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. tim-atlanta

    Dr. Strangelove McSame only knows how to be angry, talk tough, and scare people. Any strength he should normally have gets abused because of his temper.

    August 12, 2008 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  2. ED

    McCain has problem adjusting to the realities of the new world order. That wrinkly lunatic needs to be reminded that war prison experience and success of military surge in Iraq are not enough qualification for the office of American president. Perhaps his vision of change for America is to start WWIII.

    August 12, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  3. Tim

    Absolutely not!!! His response is a joke. It shows just how much out threats are meaningless to the world. The Russians know that we we can do nothing to them so to make such threats speaks to just how out of touch McCain is. Bush actually sounded much better than McCain.

    Obama 08/12

    August 12, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  4. CMB

    Absolutely not. Talk is cheap. Russia knows that we have exausted all of our resources in Iraq. What does McCain plan on using to back-up all of that big talk. Besides, he is not the president and should not speak as if he is.

    August 12, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  5. Nevada dude

    oh, by the way, lets not forget that McAin'ts foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann, was a lobbyist for Georgia before joining the old man's campaign. hmmm, will we be seeing any Donald Rumsfeld-Saddam Hussein style photos with Scheunemann and Saakashvili???

    i personally dont want to find out.

    August 12, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  6. WAW

    Obama should not have spoken in Germany because he is not yet President, so says McCain. So who's the celebrity now? Can't wait for Paris to put him in his place again. Or maybe he can get James Dobson to pray for a rain-out in Russia. While W is hugging bikini clad volleyball players, John has a chance to play Berry Goldwater. But wait, it was Ronald Reagan that ended the Cold War, so are the Republicans ready to go for WWlll?

    August 12, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  7. Precious

    If Sen. Obama wins the Presidency, and has a Republican as his vice President, I wonder who will run this country. Will it be "experience" or "hope for experience". I wonder what the future holds. Only time will tell.

    August 12, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  8. Does experience matter - Sure does

    What this little international crisis illustrates is that Barack O'blah-blah has no clue about foreign policy, and it also illustrates how Obama has acted since he first entered the race – he has no experience and does not know what to do or say until he is prompted and taught. That is why O'blah-blah generally waits to answer important questions opting to see which way the political winds are blowing – what position his opponents take; what the media and political pundits say; and what the polls say. Then, when it is safe for him to say something – he uses his skillful oratory skills to pretend he knows what he is doing. This is not how we want the US to be led.

    August 12, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  9. Funkemariechen

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

    Diplomacy at its best ...

    It could be funny, listening to someone making such a fool of himself ... on the other hand this man could get president of the Unites States of America in 2008 ... oh my god!

    August 12, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  10. American

    "Today, we are all Georgians" ... Not me.

    August 12, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  11. Patriot

    lila August 12th, 2008 7:30 pm ET

    "McCain = 4 more wars! Why only have a war in Iraq and Afghanistan when you can have a war with Iran and Russia too!"

    Lila that is so funny 'cause it is so true of the warmongering John, who never imagines a war he never likes.

    Like Napoleon and Hitler before him, Bush has been using Georgia, Poland, Czech Republic, Ukraine, etc to poke, antagonize and torment the NUCLEAR-ARMED Russian Bear, who just wants to relax in his own Russian space.

    Bush's failed foreign policy is at the root cause of this avoidable conflict.

    Fortunately for us the Russians are showing restraint and not completely overrun the reckless, genocidal, silly and "we should not spare bullet with these people" Saakhasvili.

    August 12, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  12. I Used To Be A Democrat

    All you Obama supports are BRAINWASHED NAZIS.

    Obama doesn't know anything about Georgia which is why he is in hiding in Hawaii.

    August 12, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  13. linda from South Dakota

    obviously,, mccain wants to take credit,, even if he doesnt deserve it,,, in fact hes talkin on issues that obama was before ,, now mccain wakes up and talks,,,,, umm says something about memory hh?? he cnt think for himself so he needs his staff to listen to obama to get ideas,,, ummm i can say one thing, if mccain ever did get the nomination, we as americns are in worse trouble than we are now,,, obama!!!!!!!!!!!!!! now and beyond

    August 12, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  14. AJ

    McCain wants to start WW III. He is making empty threats and thinks that by being macho with no practical strategies and tactics to support his threats, he can get elected. Get real. We don't want a war monger.

    August 12, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  15. RH

    I'm not sure if CNN will allow this, but it's really the best way to say it: Russia's got the world by the balls right now and they know it. They've got a sizable, poised conventional military, a worldwide nuclear deterrent, ever-increasing energy wealth, and a Security Council veto that allows them to attenuate various international issues, blowing hot and cold at times, to their benefit. To a rather worrisome extent, it is Russia that controls the situation with Iran, and perhaps even North Korea. It's time for the US to make nice with anyone who'll have them after the last seven years and to conduct themselves as though they are finally aware that they are but one voice in the world.

    August 12, 2008 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  16. You people are ignorant...

    Wow look at all you ignorant people... Probably 95% of you never served your country you cowards. All you whine and complain about is warmongering...

    You follow an empty suit, with NO experience, he is a JUNIOR senator. He has no experience with anything to do with foreign policy besides giving speeches to Germans.

    He plays the race card whenever he is exposed for actually starting the issue.


    He makes his own policy, realizes how wrong he is, see's smart voters polling the opposite way then he changes his mind, and FLIP FLOPS.


    August 12, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  17. Nick

    I'm probably not going to vote for Obama, but McCain's bellicose response to a situation that is outside of America's interests frightens me into definitely never voting for him. I don't want our president to increase tensions with Russia and risk causing a new cold war over what amounts to a regional conflict. Where McCain's judgment is so fatally flawed is the fact that Georgia made a major mistake invading a region that was basically autonomous, in the name of nationalism. While Russia's response went too far, that doesn't excuse that Georgia was in the wrong here too and provoked the conflict. Mind you, Georgia's not the most democratic nation either, but I guess they're OUR kind of non-democratic nation...Every day I lean more towards Bob Barr.

    August 12, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  18. Roy - River Falls, WI

    I seriously find it pathetic how many people want to just sit here and use the "mcsame, mcthis, mcthat" buzzwords in their banter.

    Barack Obama wants "negotiation and talk"

    Talk... while there are guns being fired, bombs being dropped, and aggressions already on the war field.

    Obama = Idiot.

    Talk is cheap when it comes to Russia. All they have ever understood was force. Thats all.

    August 12, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  19. flavoter

    This is what happens when we continue in this so called nation building. Why is it we only want to nation build / influence peddle
    where there are natural resources to be had. John McCain and the (IRI) will continue to put this country in danger all for money. Country's are tired of being exploited.

    August 12, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  20. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    Has Senator McCain explained how he got into flight school ahead of better, qualified candidates yet?

    August 12, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  21. the ends will never justify the means

    absolutley not....

    McCain's aggressive stance has already been identified as a ruinous path.

    One thing we've learned is even if you can get a bunch of Americans whipped into a frenzy and shouting "USA, USA,USA....

    it doesnt mean your right.....
    or your smart....
    or that you know what the hell you're doing.....

    Oh.....and Victory in Iraq begins with Justice here at home.....

    August 12, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  22. Hopeful Floridian

    Do Americans really view this as McCain's strength? the fact that he is being so aggressive towards Russia? he has shown no diplomacy or statesmanship....just threats. Does America really want to be engaged in endless war? Yeah, he knows war – he knows how to win wars and that is by winning....(hee, hee). Need I mention that he hasn't actually ever WON a war? he was a POW. Its time to stop making wars and make peace....set the lead with PEACE – that shows true leadership and courage. OBAMA 08

    August 12, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  23. DJ CO

    I didn't know Johnny Mac had any strengths! Oh, does warmongering or war brokering count?

    August 12, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  24. Chris

    No I do not think it highlights anyones strength. How hard is it to say "I think they should stop", duh...anyone can believe in that statement. Plus no one really knows the real truth behind this incident, only what the "media" says. We need to keep our nose out of this and use diplomacy to portray our beliefs, there is a reason for everything and I don't think we know enough about the incident to make a strong statement. But thats America for ya, the world police.

    August 12, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  25. RWT

    What happens to the "Peace Movement" in this country? Nobody seems to protest Russia, so I guess "peace" only applied selectively. For all the people who accused McCain of being a "war monger", I don't see anybody accuses Putin and Medvedev of being "war criminals" for invading Georgia.

    Obama is weak and doesn't have a position of his own, as the article stated, Obama is just following McCain's lead in condemning Russia. Obama is a fraud and an empty suit and certainly not qualified to be president of the US.

    August 12, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
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