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. LeRoy FL

    Jack, so far McCain has only done what anyone with any moral sense of value for democracy would have which is, speak out against the actions of Russia. Strength I don't think so.

    August 12, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  2. Steven Fierberg

    Let me understand this: "Russia WANTED to the bomb the oil pipeline," and somehow couldn't achieve it?
    Is there any sane person who can possibly take that statement as anything other pure, lying propaganda?

    August 12, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  3. Carl Justus

    I doubt very much if McCain's or Obama's response to Russia invasion of Georgia will have any affect on what Russia does. Neither of them have anything now but talk and we should expect them to address the situation, but to talk tough or not is just talk.
    Talk as tough as you want when you have not authority to do anything but talk.
    I could call for Russia to immediately to withdraw or they would suffer serious consequences and what does that do-NOTHING, I HAVE NO AUTHORITY TO DO ANYTHING BUT TALK,
    The same as John McCain and Barak Obama.

    August 12, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  4. SA in OO

    For both candidates, it is all just talk. Neither is in a position to take any action, military or diplomatic, so the question of who said what first or who’s sound bites seemed stronger is really all just posturing.

    The media doesn’t help when the coverage focuses on the impressions of how the candidates sound, without giving the background needed to understand the situation. From this article you would never know that it was Georgia who first launched a military incursion into South Ossetia and Abkhazia; and that the conflict within Georgia over the sovereignty in these regions has been simmering for a long time. By entering Georgia and taking military action that was totally disproportionate to any claim that they were trying to quell the initial violence, Russia clearly took advantage of the situation. But the fighting started with Georgia attacking South Ossetia and Abkhazia to put down the rebels in these breakaway regions.

    AND that really is the problem we face in this election. The issues we are confronted with are a whole lot more involved than the simple sound bites that make it to the air, or the commentators “analysis” of polls on which candidate the people thought sounded stronger. The public is woefully uninformed on the issues and unwilling to take the time to get to the point where they can make an informed judgment.

    IF we don’t make the effort to become knowledgeable voters, then we deserve the government the spin machine of contemporary politics sells us.

    August 12, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  5. Rightsaid

    I don't know? Does CNN's inane analysis highlight the stupidity of Republican sympathizers?

    Maybe they can next ask if his "tough" words solved the crisis. What schlock. Free your brains people.

    August 12, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  6. Griff

    They complain about the Cost of Living! About the Job-Market. You lose business, when you lose World-Standing... Complain as you will. But you will lose even more business; more loss of Face.
    If you do not get it "Right" this time. "We don't wanta Leader" in the World, They would rather have a Wimp, like Obama.
    "The Guy who Bends in a Breeze...

    August 12, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  7. joe

    Answer to derrick 7th from top: Yes, Americans are fools because they voted Bush in twice. Nuff said

    August 12, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  8. Olaitan Eyiowuawi

    The events in Georgia only goes to show that the likes of McCain are a dying breed. America would have been quick to send troops to Georgia but for the fact that the world order has changed. Economic domination is far more effective now than sheer brute force. America's resources have been stretched thin in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, beneath the Pacific Ocean and in different military bases worldwide.
    A number of grim economic realities such as the value of the Dollar, Credit Crunch, high energy prices, widespread property foreclosures have also conspired against America to underscore America's waning global influence. McCain would have been relevant if the war he knows how to win is the one against these economic realities and not the same old failed ones America has waged. Only a nit wit will sound off this way.

    August 12, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  9. Ian

    I don't see what the problem is. Can't President Bush just speak to "the soul" of Putin? The President presented such close ties between Russia and the US but Russia only seems to present us with a solitary finger. I also fail to see how McCain as president would be more effective, especially if he follows thru on his promise to bomb Iran. Perhaps this is a poor cliche for this presidential cycle, but we can't be the pot calling the kettle black.

    August 12, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  10. California Gold

    McCain's strengths, if you can call it that, is to talk tough. He is all hat and no cattle. All show and no go. This is a man who is easily confused on current events. Doesn't know the difference between Sunni and Shiite. He still thinks there is a country called Czechoslovakia! Strengths? PUH-LEASE!!!!!!!

    August 12, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  11. patriot4usa

    John McCain is a great American who loves his country and has sacrificed for his country. I trust his judgement .

    August 12, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  12. hillary


    August 12, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  13. Paula from Canada

    What strengths?? Just because he was a prisoner of war makes him qualified?? I am sick to the teeth about brave John McCain..what about all the other vets ..he didn't fight that immoral war alone, he never won it either and that is why he is so obsessed with "winning" Iraq.. McCain needs to take a nap and give up this game.

    August 12, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  14. Marco Polo, Navegante

    You all will be buried in your own blood should you pick such a man like John McCain for President of your country. This man is just sick to death to start WWIII. He'll bomb anything that brings back to his mind his past as POW. He'll bomb China, bomb The Koreas, Bomb, Bomb, Bom Iran, nuke Russia... And the list will go on and on... We' re watching you closely, Americans... Don't shoot yourselves in the foot(as you're used to say)!!!

    August 12, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  15. Gene

    Sorry... today we are not ALL Georgians. That's the difference between Obama and McCain.. McCain jumps out and makes statements before even finding out what the conflict was about. Did he even bother talking to Putin to find out why the attack even took place?

    Georgia was terrorizing and exterminating entire groups of people who wanted to live free of the current government.. people who wanted to call themselves Russians. Rather than working with these people... Georgia treated them like Saddam did in Iraq... he executed them. Russia went into Georgia in defense of those people who wanted to separate themselves from the Georgian dictatorship.

    Did Russia do things the right way... I'd say no way. Were they justified.. maybe not. But learn the facts before making stupid statements like "We are all Georgians today" McCain is an Idiot.

    August 12, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  16. Oakland99

    McCain's comment scare the heck out of me. Tough, cowboy talk, including an immediate threat to kick Russia out of the G8. He's always had a thing against Russia and he stands alone, more bellicose than Bush or any of our most important allies.

    August 12, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  17. Nevada dude

    –Mark Twain

    McAin't is a crazy jingoist!!!! SPREAD THE WORD!!!

    August 12, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  18. Linda K.

    This situation reinforced my negative opinion of McCain.

    He has the wrong kind of experience. If you spend 26 years doing the same thing, responding in the same way, no matter what the circumstances, is that experience or insanity?

    We need good judgment in the White House. Only Obama can give us that.

    August 12, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  19. Peter of Oregon

    My friends, McCain's theatrics only show he is in strong alignment with the Bush pro-War in support of oil strategy.

    Let me give you some straight talk. McCain may have portrayed himself as a maverick in 2000, but now that he's clinched the Republican nomination we've seen his express run straight off its tracks toward the Bush agenda. The train lost its bearings and flipped, and it flopped, and now we are well... where we are.

    Obama '08/12

    August 12, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  20. Chris in Va.

    Mr.McShame tries to make up for his shameful conduct while a POW by beating his drum and rattleing his sabre at every friends. Besides, he follows the Republican agenda, start wars to instill fear in the American populace, only the children of the "little people" will die in war friends.-Pathetic.

    August 12, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  21. Gene

    Hey Pierce...

    This article has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with Hillary.

    August 12, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  22. marta

    How presumptuous. He certainly does not speak for me . HE just proved what we all surmised .. HE will be a WAR president.

    August 12, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  23. J.D.

    WORD JUST IN: The Russian Salad Dressing in the Congressional Cafeteria has just been renamed Freedom Salad Dressing....

    August 12, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  24. Texas Trail Dog!

    I certainly would take McCain's decision making over anything the nut case, real estate maker, anti-Christian, liar about the Iraq war and terrorist Supporter OBAMA would make. I like the comments the lady asked about whites voting for blacks. I got news for you it's not white vs black than bothers me. It's common sense and not all the baggage Mr. OBAMA seems to have in his background that bothers me. You asked if he was white would I vote for him on his policies? NO I WOULD NOT. No morals, liar, crook, no experience, listening to the likes of Rev. Wright for 20-years is enough for me. You say he is a man for the people what people African Americans. Ask the IL. people if he has done nothing for them?

    August 12, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  25. Marj,Paso Robles, Cal

    Uhbama initially said when Georgia was invaded we needed to protect Atlanta.

    Enough said.

    August 12, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
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