One doesn’t think of John McCain as a policy wonk and, though reasonably well-informed about domestic issues, he certainly cannot be viewed as wonkish on these matters. But when I traveled with McCain last fall, I found him to be intensely interested and quite well-informed on matters of foreign policy to the point that one might apply the term “wonk.” For example, McCain began his town hall meeting in Rochester, New Hampshire by talking about Pakistan. Although it was the world’s hot spot at that moment, there were few if any votes to be had on this subject. But McCain told me he wanted to talk about the situation in Pakistan because he thought the subject was timely and interesting.
McCain has traveled extensively throughout the world. There may have been some element of presidential resume-building in this, but I’m pretty confident that he was also motivated by his passion for studying world affairs in order to understand the world.
In this respect, McCain is throw-back to many of the American leaders who came of age shortly after World War II. Having witnessed the impact of events in faraway places on their lives and the lives of so many ordinary Americans, they placed foreign relations and military preparedness at the top of their agenda. John Kennedy and Richard Nixon are the best examples.
McCain didn’t fight in World War II, but his unique experiences in Vietnam make it easy to understand how he could become the heir of Kennedy and Nixon in this regard.
McCain’s intense interest in foreign policy and military issues, combined with excellent instincts, gives him a huge leg-up in these matters, and not just as compared to the woefully inexperienced Barack Obama. This was evident when it came to the surge in Iraq. It is also evident from the fact that McCain has had the correct line on Russia and the intentions of Putin with respect to Russia’s neighbors. Here is McCain discussing this matter in 2007. Watch for his pet line: “I looked into Putin’s eyes and I saw three letters — a K, a G, and a B.”
McCain’s huge leg-up on foreign policy and military matters will translate into a huge leg-up for our country, if we still care enough about world, and about our national security, to elect him president.
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