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. Jim

    Sadly, the crisis in Georgia reveals the bankruptcy of Bush's and McCain's foreign policy in at least three areas: 1). Our overextended military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan; 2) our lack of attention paid to a resurgent Russia; 3) our poor relations with major allies.

    McCain will bluster and swagger and talk military rhetoric, but he is as incapable of dealing with the real 21st Century issues for Russia and the Middle East.

    August 12, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  2. Matthias, Germany

    Settle down, McCain! How experienced can you be when you takes sides with Georgia so quickly before it's even clear how this whole thing got started? I don't think he wants a second Cold War, he just doesn't realize what consequences comments like these have on the international stage. Please think before you talk, McCain!

    August 12, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  3. Roger from CA

    No, no.... a thousand times, no!!

    John McCain vehemently blamed the Russians right out of the box, even while the fighting was still centered on S. Ossetia.

    While, at THIS point, it is clear that Russia overstepped, and has now clearly pursued a campaign at least to humiliate the Georgian leadership, and, at worst, to overrun Georgia and seize control, that was in no way the case on Friday, when GEORGIA triggered the conflict by moving aggressively into its renegade province.

    But McCain was blustering about Russia from the beginning. In a sick way, he got lucky in retrospect. Just as easily, Russia could have turned around on Saturday after securing the province, and McCain would have looked exactly like what he is: a blustering fool.

    In essence, McCain has demonstrated perfectly that he is no different from the George W. Bush of 2003. Except in that case, Bush's bluster ultimately got belied by the facts. But in NEITHER CASE do later developments justify precipitous, reckless actions and rhetoric.

    In contrast, Sen. Obama called for a peaceful resolution at each stage, at first reserving judgment as to blame. As it became clear that Russia was in the wrong, Obama condemned Russia's overkill, and did so forcefully. The difference from McCain is that Obama considered the facts, and considered changes to the facts, instead of just shooting off at the mouth.

    August 12, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |

    To Will in NJ–So, you think we pose no threat to Russia? Try again. Of course, if Obama wins, then we won't be a threat. All we'll do is sit on the sidelines of a fight like a little old lady saying "stop, stop–you be good". We'll be the biggest joke of the world. I bet Putin (who is REALLY in charge of Russia) has an Obama for President bumpersticker on his car.

    August 12, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  5. Justin

    It's awful PRESUMPTUOUS of McCain speak for all Americans. He doesn't speak for me. Russia can have Georgia for all I care.

    August 12, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  6. Dj

    He is a war-monger, so this is right up his alley... He thrives on it... He wants to start a war with anybody, Russia will do just fine.

    August 12, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  7. ED FL

    THE old man probably has already forgotten who he was talking about and will invade Canada be cause it is closer.HE and his puppet Lie-berman will find some other country closer to Israel so he can protect his first love of country ,no matter how many AMERICAN TROOPS IT takes or how many potentialAMERICAN LIVES it costs.

    August 12, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  8. bobby, tn

    Will has a point! and what would McCain really be willing to do. go to war with Russia over Georgia? i think not.

    August 12, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  9. JC

    I don't consider McCain being a War Monger a "strength". Remember, what we got with electing a war hungry idiot?
    Besides, with Bush tearing apart our troops in a pointless war, what strength do we have against Russia? The only way Russia would listen is if was to the U.N. Oh wait, there is a candidate who already realizes this. His name is Barack Obama.

    August 12, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  10. Peter (CA)

    The support of this failed administration has made us weaker around the world. Throwing our resources into Iraq has made us impotent to other threats.

    Cowboy diplomacy will not help, and ultimately, it seems negotiation has helped the situation.

    August 12, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  11. Ratgurl

    Considering McCain's commentary was primarily lifted from Wikipedia, I'm going to have to say it does NOT highlight his strengths. BTW, what ARE his strengths?

    August 12, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  12. Christian Knight

    As Barack Obama said in his energy speech a little more than a week ago, we can be subject to the whim of rogue leaders from oil-producing countries, or we can take control of our own destiny, end our addiction to oil—not just foreign oil, but oil—conserve, ride our bikes, our buses, force automobile companies to manufacture energy-efficient cars. Or we can do the same thing we've been doing, we can continue to use oil for our every want of convenience and need and go into crises every time some country invades another.
    And by the way: why is everybody so pissed at Russia? Georgia first invaded South Ossetia. Sure, Russia was opportunistic and over-reactive. But they ceased fire today, right? What about us? We were just opportunistic and over-reactive in our invasion of Iraq, we were stupid and devious.

    August 12, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  13. US abolishes centuries old clinton dynasty

    oh please no at hing he says highlights his strenghts, he will take us ALL back to war, if not with Iran, then Afghanistan or Russia,

    all he thinks about is WAR

    August 12, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  14. w.l. jones

    We need one foot solider."war end" in deplomancy.

    August 12, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  15. HC4BO

    Hey why is no one talking about McSame's Presumptuousness by claiming he " speaks for every American" ... ?

    Even Busch does NOT go that far in his Russia-Georgia conflict statements ...

    August 12, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  16. RB

    CNN is a joke. Only publishing nice things about old John. Fact is, the guy is old, boring, and senile. There. I said it. We are not "all Georgians" today. We are AMERICANS! Unfortunately, G.W. Bush speaks for all AMERICANS, McIdiot. Shut up, sit down, and think of something original. By the looks on your face, even you didn't believe the crap you were trying to sell today. Shame on you.

    August 12, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  17. John Wohlmut

    The only thing McCain seems to be comfortable in is talking about war and how we must win at all costs. This does not bode well for those of us who would like to see more peace and more environmentally friendly actions.

    Maybe he thinks that it is politically advantageous to wave a broken stick?

    August 12, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  18. Jackie

    John McCain comes across as a war monger–we are still tied up in Iraq–McCain loves war–we need to fix our own country , and that is putting our country first as far as I am concerned. Obama will put our country first.

    August 12, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  19. ben-Lagos

    McCain and oil pipe Line, Bush and oil pipe Line. What does Bush and McCain have in common "oil pipe Line” Bush and McCain are only interested in countries that has oil pipe line, that's shame. Georgia should have done there maths well before playing war games with Russian interest. McCain is a noise maker....low IQ

    August 12, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  20. derrick

    If america voted bush who is a fool to be president; then americans might as well vote mcain.

    Only fools make the same mistake twice...the question is are americans fools?

    August 12, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  21. Darc, NY

    The US should mind its own business. We don't need another GI-McCain -JOE causing more harm then helping America. No one likes war period.

    August 12, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  22. Retired Veteran from New York City, NY

    I don't understand how can the crisis in Georgia helps McCain. The United States of America has lost all credibility and her leadership role in the world, it takes France to lead. That sad.

    McCain criticizes Obama for the warm welcome that he had in Europe, he wants to alienate the United States like Bush and Cheney did. This man has no vision for this great Nation except he's campaigning for President under the credential of former POW and Vietnam Vet.

    By the way, United States lost the Vietnam war. We invaded Iraq uder the pretext of WMD and if Russia is invending one of her old Republic, so be it. Georgia is not a member of NATO at least not yet and the Russian is doing exactly as this current administration has conducted itself.

    So let's be realistic, McCain old idealistic views for America is no more than what we already get with this current administration. All those Obama haters are upset simply because he's Black. If Obama was white, his rating in the poll would have been in the 60 or 70% over McCain. Tell it like it is. Shameful!

    August 12, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  23. linbit-Greensboro, NC

    Yes, he overplays any issue that might give him a chance to saber-rattle. He seems to be just having a fit to start another conflict. This is old think and, I believe, indicative of his age – just one of the reasons I would hate to see him win the presidency.

    August 12, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  24. Hanky

    Not necessarily. The problem with his train of thought seems to be that the threat of conflict is in the best interest of the US and not diplomacy. He agreed with the war in Iraq over faulty information, so I think his judgment can rightly be brough into question. Tough talk does not sway me in this case because of the delicacy of the situation. I think the French president Sarkozy handled this crisis best and McCain better take note of diplomacy.
    I think Obama exhibits more caution, which is exactly what you want. The tough talk of McCain makes the US look so hypocritical.
    Jack, I think McCain better back up and take note of his campaign before it spirals out of control.

    August 12, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  25. James

    John McCain has no right to claim that he speaks for every American. Certainly he does not. Both sides in the Georgia-Russian violence have resorted to military force to solve a problem or problems that could be resolved by diplomacy. Barak Obama is right: The violence should stop. Georgia should not have intervened militarily initially, and Russia should not have responded with military force. John McCain is quick to resort to military force, that is his area of expertise. Had we used diplomacy instead of force in Iraq, we would all–the entire world–be better off today. I want to see John McCain learn how to negotiate peacefully, and I don't want to have him speak for me in glossing over the complexities of this current dispute in Georgia.

    August 12, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
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