claims to want more people to be pro-American. Bush has already talked to Maliki about up coming troop reductions. Obama wants to talk to Maliki about troop reductions. These stances may sound similar. So, who is going to serve Bush's third term, McCain or Obama?

    July 24, 2008 at 4:12 pm |
  11. Monika

    "But that's the point: McCain would place a higher priority on finding new enemies than on cultivating new friends."


    I also totally agree with the comments by Gary Chandler in Canada. I think it's so sad that the most common-sense comments on this blog are made by foreigners. I think that every time McCain makes the assertion that the surge worked, the media should remind us that it only "worked" because the U.S. is paying off the Sunnis not to kill Americans. HA, what a joke!!!!

    July 24, 2008 at 3:40 pm |
  12. Jerry

    Frustrated angry old Mccain. My advice to Mccain. Get a message and stick to it.

    July 24, 2008 at 2:50 pm |
  13. Bekah

    I don't understand comments such as James' regarding Obama's empty rhetoric. If only people would educate themselves as to what Obama's positions are, we wouldn't have to listen to such foolish comments. Granted, Obama is far less bellicose than McCain in presenting his positions, but after eight years of "my way or the highway" politics, wouldn't we rather a man who is willing to compromise while standing firm in his convictions? Obama has shifted on issues as new information has been provided to him. To me that represents great leadership – someone who is willing to admit when he is wrong (or not completely correct) and change with the facts. We cannot afford another four years of strong arm policies. We can only afford to make so many enemies.

    July 24, 2008 at 1:04 pm |
  14. Wendy Ontario, Canada

    McCain can't even get the timeline straight so how can he keep saying the surge has been successfull?? There were other factors at play which Obama has credited with less violence in Iraq along with the surge. McCain is making himself look rigid & fails to see what he is doing to his own campaign by constantly harping on Obama. The commercial blaming Obama for rising gas prices was ridiculous! Wasn't it only weeks ago that McCain also opposed drilling offshore? His clear obsession with war & "winning wars" without being able to even define what a "Win" would be in Iraq is very telling. He appears to be on a mission to continue 2 wars & start another with Iran. He doesn't seem to realise his stance on Iran will have a huge affect on gas prices, drilling to get oil 10 yrs from now will have no affect on prices if he wants to be constantly at War in the middle east. I don't think he has the capability to be President, he will not even consider diplomacy & cares little about what others say. I don't want to see him become President, he will cause much tension with other nations using his attitude of inflexibility. The more he claims "Obama will lose a war to win an election", the more people should see what he is about. I think his experiences have tainted his views. Scary.

    July 24, 2008 at 12:50 pm |
  15. James

    A lot of the independents are gravitating toward Obama, but what has he offered? Certainly he is the lesser of the two evils(and I use that word literally), but he has no viable solutions. He sure does like a lot of change though! America can do better than these two, and it is embarrassing to me and many of my peers that we didn't.

    July 24, 2008 at 12:48 pm |
  16. ANGIE

    I give Mcain much respect for his military services, But just because you have been pow does not qualify you to be president we have had lots of presidents that were not in the military, But what bothers me about mccain is he seems to be obsessed with wars and iraq in paticular, and seems to fall short of the economy,healthcare,energry I am an independent and this year i will be voting for obama mcain scares me with his obsession with wars and iraq i feel hes too dangerous!!!!!!!!!!

    July 24, 2008 at 12:34 pm |
  17. James

    McCain will say anything to get elected as well! He plays on this new trend of (expansionist)nationalism that has plagued the conservative party as of late. Neither one of them can fill the shoes required to run this country at this particular point in time. Neither of them really differ on their policy with Iran. Neither one wants to stop funding an empire that we cannot afford without borrowing to the hill from China and printing more money(thereby debasing our own currency). Both of them vote for measures that rob us of our civil liberties and our wealth. McCain talks about a lot of action, albeit fundamentally unconstitutional and incompetent action. The other....well I'll quote Benjamin Franklin: "Now here comes the great orator, with his flood of words and drop of reason."
    If those who have anti-american sentiment ever had a reason to generalize their hatred from our leadership to the people, it is now that we have shown them that this is the best we can do when we elect our leaders. Hopefully we'll be able to give it another go four years from now.

    July 24, 2008 at 12:16 pm |
  18. Jim

    I agree with McCain's take on this. The "game" is all about getting elected. Obama will say anything to anyone if he feels it garners him political advantage. The question of what is best for America does not seem to enter his mind.

    July 24, 2008 at 11:55 am |
  19. Dezzy

    McCain is basically a cold war relict, in other words, everything can be solved as was done in the cold war...dig in for the long haul. But he forgets in recent times that the Afghans outlasted the Soviets, and the Vietnameses outlasted the French and Americans.

    Victory in Iraq leads to a democracy that democratically votes anti-american policies and practices. Not much a victory huh?

    July 24, 2008 at 11:52 am |
  20. Mwasu

    Did'nt McCain bully Obama into going to Iraq and the middle east by constantly remarking "he has not gone there, how can he assess conditions for withdraw al of our troops?" What exactly are we expected to win from the war in Iraq and how do we measure "success" with so much bloodshed on both sides?

    July 24, 2008 at 11:51 am |
  21. James

    I understand that conservatism has been given a rotten name over the last couple decades. However, the old conservative platform was one that stressed liberty, fiscal responsibility, small government, and a non-interventionist foreign policy. To go back and find a candidate, other than Dr. Ron Paul, who ran on this platform, you needn't go any further than listening to George W. Bush in the 2000 election year. "Mr. Republican," Robert Taft, was a staunch supporter of the aforementioned principles.
    John Quincy Adams cautioned us that an interventionist foreign policy might cause America to be viewed as the "dictatress of the world." We were originally intended to trade with everyone and ally with no one, even if the very structure of these governments rejected the values that we as Americans cling to.
    September 11 did not change this type of reasoning, it called for a reinstatement of such. They attacked us because our irresponsible policymakers had us over there for decades militarily meddling in governments and initiating murderous sanctions. Remember that nearly all of the perpetrators of Sept 11 were Saudis? They did not attack us because we are rich, free, white, and Christian.
    We would not be losing the war if we left and started discussing a new(or rather very old) direction of our foreign policy. We'd simply be following the Constitution.
    The primary issue would be the years of "blowback" that we have now been obligated to deal with thanks to our irresponsible, unintelligent, and incompetent leadership.
    If you could ask Thomas Jefferson which candidate he would support, I think you would get a very strong "neither!"

    July 24, 2008 at 11:47 am |
  22. Catherine Maxwell

    John McCain's campaign should lower the volume on their assertions that Barack Obama is getting all the press coverage. With the collossal blunders John McCain has been making lately, they should appreciate the fact that the press is not putting him front and center. It is sad really to see someone who has served his country so admirably and courageously stoop to the level he and his surrogates have fallen to. Just because one is a member of a political party, they do not have to be an ideologue. Obama has shown that repeatedly. Even in the face of the latest round of insults from the McCain camp, Obama simply says he is "disappointed" by the remarks about his suppesedly being willing to lose the war to win the campaign. How much more gracious and statesman like can you get?

    July 24, 2008 at 11:42 am |
  23. Gary Chandler in Canada

    The problem with the splurge, which by definition is a short burst and not the prolonged build up it's turned into, is the millions of dollars in cash doled out to terrorists in order to achieve 'success'.
    Petreus and McCain will go down in military history with the likes of Britain's Chamberlain, who also believed in appeasement of the enemy, which is what the splurge is, appeasement. Fund it for the next 100 years?
    Is that money, which nobody pays income tax on, for luxury cars or for the redeployment to other terrorist campaigns, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the West? It's kind of interesting that Afghan hostilities increased right after the splurge!?
    Guliano speaking > 911 this 911 that and 911
    McCain > Petreus and General Petreus, more Petreus also General Petreus.
    Of course there will be fatalities with a withdrawal from Iraq, but none to Americans and MORE to Iraqis, over a longer period of time, by staying there.
    Water finds its own level folks, whether American troops are swimming in that water is the choice.
    Border security between Iraq Iran and Pakistan Afghanistan is where the smart would go.

    July 24, 2008 at 11:41 am |
  24. Selkin, Toronto

    The problem with Conservatism is meaning: i.e... A political philosophy based on tradition, stressing established institutions and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; patently preserving what is established. That inherited, established, customary pattern of thought and\or tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to ‘change’ Achilles’ heel if you will – is death itself – for McCain and Republicans (y)

    July 24, 2008 at 11:01 am |
  25. Michelle

    Joe I could not agree with you more. The McCain campaign seems
    to have just lost it. It was refreshing last night to see you and Mr,
    Gergen correct someone on 360 who was saying something false
    about Obama and the surge. Too often CNN lets radio talk show
    hosts and pundits and partisans put out misinformation and
    not be held accountable. That is was I have a major league
    problem with The Election Center. For some strange reason CNN
    thinks radio talk show host and annoying talking heads are experts.
    Only subjecting viewers to bias and bull. Is that not going against
    no bias, no bull? The biggest bull put out for the hour on the program
    and bias is the amount of time wasted on how good things are going
    for John McCain and spending most of the hour on John McCain
    while doing everything possible to diminish and underplay Obama.
    Not good journalism at all. Maybe you need to go beyond politcal
    blogs, talk radio and talking heads and actually utilize your own
    journalist the content would be better rather than totally useless
    blah blah blah for an hour.

    July 24, 2008 at 10:39 am |
  26. Kristen- Philadelphia, PA

    Yes, Obama was wrong for not admitting the surge has been doing some good. But the fact is there are still too many lives being lost in this war and what exactly are we supposed to win in the end?

    McCain should be frustrated. His foreign policy especially when it comes to the Iraq war is plain wrong. We can not stay their as long as we want when Iraq wants us out, that’s ludicrous. And not talking to some foreign leaders is ridiculous too. I won’t say its due to age but its definitely due to his stubbornness, the same stubbornness we saw from Bush the past 8 years.

    July 24, 2008 at 10:19 am |