When George H.W. Bush accepted the Republican nomination for the presidency at the 1988 party convention, he sought in part to distinguish himself from Ronald Reagan and the Reagan administration. In his administration, Bush assured the American people, he would work to make America “a kinder, and gentler nation.” Bush’s aspiration tacitly incorporated the left-wing critique of Reagan and foretold the weakness of his own presidency.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s foreign policy speech at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council earlier this week does much the same as Bush’s 1988’s acceptance speech. It distinguishes the candidate from George W. Bush and the Bush administration while tacitly incorporating the left-wing critique of Bush administration foreign policy. In a way it advocates the globalization of the notion of making America “a kinder, and a gentler nation.” Rush Limbaugh finds other echoes in the speech, criticizing it as McCain’s “New Europe” address.
With respect to Iran, North Korea, and the Arab-Israeli conflict, Bush administration foreign policy is in something of a shambles. A thoughtful critique of Bush administration foreign policy in these areas and others would be extremely valuable. Senator McCain’s speech does not offer such a critique in his speech. The speech forcefully reminds me why Senator McCain was not at the top of my list of acceptable Republican presidential candidates.
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