August 12th, 2008
05:25 PM ET
6 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. Sandy

    No because so many Americans are suffering right here in His face and feel this should be issue number 1.

    August 12, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  2. john

    what strength are you talking about. The French president is the man, he went to Russia to resolve the conflict. Tough words does not resolve conflict. also, why should we blame the Russians, you have forgetting what we did at Iraq. Hipocrates.

    August 12, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  3. No McCain

    McCain has only one strength: Fear-mongering/War-mongering. But we Americans are too smart to fall for it. We already decided for CHANGE

    August 12, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  4. Janet

    how can it prove his "strengths"? he hasn't had to do anything anyone can talk tough, that doesn't mean you have sense enough to figure out when to act tough. plus he mispronounced the Georgian president's name 3 times (albeit the same mispronounciation each time. I guess he should get positive consideration for that?). McCain keeps talking about his foreign policy strengths and abilities, but i haven't ever heard exactly what those strengths are. going places and shaking peoples hands is not foreign policy deision-making and that holds true for both candiates. one of the only things Bill Clinton has said recently that I agree with is that one could argue that no one is ever prepared to be president, even someone who was vice-president for a number of years. i don't think what McCain or Obama say about the Georgian-Russian conflict means a heck of a lot.

    August 12, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  5. Last Honest Man

    Obama is a "Sally".

    August 12, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  6. CAROLYN

    hell no, georgia is hopeing sen mc cain and the repugs would follow him in his war mind. messing with the russians that we need to deal with iran,that old man making songs bomb bomb iran, they should die from our cigarettes that are exported to them. sen obama puts us in good standing around the world again. you see when sen obama made his statement for russia, putin&medevev to stand down and the french president went over we got results. asap. carolyn,ca.

    August 12, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  7. Toby

    McCain's comment on the Russian Empire overlooks the fact that it was the Georgians who started the fighting, apparently thinking the West would come to their aid. So McCain looks at best biased and at worst reckless against a major country we need to deal with for our own good. Not the glowing leadership qualifications we look for in a President.

    August 12, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  8. thegoreyears

    You would think that somebody who has been tortured in a war would be the first to want to avoid one. It has been proven repeatedly that engaging commercially and diplomatically with nations is a better way to get them over to "our side" than bellicosity and sabre-rattling. This is true of China, and it is true of Russia. The more interdependence you have commercially with another state, the more each side has to lose when in conflict. Neocons don't understand that concept, and believe that you shoot first, and ask questions later. I'm sick of this approach, and I'm sick of paying for this neoconservatism at the gas pump and everywhere else.

    August 12, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  9. Task

    Why do you think war is the only threat we can make Will? International relations are about diplomacy and trade. War with Russia would just be foolish and wouldn't accomplish anything. The stick we carry is the ability to refuse trade with them. We can stop shipping them American products and more importantly, stop buying Russian goods.

    August 12, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  10. s.positive

    How is it his strength when RICK Davis his campaign tug lobbies for Georgia

    August 12, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  11. DJ Los Angeles

    Yes exactly...the U.S. lackd diplomatic integrity and is in no position to preach to Russia about affairs in their own region.

    McCain if anything would be even worse than George Bush and is a war-mongerer.

    August 12, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  12. Fordy

    Like the man said, "I don't get the economy but I know how to win wars!!!" Saddle up America!!!

    August 12, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  13. Brian S

    We do not need another war.

    Esp we are talking about protecting aggressor who killed 2000 people and was going to evict 100,000 to get some realestate.

    We should not protect/help madman. Since when killing civilians became acceptable as long as it is done by our "friend".

    We should have consistent foreign policy. No more war for oil, or non-existent WMDs

    August 12, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  14. GOP

    Do we still have an acting president or not....You think Russia cares. while they were attacking Georgia, Putin was seating next to Bush and talking to him during the Open ceremonies of the Olympics...
    Electing McCain will be the biggest lost of opportunity to make the USA shine again around the world....

    August 12, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    Obama is our best hope for peace

    August 12, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  16. Joe the Troll

    When Obama spoke with some Middle Eastern leaders, McCain supporters accused him of being arrogant and "acting like he's already the President." Evidently, they don't mind so much when McCain acts like he's already President. It just goes to show that people who claim to stand on principle usually don't.

    August 12, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  17. Perusing-through

    DOES GEORGIA-RUSSIAN CRISIS HIGHLIGHT McCAIN's STRENGTH?

    Answer: NO

    [1.] McCain already has blown it with threats of force! The "Shoot-First Response" and threats to rattle the Old Russian Empire only serves to inspire Russians back to the Cold War days. We already have enough of that with Bush and the Iraq disaster.

    [2.] How can you compare candidate's response when one is suppose to be on vacation after 17-months of campaigning? Remember, John McCain had nearly four weeks off between March and June when Obama and Clinton were still battling. (Shame on you Hillary!!).

    [3.] Very interesting to notice John McCain was issuing more threats than President Bush. If Senator Obama had did the same, the McCain camp would be screaming that Obama was arrogant and acting like he was the President. HYPOCRISY FROM THE McCAIN CAMP!!

    August 12, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  18. MikeH

    No, the old fool started talking confrontation with Russia when #1 Russia's economy is growing while the US economy is stagnating, #2 The US is bogged down in Iraq and hemoraging money and material there, #3 China holds our debt, and can side with Russia and nuke our economy, #4 Russia is a net exporter of Oil and can tank our economy by shutting off oil supply to Europe and Asia, #5 The world borders on hating the US, and I doubt they would side with the US in a confrontation with Russia.

    Such is the legacy of George W Bush, that McCain wants to carry on. I hope most Americans can see that we cannot threaten Russia like we used to any more. They are still the only country that has the capacity to destroy the US.

    A simple negotiation, like what France has apparently successfully performed, works much better than McCains empty and foolish rhetoric.

    August 12, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  19. Pepou

    No, McCain doesn't understand the complexity of the situation. He is just posturing as usual. Diplomacy is the obvious answer since we do not want (or cannot afford to) start a war with Russia.
    I agree with Will, NJ that the US is in a difficult position regarding Russia since we have invaded a sovereign state illegally.

    August 12, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  20. Boston For OBAMA

    In a word NO.

    August 12, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  21. Remember Iraq Senator ?

    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.
    Oh yea two OLD Farts ........... Remember the Invasion Of Iraq
    ..... I suppose Putin feels just like you did about the UNJUST WAR in IRAQ ......2 Beds available at the Senior Center for McAttack and Liberman

    August 12, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  22. Ms. RDS

    No, it just shows how eager he is to get us involved in yet another international conflict? It just shows his presumptiousness because he overstepped President Bush with tough rhetoric before it was neccessary. I don't trust him and this is the reason why!

    August 12, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  23. Jane

    ..OH.....and, by the way, if THIS is an example of how he would handle a foreign crisis, by the time he got finished, he would have us involved in Wars all over the world.

    Let's face it. This guy sounded like he was just spoiling for a fight.

    So, In my humble opinion, this certainly did NOT highlight his strengths.

    It brilliantly showcased his diplomatic weakness.

    August 12, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  24. Barack Uda

    How can we possibly demand that one country not invade another for oil??? It's more of the S.O.S. and he sounds and acts like dubya.

    August 12, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  25. Barbara - 65 yr old white female in NC

    I cannot emphasize enough – I AM AN AMERICAN – I AM NOT GOERGIAN !!!!!!!! McWarmonger DOES NOT AND WILL NOT EVER SPEAK FOR ME !!!!!

    August 12, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
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