McCain runs rings around Obama on Georgia; Washington Post displeased

You can tell the Obama campaign and its media cheerleaders are embarrassed by their candidate’s failure to step up the way John McCain did with respect to the Russian invasion of Georgia. The Washington Post has unleashed the ultra-partisan Dan Eggen to attack John McCain’s response. The story bears the not-so-subtle title “McCain’s Focus on Georgia Raises Question of Propriety: After Chiding Obama, He Dwells on Crisis as a President Might.”

Eggen and his co-writer Robert Barnes never really explain why it’s improper for a presidential candidate to focus on, and provide the American public with a detailed analysis of, a major international crisis. They assert that McCain’s “involvement in the military conflict in Georgia appears remarkable among presidential candidates, who traditionally have kept some distance from unfolding crises out of deference to whoever is occupying the White House.” It’s unclear how hard Eggen and Barnes searched for “precedent” in this matter, and they provide no analysis of the conduct of past candidates in this context. Moreover, McCain happens to be a personal friend of the president of Georgia, who seeks McCain’s counsel. This would seem to distinguish this case from the precedents, if any, that Eggen and Barnes have in mind.

Barack Obama, of course, became deeply involved in Iraq not long ago. In essentially negotiating with Prime Minister Maliki regarding a timetable for withdrawal, Obama did not “defer” either to President Bush or General Pertraeus. For his part, McCain has been “focused” on and been “involved” with Iraq for years. The fact that he’s now officially running for president is hardly a reason to stop offering critical assessments of our foreign policy.

Eggen and Barnes suggest that the “unfolding” nature of the crisis in Georgia compels reticence on the part of McCain and makes it problematic that Sens. Lieberman and Graham have been sent to Georgia on his behalf. But they don’t provide any analysis in support of this view. They are content to quote Obama adviser Lawrence Korb, who says that McCain’s involvement “can send mixed messages to foreign governments.”

But Obama’s actions in Iraq sent “mixed messages” in the same sense. In fact, any time a presidential candidate refuses to march in lock-step with the president on an important foreign policy issue, mixed messages are sent. This doesn’t mean candidates should march in lock-step with the president or else hold their tongue, and it’s disingenuous for a fierce and constant critic of the Bush administration like Korb to suggest otherwise. Korb, by the way, stated on Voice of America (during a debate with me) that 10,000 people died in New Orleans due to our government’s neglectful response, so it’s clear that he is sufficiently partisan to speak untruthfully about his country regardless of what message his falsehood sends.

Tellingly, the only person Eggen and Barnes apparently could find who “raises questions of propriety” regarding McCain’s conduct is the aforementioned, Obama-advising Korb. A more accurate headline for the Post’s story would have been “Obama adviser complains about McCain’s focus on Iraq.” Or perhaps, “Obama operative plants anti-McCain hit piece in Washington Post.”

Finally, we can quickly dispatch the comparison between McCain’s statements on Georgia and Obama’s rally in Berlin. McCain’s conduct in the Georgia crisis has (a) informed voters what he believes about a serious foreign policy matter and (b) perhaps rallied support for an embattled ally. Obama’s appearance in Berlin served neither purpose. It was purely for show.

Substance vs. style. No wonder the Obama campaign and its media cheerleaders are embarrassed.

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