August 13th, 2008
08:45 PM ET

Commentary: Russian crisis a McCain opportunity, Obama risk

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/07/art.split.candidates.jpg]Leslie Sanchez
AC360° Contributor
GOP Strategist

Despite the best work of political handlers and advertising pros in presidential elections, people's perceptions are often shaped by impressions formed by events that are completely out of the campaigns' control.

Such was the case just before midnight on August 20, 1968, when Soviet troops marched through Prague, putting a sudden and brutal end to the Czechoslovakian communist reform movement that was known, all too briefly, as the "Prague Spring." Seventy-eight days later, Americans gave Richard Nixon an Electoral College margin of 110 votes.

Forty years later, Russian tanks are rolling once more over their neighbors, and the images that are shaping Americans' lasting perceptions are of a president playing in the sand with the women's beach volleyball team and the presumptive Democratic nominee alternately walking along Kailua Beach and playing golf in Hawaii.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • John McCain • Leslie Sanchez • Raw Politics
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Rob

    McCains meddling has only inflamed this crisis. His main adviser is also a lobbyist for the Georgians. Check out the date his guy received his contract. McCains solutions for any problem seems to be war. He is lost in the past and with the military stretched so thin this has no affect at all it's just posturing which gives the Georgians the wrong message.

    August 14, 2008 at 10:04 am |
  2. JR Roberts

    "McCain Opportunity, Obama Risk"

    Now let me guess who do you favor? What a stupid headline.

    Who looked more presidential – everyone agrees it was Obama. So I guess it should now say "McCain screws up another opportunty and Obama keeps looking Presidential".

    August 14, 2008 at 10:00 am |
  3. Pat

    Donnell I agree. This administration has IOU's with the power giants of the world. They have to base their decisions accordingly and tread lightly on the toes of the Nations that are feeding their bank accounts or who may call in their loans. It is like being governed by an addicted gambling ring. The problem as indicated with Iraq is that they don't know when to hold em and fold em. John just gave us another example of that with his statement on Georgia. Hypocritical takes on a whole new meaning when McCain and his sole mate Bush condemn Russia for military action on Georgia while they have been condemed for the past seven years by the World for doing much worse in Iraq.

    August 14, 2008 at 8:48 am |
  4. Zoya from Moscow

    McCaine is behaving as an immature populist. Implausible threats... Over-the-top pathos... He is just giving the public what they want, and it seems the public doesn't know enough about the conflict to be sceptical about it.

    The truth is, in the post-cold-war world, America has set a disappointing example of settling conflicts by force. The invasion of both Yugoslavia and Iraq were illegal attacks on sovereign nations that were condemned by the international community. So what? The Americans didn't think much of international condemnation and continued to do as they pleased. Russia, who in the 90ies believed it joined "a civilized world", learned that "civilized" was just a front, and that force is still the only thing that counts.

    So, basically, I think there is nothing the US will be able to do. Not only does it lack the actual leverage, it also has no moral right to teach Russia how to conduct geopolitics.

    From Obama's commentary, it seems to me he understands that. Hence the absence of senseless, over-the-top rethoric. I actually admired Obama for concentrating on efforts "to stop fighting". It IS the most important thing, after all. Sure, it doesn't sound too impressive. But it's realistic. McCaine, if he were in charge of the US, with his constant ridiculous allusions to the Soveit era, would only make matters worse. Russians will resist more the more you push them. Obama, on the other hand, showed an ability to hold back emotions and concentrate on important and feasible things. To me, that means a smarter, more efficient politician.

    August 14, 2008 at 2:37 am |
  5. maripil

    Sen. McCain's remarks only fuels more anger from the Russians. To say that we are all Georgians is a shame. Sen. McShame should stop taking sides as he does not speak for myself or my family. He is taking sides with the Georgians as he recieves money from lobbyists doing business with Georgia. We have enough trouble with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. To get mired and stir the pot with Russia is tantamount to suicide. Sen. McShame must lay low as he does not know what he is getting into. He is not fit to be president as he is a quick tempered wrinkly old man. What a shame!!!!!

    August 14, 2008 at 2:32 am |
  6. Surafel Melaku

    An opportunity of War and War Experience for McCain and judgement and leadership for Obama! But, clearly, they don't feel the pressure like Bush, so their word right now is to suit and flow with "what the public want to hear" rhyme!

    August 14, 2008 at 2:17 am |
  7. David

    "Nations don't invade other nations" coming from McCain really ought to cause some severe questioning if we actually had a free press. Have you heard of Iraq and "We don't do body counts"?

    August 14, 2008 at 1:37 am |
  8. Ates Ertan

    Middle aged moderate white republican who was willing to vote for Ms Clinton because of Bush politics, but now i have to think again.. i am not going to support someone that who was propelled to the stage by bunch of kids that who also think that scary movie1, 2, 3, 4 were also cool... lets get real, we do need experience, and he doesnot have it..
    and Edwards wouldn`t run she would be the nominee now?????
    Is our politics that dumb? is the democratic party that dumb? are the super delegates that dumb? i guess I will stay repuplican and vote for one, then during the get togethers I will say that I said so...

    August 14, 2008 at 1:06 am |
  9. Ron, Berkeley,Ca.

    Leslie Sanchez, had better try another angle. This is`nt 1968......
    we`re not falling for it. the republican brand is so yesterday. Anyone stupid enough to vote for John McBush , had better tell everybody they know with young sons, to hide them. The draft will be reinstated by Christmas Day. What a beautiful gift for the family.

    August 14, 2008 at 12:47 am |
  10. Charlie

    Obama has a lawyer background; McCain has been a Navy pilot shot down in Vietnam and a POW. On this premise alone John McCain gets my vote, because I know without a doubt Mr. McCain truly loves the United States of America and he will protect it with everything he's got. And this tells me that my family and I will be safe.

    August 14, 2008 at 12:42 am |
  11. Jack L. Crain

    Once again CNN has decided to ignore a fact about this crisis that might cost it some advertising. Atlanta being the "sister city" of Tablisi is also likely to upset people who might learn that the President of Georgia is nothing but a puppet of the United States and that there is reason to belive that John McCain's top adviser on foreign affairs might have influenced him to start this conflict in the first place. As a lobbiest for Georgia until he became the McCain campaign's adviser, he would have easy access to the Georgian President and influence over him. It is being rumoured that the conflict in Georgia was precipitated in order to make McCain look like a forceful leader on world affairs since he can be as bellicose as he chooses as a candidate without having the resposibility of actually doing anything of consequence.

    August 14, 2008 at 12:01 am |
  12. Boris DAMAST

    Keeping Anderson honest.

    Throughout Obama's tour of Europe, Anderson repeatedly asked his political panels to comment on Obams's so-called "presumptuousness."
    Why then, given McCain's "presidential," politically motivated statements regarding the Russian Georgia situation, isn't Anderson asking the same questions of McCain?
    Is that honest, Anderson?

    August 13, 2008 at 11:51 pm |
  13. Sam

    I really hope that this time, people will be smart enough to avoid McCain. He definetely has more experience than Obama in stupidity. I also cannot believe that today, he actually had a press conference about the russian invasion. His supporters say that his tough words show that he is the strong leader that we need. When are they going to understand that it is not about talking tough and being hostile. It is about thinking, caution, diplomacy before war. He keeps saying that Obama lacks knowledge, what kind of knowledge does he have? Some people say that Obama can only give speeches, I think that with his trip abroad, he showed otherwise. We are dealing with a smart man who is humble and learns fast unlike McCain who is stuck in his old ways. I prefer to vote for someone who is strong in intelligence than someone who is tough on words. Georgia started the crisis and McCain used his preconceived ideas to base his judgment. Finally, to answer Dylan 's comments above, Hillary Clinton is just as alienating as McCain. The way she campaigned proved that she wasn't a smart fighter. I strongly believe that Obama is a fighter because that's what he had to do all his life. I do not doubt one minute that he would not be a strong leader.

    August 13, 2008 at 11:33 pm |
  14. aliousalam FL

    McCain had the audacity to speak for all americans when he can't even talk for himself. McCain lobbyist is taking us for a ride as they did in Iraq. Where are the flowers.??

    August 13, 2008 at 11:16 pm |
  15. Donnell

    Annie Kate-
    What's impressive about sabre rattling? McCain's reaction to any crisis is the same–Let's go to war. Never mind the fact that our military is strecthed thin fighting a wafr that should have never been waged. Impressive...I think not!!

    August 13, 2008 at 11:09 pm |
  16. BJ in NC

    I thought we had one President at a time. Why is John (empty suit) McCain standing and voicing threats to the Russians? When Obama went on his overseas trip, the news media continued to say "he had to be careful and not try to look too presumptious". No matter how you try to look the other way, there is not fair and equal treatment when it comes to these two candidates. Perhaps, you are trying to help McCain but you can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear.

    August 13, 2008 at 11:03 pm |
  17. Kent Fitzsimmons,Kewanee, IL

    The GOP will continue to bring up Russia, Cold War, Communist etc all the way to the convention. This worked back in the day. But those days are over. Seems staged to me. The US has enough enemies people. Why make more? The weak minded will listen. The people of change and a new America will stand by Obama in November.

    August 13, 2008 at 11:01 pm |
  18. Larry

    I do not engage in personal attacks on others on here; its sad to see that the bar has been lowered to that level.

    August 13, 2008 at 10:50 pm |
  19. Arthurine Bishop

    I am concerned that McCain only knows and is committed to war and he is not diplomatic and can not produce the kind of diplomacy that is demanded in this volatile world climate. It's scary to think that this man with his 20th century mentality would ever lead this country in the 21st

    August 13, 2008 at 10:47 pm |
  20. Gonzarelli

    McCain talks as a "war monger" and one who will be given easily to a temperamental action. Watch out America! This is not the kind of president this country needs nor does the world want. We cannot afford to have another "Bush" who a hot tempered cowboy is waiting to shoot anything in site. I supposed the Russians could have said; "Get the hell out of Iraq" They did nothing to America and did not deserve to have thousands upon ten thousands killed for the sake of Oil.

    The Russians actually have an excuse (not for killing innocent civilians) but for attacking the Georgian army. The Georgians instigated it first, and after all! Georgia used to be part of Russia.

    So...it is obvious that McCain has no plan and he sounds rather stupid and delusional.

    A sad day it will be if this man is elected for president.
    America will continue to drown in hate by the world because of the arrogance this man will project to the world.

    Obama on the other hand is more cool and passive as to how to deal with these very serious issues in a timely and safe manner. In a manner that will benefit all not just America. We need to stop pushing everyone and start acting as the leader and super power we should be. God did not intend for America to be cowardly and blow everyone out of this world because they don't agree with us! Come on! Think about it...we are all "HUMANS" not animals. But our government (republican part of it) sure behaves this way. Very sad, truly sad!

    So... vote Obama if you truly want peace and prosperity.


    August 13, 2008 at 10:45 pm |
  21. endithinks

    Any president who makes decisions before knowing all the facts is being irresponsible. McCain is too hot headed. He is another cowboy who shoots from the hip.

    August 13, 2008 at 10:40 pm |
  22. michael

    A man like McCain can not be entrusted with a country like ours..we are trying to end a war we started mistakenly in Iraq but McCain is ready to lunch Wwar III anytime. Pls someone tell McCain "we do not have two Presidents at a time" like Obama said on his trip and he his only representing his family or the GOP....we are tired of you guys already. we are not Georgians

    August 13, 2008 at 10:38 pm |
  23. Arthurine Bishop

    It was exciting to see world leaders making time for an intelligent ,
    educated, serious, composed, articulate, gentleman who would like to restore America's leadership credibility to the rest of the world.
    As an American traveling overseas, I was struck by the lack of respect that foreign citizens have for our country and it's leadership. They point to our overwhelming obsession with the Paris Hilton's and the Brittney Spears of the world and the tabloids as being the foundation of this society. So for a man who wants to be president characterizing a man who could command that kind of respect from other world leaders as a celebrity akin to those names is sad, tacky and shows the ignorance and poor sense of humor and an image that THIS COUNTRY NEEDS A CHANGE FROM RIGHT NOW!!

    August 13, 2008 at 10:33 pm |
  24. lampe

    I would rather have a Pres. who makes a decision and stands by it ,then to have someone like Obama, who can't keep to one solid day, without changing his mind. OH! He is the man of change alright.

    August 13, 2008 at 10:33 pm |
  25. M Hill

    The writer of the article is quite accurate in reflecting how most people who support McCain are thinking. Many people on the right view the world as a scary place where they tend to shoot first and ask questions later. As evidenced by the last few years we've spent in Iraq. As a progressive I saw McCain's numerous responses lacking in intelligence, diplomacy and caution. I am also uncomfortable with someone choosing to respond to a "real life" crisis and "real" world leaders as if he were really a president. I understand his mistake in judgement , after all Bush has been pretending like he was a president for eight years.

    As an aside to CNN producers, I think you would better serve your audience by bringing in some commentators that are more independent. It seems that those who have not decided yet who they will vote for will be deciding this election. I would love to hear their thoughts on and perceptions on these types of news events. It's not surprising nor interesting that people for McCain love what he does and those of us for Obama think his approach is the best.

    August 13, 2008 at 10:30 pm |
  26. James Dylan

    After reading the comments here I see what Putin sees. To many people in the US and Europe have grown to fearful and weak to do what is necessary to stop him. They now question what used to be common knowledge; strength is what rules the world. This pause gives him nothing but windows of opportunity to inflict his will upon the world. Putin says you want to talk? And sends in his flunky, the President of Russia, while turning to his generals and says keep going. Things are going just as planned. The US is so lost in the fog of being lied into war that they know longer trust their instincts.

    August 13, 2008 at 10:30 pm |
  27. Larry

    John McCain was being presumptuous. I think that both candidates use that as part of their campaign strategies and I have no problem with that. It does give us a bit of a peek into who they are and how they would behave in the face of an international crisis. No, neither of them are POTUS but they should both have a right to speak on the issues as to how they would react. Don't forget that when the 3 debates come up you can be certain that they will have to respond to questions that will open up their policies when one of them does become POTUS.
    We, the citizens of this great nation, cannot afford to go into these debates with pre-determined opinions based on what media hacks tell us. A vote is an important right, whom we give it to must earn it not expect it.

    August 13, 2008 at 10:27 pm |
  28. Larry

    McCain said hundreds or thousand, not hundreds of thousands. If you're gonna do a quote do it write; otherwise its fear-mongering propaganda.

    August 13, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  29. James Dylan

    I picture Obama sitting down with Putin and giving him a speech on hope and change; at which time Putin, laughing, gets up and gives Obama a demonstration of Sambo techniques. This is the big boy world Obama where people don't care what cowardly words you have to say.
    Should McCain take the place of Obama in the previous meeting I see McCain saying, Putin, you aren't anything I haven't been through ten times worse. We buried your country once before, you want us to do it again?
    We have a choice in this election between two men; one leads the strong hearts of men while the other leads the bleeding hearts of children. To bad we didn't have Clinton to see what the heart of a mother lioness would do.

    August 13, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  30. lu/NYC

    And Larry will settle to saying stupidity as usual and have it posted over and over again.

    August 13, 2008 at 10:06 pm |
  31. lu/NYC

    As I said before McCain is a two face hypocrit.
    he never fails at it!

    McCain is very interested in Georgia/Russia because he's up to nose in where "his partner lobbied the senator or his staff on 49 occasions in a 3 1/2-year span while being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the government of the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

    The payments raise ethical questions about the intersection of Randy Scheunemann's personal financial interests and his advice to the Republican presidential candidate who is seizing on Russian aggression in Georgia as a campaign issue.

    McCain's strong condemnation in recent days of Russia's military action against Georgia as "totally, absolutely unacceptable" reflects long-standing ties between McCain and hardline conservatives such as Scheunemann, an aide in the 1990s to then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

    POST IT–


    August 13, 2008 at 10:03 pm |
  32. Gennamir

    @Sherry, Atlanta, I totally agree! This man is itching to start a war!

    August 13, 2008 at 9:53 pm |
  33. lynn

    McCain stated that "hundreds of thousands of individual live are being taken" and that "In the 21st Century nations don't invade other nations" This man is both dangerous and out of touch.

    August 13, 2008 at 9:50 pm |
  34. Annie Kate

    McCain has been impressive on the Russian invasion of Georgia – he has taken the stance that Bush should be taking but hasn't. I remember Bush saying he saw Putin's soul in his eyes but I agree with McCain – all I see and remember are the letters KGB.....With Putin at the helm we need someone with experience in foreign affairs and with Russia because this could very easily turn into a cold war, but what's worse it could also turn into a very hot war as well.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 13, 2008 at 9:38 pm |
  35. Sherry, Atlanta

    What the Russian Crisis is actually showing. . .McCain is a 'War Nut'. America is in grave danger, if McCain is elected.

    August 13, 2008 at 9:37 pm |
  36. Dan

    All this showed me is how hot-headed McCain can be? Nevermind finding out the whole story, let's just assume Russia's the culprit and call them out. McCain is too quick to act without the facts (isn't that how we got to Iraq?). If McCain and the Georgian Pres. are really good friends like he says, why didn't he know what was happening over there? Even Bush was at the olympics living it up, totally oblivious to what was happening.

    August 13, 2008 at 9:35 pm |
  37. Shane O'Sheeran Las Vegas, Nevada

    Why Is McCain's 1960s warhawk, over the top threats and neocon rhetoric an advantage for McCain? Especially when Obama's remarks have been intellgent, strong and correct in the approach to the crisis. At at least part of the blame for this happening lies with the Bush administration ignorance and actual encouragement to Geogia to start this action, and of course in no small part to blame is the McCain Campiagn Manager who has lobbied for Georgia, lobbying John McCain himself 49 times on Georgia's behalf and Bush responding and even sponsoring legislation then on Georgia's behalf, where that McCain campaign manager lobbyist's firm has so far been paid over $800,000... Mc'CAIN OPPORTUNITY AND OBAMA RISK??? REALLY, IN WHAT REALITY?

    August 13, 2008 at 9:30 pm |
  38. Larry

    I am surprised at how little obama supporters know about him. They'll tell you he's young, attractive, speaks eloquently, went to Harvard Law school, he's a Senator. That's pretty much it. Ah, They may have read all of his books. Forget McCain & Bush for a moment; try to focus on Barack Obama. What will Barack Obama do for us when he becomes POTUS? When he was vetted, what did we discover; what we don't know about him may come back to haunt us. I'm really hoping that he will be the greatest POTUS we have ever had; but geez I know more about John Lennon than I do about Obama.

    August 13, 2008 at 9:30 pm |
  39. A.M. Deist

    John McCain is a loose cannon, and God help America if he wins in November.

    August 13, 2008 at 9:22 pm |
  40. Rose from Southern Calif

    If Bush didn't have the right people in his cabinet do you think we would of gone into the middle east? Bush knew nothing about going to or getting out of a war, he had his top military people to advised him. Obama can do the same or better, commen sense will reveal.

    August 13, 2008 at 9:18 pm |
  41. Steve - Philadelphia, PA

    I think the Georgian crisis shows that McCain is a very brash and presumptuous man. He is not our president yet, yet he made this proclamation: "And I told him that I know I speak for every American when I say to him, ‘Today we are all Georgians.’” I do not like Bush or his policies but he is still the president and if anyone has to the right to speak for "All Americans" it is the ELECTED president.

    I would like to know the opinion that Senator McCain has toward Georgian President Mikhiel Saakashvili - a personal friend of his, and his decision to enter the breakaway region of South Osetia, which the United States counseled him not to do. Does he agree with the advise that the US initially gave? Does he think that this was the wrong time to go into South Osetia by the Georgian Army? And if not, when would be or would have been the proper time for the Georgian Army to enter South Osetia?

    I would like to know Senator McCain's answer since he said that "He speaks for every American and that today we are all Georgians." Because of this statement I believe that we deserve an answer from McCain.

    August 13, 2008 at 9:04 pm |
  42. Wendy Ontario, Canada

    The perception I got was of a very Presumptive McCain talking tough without a thought to how it would affect the actual President. McCain is lacking in diplomacy & seems to forget that he supports a war in Iraq that was started without justification. This is another in a long list of things such as singing "bomb bomb Iran", hoping that cigarettes would kill all the Iranians etc. that will get the U.S into many wars if he is elected. There aren't enough U.S troops to send to Afghanistan but McCain would quickly start other conflicts. It's that mentality that will cost many more lives.

    August 13, 2008 at 9:00 pm |
  43. Larry

    Not to worry, Obama has a plan to resolve the Georgia vs Russia squabble. They'll settle it over a basketball game to the theme of 'yes we can'. Good to know he'll be saviour of mankind.

    August 13, 2008 at 8:50 pm |