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. Q



    August 12, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  2. ES NYC

    War is fought by brave people who kill each other without knowing each other for the benefit of people who know each other but do not kill each other.

    August 12, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  3. Ez

    I don't like the fact that McCain act like he is the president when he speek to Gorgias president.

    August 12, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  4. FlaDem

    It seems like McCain is just waiting and hoping for a war. Look how excited he gets when he talks about it. If this man is elected he will take us to war within the first year he is in power. He will go out looking for a reason. Is this what we want for our country? Wake up people! Let's use diplomacy and reason, not threats and precious soldiers to solve world problems. We need Obama to lead this nation.

    Go Bama!!!!

    August 12, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  5. john

    McCains rhetoric on this subject clearly highlights his total inadequacy when it comes to sensible foriegn policy.

    August 12, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  6. J.B.

    Mr.McCain Sir you spoke from the heart, with great confidence and strength about this war. If you feel like that about them why don't you extend the same feelings toward your own countrymen? The Iraq war is and was a crime, I believe that You know that. Say what you know to be true and bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan and you just might have a chance.

    August 12, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  7. db

    Well, the fact that, once again, Obama is slippin' over to McCain's position on a foreign policy issue may indicate that, yes, McCain does posess a certain acumen in this area that Obama may be lacking.

    August 12, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  8. yankeegirl15

    PIERCE. The Dog lost. Say goodnight and go home. Only thing HRC should pick is her nose.

    August 12, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  9. texas democrat

    old soldiers never die they just want to run for president and keep wars going. i wish mccain put on some war gear and go out and fight any war he think is necessary. if he had to risk his life he would not be so war hungry.

    August 12, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  10. BV

    No, McCain's response to the Georgia problem only shows that his top foreign policy advisor IS A PAID LOBBYIST FOR THE NATION OF GEORGIA!!!
    Don't believe me? Look it up!

    August 12, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  11. Mille

    American, please the time for us being split as Dems and Rep must stop. The sad truth is, presently we are extremely weak.
    1. The War in Iraq has weaken us, financial, spiritually and physically.
    Instead of going after Bin Laden. A senseless war and he is still
    at large. We are no safer than a few years ago. Only poorer.
    Please if you can, name me one senator who child or children have
    been in this war? Leave Iraq to enter another war with Russia,
    China joins with Russia. Bin Laden thanks to McBush is still at large may decide to attach again. Because we are now in two wars.
    Do you really think he's not keeping track.

    2. Government has been running a mock. Endless lies & distortions of the truth. They are not representing America any more. We have very, very little allies. This stupid go it alone idea. Shot first, do bother to ever ask. We'll make it up as we go along.

    3. Stop being so greedy;we need to get with the program. Let us educate our selves. Stop taking for granted what our government says as the truth. We need to be our own reporters. Many countries have found ways to lessen their dependance on oil. Let us first fix OUR house, OUR collapsing house, before investing in some one elses.


    August 12, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  12. jimmy

    Americans want to keep our Founding Fathers great foresight in
    writing the our Constitution and insuring that our great country maintained the Checks and Balaces of Power in the three branches of our governemt : between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial
    branches. The Democratic Congress under Nancy Pelosi has failed to do anything for our country and people in the two years they have had the majority. They stand to gain even more seats in the Congress in this election , largely because of the very unpopular
    ratings of the Bush Presidency. It is better for us as a nation to have
    the balance of a Democratic congress and a Republican President
    who happens to be more qualified than the (Obama) democratic candidate.. McCain is not George Bush, McCain is more experienced than Bush or Obama. BTW, we have not been hearing any voices against Obama form the Islamists or leftists.

    August 12, 2008 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  13. Monica for Obama in Indiana

    That old wrinkled white hair dude, don't speak for every American. Shows just how out of touch he is. Besides, Russia was the victim here. Bush administration dropped the ball

    August 12, 2008 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  14. Andy in Charlotte, NC

    What strength? Acting tough? And again, neither one is president yet, so they don't have THAT much clout in foreign affairs. And don't forget...there are other parties besides the Democrats and Republicans!

    August 12, 2008 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  15. Sacto Joe

    No, it highlights Senator Obama's strength; that is, Obama saw the value of diplomacy over empty threats. McCain just saw an opportunity to try to score political points.

    August 12, 2008 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  16. Michael G- Ventura ca

    How COULD it? His "experience" as a Commander-in-Chief is the very same as Barack Obama's..................nil.

    August 12, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  17. Charlie in Maine

    Bushy McSame has no strength in this area. We are stretched so thin by their war of choice in Iraq that we couldn't help Georgia if we wanted to. Besides on what basis do we call for Russia not to invade a country that did not attack it? Until we replace the band of tryants in Washington with some sane leadership (from Obama's team). How can we expect our friends or our enemies to take us seriously.
    as of 8:58 August 12,2008 here is the time line to a sensible government:

    Days 160 days, 16 hours and 2 minutes .

    after that things will either get a little better or a whole lot better.... it depends on voter turn-out.

    August 12, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  18. Phyl

    The issue with Russia and Georgia as far as the United States goes is the responsibility of the present administration, even if many people have no trust in the President and his advisers, they are in charge until next January. John McCain and Barack Obama have no authority in this. "The 3:00am quick response" applies to events affecting the United States. If John McCain thinks he heard the 3:00am call, he was dreaming.

    August 12, 2008 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  19. Sura

    McCain Please allow some of us to live to be as old as you. Just be'coz your live is at sun set does not mean that you should drag the lifes of young Americans to war so that their lifes can end before they really get as old as you are. I have never seen a selfish human being like you – You bain-wash Americans into believing that war is the only answer to all the problems. Georgia and Russia need to talk and not fight. You should understand old man that Georgia was the aggressor but Russia used excessive force. Don't take sides because they help you advance your selfish nature, Use you bain and wisdom. Experience is northing without wisdom and undrestanding – unfortunately that's what you lack

    August 12, 2008 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  20. Charles Daeda


    McCain is one of the heads of the Senate Arm Services Committee. There should have been some type of prediction on the Georgia-Russian conflict through the US intelligence community before it even happened. The CIA, FBI, CID, OSI, ONI, and NSA spy agencies of this country were too busy spying on American citizens so they had no time to spy and prevent potential foreign military conflicts. A terrorist could plant a bomb under the chair of any US spy agency rep and they would not know it well until it goes off. This is your FISA agreement doing its work.

    Charlie D of Atlanta, Georgia.

    August 12, 2008 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  21. jason, Texas

    um, no

    August 12, 2008 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  22. Andrew

    McCain, just like Reagan, recognizes the seriousness of what Russia could do to the free world. Obama is no fool, but he is too optimistic about Russia's intentions. Putin has been speaking like a cold war dictator for the last three years.

    McCain's primary strength is to see threats as threats, and not just as distressing events in a far off nation.

    August 12, 2008 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  23. William, from Cali!

    To Both Candidates: If you can't really do anything, about the situation that come up, personally; but, all you can say is "what you would do; if you could"......(Just Words). I think you, shouldn't say anything, let the real President handle his job, of doing that. Your real chance, to be the real President; could be nearer than you think.............................we still have a "real President" in office, or did you'll forget?

    August 12, 2008 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  24. George

    CNN, the way you spin this article is clearly biased!

    McCain is showing his "carpet bomb first, ask questions later" approach, and Obama shows his more measured, common sense approach.

    As you can see from the way I phrase that, I'm an Obama supporter. But that's ok, because I don't claim to be a non-partisan media outlet, I'm just a voter.

    But you are CNN, and are supposed to be un-partisan. When you give a title such as "Does the crisis in Georgia highlight McCain's strengths?" to an article in which he makes very inflammatory, immature and counterproductive statements against the 2nd largest nuclear power on the planet, you are CLEARLY being biased and irresponsable.

    You are being deceptive in your attempt to reinforce your artificially created narrative that McCain is strong on national security, when in fact he was wrong on the most crucial foreign policy decision of our lifetime – the Iraq invasion.

    Shame on you! You're supposed to be impartial!

    August 12, 2008 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  25. Maria

    A question: Did McCain and his foreign-policy adviser and Goergia lobbyist, Randy Scheunemann, possibly inadvertently, send the wrong signals to the volatile President of Georgia ecnouraging him to send its army into South Ossetia?

    August 12, 2008 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
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