August 12th, 2008
05:25 PM ET
10 years ago

Analysis: Does the crisis in Georgia highlight McCain's strengths?

Could the crisis in Georgia offer McCain the chance to showcase his security bona fides?

Could the crisis in Georgia offer McCain the chance to showcase his security bona fides?

(CNN) - Is this month's fighting in the Republic of Georgia John McCain's moment?

The Republicans' presumptive presidential nominee is certainly acting as if it is: a major international crisis that could be just what John McCain needs to highlight his strengths.

McCain has talked tough from the outset of the crisis.

"Russia should immediately and unconditionally cease its military operations and withdraw all forces from sovereign Georgian territory," the Arizona senator said Friday.

Initially, Barack Obama's tone was more measured.

"I think it is important at this point for all sides to show restraint and to stop this armed conflict," the Democrats' presumptive presidential nominee said on Friday.

After he spoke to the Georgian President, Obama's tone got stronger.

"No matter how this conflict started, Russia has escalated it well beyond the dispute over south Ossetia," the Illinois senator said Monday.

Last month, a ABC News-Washington Post poll showed Obama and McCain were equally trusted to handle international affairs. But McCain had the edge on handling an unexpected major crisis - like, presumably, the one in Georgia.

And McCain's supporters are making the most of it.

"We've just seen over the last few days as the Russians invaded a sovereign nation, Georgia, and watched the response of this man, John McCain, to that crisis: right, strong, clear, principled - the kind of president we need in the White House," said Senator Joe Lieberman, who joined McCain at a campaign event Tuesday.

At a town hall in Pennsylvania Tuesday that drew an unusually large turnout, McCain talked about the relevance of the crisis to Americans.

"There's a pipeline, an oil pipeline," said McCain, "which brings oil from the Caspian to points west and traverses Georgia. That's the very pipeline that the Russians tried to bomb."

He played to the emotions when he recounted his remarks to the President of Georgia.

"I told him that I know I speak for every American when I say to him, `Today, we are all Georgians."

His tone on local radio in Pennsylvania was ominous.

"I think it's very clear that Russian ambitions are to restore the old Russian empire."

That's a message McCain has been saying for months.

Some voters may worry: does he want to start a new Cold War? The risk for McCain is that he could overplay the issue, and frighten war-weary voters whose priorities right now lie closer to home.

Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (527 Responses)
  1. LeMonton

    When McCain heard that the Russians had invaded Georgia, McCain dusted his 1960’s Vietnam uniform and was ready to declare war on Russia, until one of his aides clarified that the Georgia invaded was the small republic of Georgia in southwest Asia, Caucasus region.

    Now McCain, looking to score some cheap political points, is beating the drums of war, saying things like Russia wants to “revive the old empire” and other scare tactics from cold war era. McCain is still stuck in the 20th century and all he knows is the old Soviet era.

    But there is a small little fact that McShame forgot in his deteriorating and senile mind. All this crisis was GEORGIA’S FAULT! Georgia is our ally and we need to defend and stand by our allies, but stupidity has no excuse. President Saakashvili made the big tactical error of invading South Ossetia knowing that Russia wouldn’t like it and would respond. I don’t know what that guy was thinking. Did Saakashvili really believe that the U.S. and the West would bomb Russia and start WWIII because of him?

    It is no surprise that the only response from the U.S. is condemning Russia’s actions as disproportionate response. First we do not have arguments to go against Russia on this and second thanks to the damage that McCain’s friend, George Bush, has done to our standing and reputation, we almost have no leverage anymore.

    This is another example why McCain is unfit to be commander on chief. Can you imagine a president McCain, that all he does in an international crisis is beat the drums of war and start threatening everybody with violence. But remember that McSame is Bush third term so, that should not be a surprised.

    August 12, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  2. Rob - WA

    NO. It shows that he can rattle a saber at a very powerful nation – exactly what we DON't need anymore. It is time for Humanity to move on a bit I think. The FRENCH solved this thing – not McCains saber rattling.

    August 12, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  3. ClintonDem4Cynthia08

    It sure does. McCain is ready, while Obama is not.
    Clinton Democrats for Cynthia McKinney in 2008!

    August 12, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  4. No cold war 2, please

    Does it matter that McCain's campaign team includes Randy Scheunemann, who until VERY recently, lobbied for Georgia?

    Seems convenient to me...

    August 12, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  5. Debby, NJ

    How him do what? He has done nothing in 25 years or so

    August 12, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  6. Does America want another war?

    Tell John McCain to go and sit down and shut-up. America does not need another war! Georgia should have weighed the risks and possible outcome of their attack on Russia. They are correct to DEFEND what is theirs, but, it must be done through careful, thoughtful and measured stragegizing, NOT BOMBING AND SHOOTING, especially when you are ill-prepared.

    Georgia did pretty much what the U.S. did to Iraq

    August 12, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  7. Debby

    Oh please the cold war its the Russians that are fighting eachother they seem to want this war with eachother not us. McCain's statements don't even emphasis another cold war so where is this coming from.

    August 12, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  8. Joe Kiloz

    This conflict highlighted the vast difference in approach from each. McCain was to the point, not very negotiable, yet diplomatic, but in no uncertain terms the defender of freedom.

    Obama, on the other hand, came off sheepishly, disconnected, with a lack of urgency and not in control of the situation.

    If I was in a plane out of control, I wouldn't think a second time of my preference for McCain to straighten out and get us home. Obama does not inspire me as far as being a leader in foreign affairs, and this lack of leadership is very troublesome to turn over the keys to the presidency.

    Obama is basically the teenager who's not to be trusted with the parents' car keys.

    August 12, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  9. Lee

    I'm unimpressed by Bill Schneider's "analysis". Claiming objectively that yelling really loudly about something is a "strength" is anything but sound analysis.

    Of course, that's what I'd expect from CNN these days.

    August 12, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  10. Ed

    Russia seems to have completely over-reacted, but I'm not convinced they are totally at fault.

    August 12, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  11. Nevada dude

    If the allegations of Georgian atrocities against South Ossetians prior to the Russian invasion turn out to be true it will be politically troublesome to demonstrate solidarity with Saakashvili. McCain will look like hes cozying up to tyrants, drawing further parallest to Bush and Iraq. Obama needs to be more direct; caution is fine as long as it doesnt turn into a 'deer in the headlights' moment.

    August 12, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  12. Nana

    what strengths? mccain doesn't have any foreign policy strenghts, it is all an illusion so please spare us!

    August 12, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  13. America to Lead Again

    McCain again was just doing what he thinks the electorate wants to hear and not being honest. The fact is the U.S at this point in time have very little leverage to make Russian do ANYTHING. We lost it all folks and soon will do to China, and maybe India at this pace.

    The U.S has backed Georgia for years which led the Georgians to develop a sense of being Untouchable....We even encouraged them to provide troops for the Iraq Occupation to bolster our International Support.

    When the Russians started the Onslaught, where was the U.S Administration....Nowhere to be Found except for McCain making loud and empty noises.........

    Because the U.S was considered part of the problem, France had to mediate the Cease Fire and not the U.S.

    WAKE UP AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 12, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  14. Colin -- Southern California

    "Analysis: Does the crisis in Georgia highlight McCain's strengths?"

    LOL! No, unless the word "strengths" refers to "dangerous, aggressive, futile talking"!

    Seriously... This situation was defused by the president of France, who had the good sense to meet with the president of Russia to work out terms of a cease fire. The president of France used diplomacy!

    What did Bush do? He "warned" Russia to stop its aggression. Or what? WWIII? Genius move, Mr. President!

    What did McCain do? He talked tough, too. Yeah, that's going to solve the problem.

    I'm afraid that McCain's "shining moment" might come in the form of a glowing mushroom cloud if he manages to become president. He has just demonstrated what DOESN'T work.

    Meanwhile, Obama favors communicating with all parties in a conflict to try to find a solution. This is exactly how the current peace in this conflict was achieved. Also, no amount of wars and troop surges will be able to stamp out terrorism. Indeed, it's all of the stamping out that gives rise to new terrorists. Instead, Obama's idea of doing positive things in the world (such as reducing poverty and starvation, etc), and leading by moral example, to reduce the social conditions that give rise to would-be terrorists, is the only way to reduce terrorism that will succeed in the long term.

    So, again, McCain's behavior in this crisis was the exact opposite of highlighting a strength. McCain is not the one we want deciding America's response to a "3 A.M." call in the White House. Obama has the approach that will keep America safe, and that will promote peace and prosperity, and goodwill toward our country.

    August 12, 2008 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  15. Paul

    Can someone tell these leaders that the Church Age is over ?

    August 12, 2008 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  16. Tom

    As much as neither candidate would ever want tragedy to show their ability to lead, the answer to the question is yes, this does show John McCain's strength and just as eye opening is how it exposed (yet again) Mr. Obama's inability to first come to a decision, then coming to a weak decision till he finally arrived at where Mr. McCain had been all the while. It makes voting for McCain incredibly easy.

    August 12, 2008 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  17. Nolonger Republican Obamacan all the way 08

    Why is McCain acting like he is president how argot is that. But to answer the question No I don’t think he gives him an edge in any way. The only thing McCain and war have in common is that fact that he was a POW which that is it. He needs to stick with what he does best pretending to be a leader and being a grumpy old man.

    August 12, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  18. Barack the Vote!

    We don't want another war. Someone please tell John McCain to stop the "tough talk and sable-rattling". Russia isn't listening and at this point, there isn't too much the U.S. can do other that call for Russia and Georgia to negotiate a cease fire, which from what I just heard on CNN, both countries have agreed to do this. Diplomacy needs to be implemented more BEFORE picking up weapons and firing them!

    August 12, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  19. Chut Pata

    Both talked tough. The difference was, McCain talked tough immediately, Obama used diplomatic language initially and then talked tought after due consultation with the Georgian president. One believes in "Shoot first, ask qeustions later", the other believes in "look before leap". One would start a war without having to, the other will quell a war if he can.

    August 12, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  20. Barbara Campbell

    McCain's tough talk mirrors Bush's "axis of evil" and "bring 'em on" challenge, and we've seen how successful Bush foreign policy has been. All this swagger and, yes, arrogance have ignited conflicts and harmed our international standing with our allies. In these dangerous times, we need a diplomat in the White House, not another gunslinger.

    August 12, 2008 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  21. ben

    Why is it 98% of the world population does not want war and yet the 2% of the controlers who have the inmense power to start wars. The ordinaryyoung person doesnt hate anybody in a foreign country until the power tells them that those people are dread enemies and we must kill them. People just want to live out their lives, have children and watch their grandchilren grow. They do not want to die because the money sees a way to get more money. However, if we are told the Japanese are a cruel brutal race(which they are not) and they are out to destroy us, we will answer the call and either get killed or killed! Don't you remeber how quick we became friends with them the day after the war ended? The cover of a national magazine had the picture of a little Japanese baby crying in the middle of the street. When will we learn wars are fought for money. All this crap about defending America is just that CRAP. What do the religeous leaders say about war? Now they are saying muslims are devils. That riles up a lot os christian fanatics They worship the same god you christians do! Preachers of any faith should tell their flocks to become concience objectors and not someone wanting to go out and kill someone just because the powers feed him daily with lies and distorted rumors.
    In world war2 I visited the grave of my football coach when I was stationed on guam. He was 27 years old with a promising future. You
    want to know who the anti christ is it is the huge corperation that send your sons out to die so they can make more money

    August 12, 2008 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |

    It doesn't highlight anything about McWar.

    August 12, 2008 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  23. ZKY

    "After he spoke to the Georgian President, Obama's tone got stronger."

    Isn't this political expediency or what?!

    August 12, 2008 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  24. Franky

    You know, this is what they want. I know that's what they want.

    But let's be realistic here, we're not gonna go as far as to start a war with Russia.....we might be crazy but we ain't stupid, LOL!!

    Is just as politics as usual baby...

    August 12, 2008 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  25. Paul, Tampa

    Perhaps, does he realize Georgia isn't part of the Soviet Union anymore?

    August 12, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
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