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. Darren

    haven't we had enough of a president who talks tough without knowing all the facts? here's some facts... one of McCain's senior advisors made hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying on behalf of the Georgian government. what a surprise that McCain came out of the gate guns blazing on the side of the Georgians. why is it that we had to rely on the french to negotiate a cease fire? where has the United States' diplomacy gone?

    August 12, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  2. jd

    NOPE! Not at all. Obama/08

    August 12, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  3. NO!

    Lets see what Rita Hauser, a prominent Republican and national intelligence expert who served in the Bush administration has to say:

    "I think the little flare up we are witnessing in Georgia is another illustration of the different approach these two men are taking," she said. "McCain is bellicose: threatening to kick Russia out of the G8, use force if it is required. Obama is far more of the traditional position: turn to international institutions, call for reconciliation, call for an end of hostilities, but also be firm in his words. And that's the kind of leadership we need."

    McCain proved himself to be a scary rabid warmonger with a bad temper, presumptuously threatening Russia before Bush could get the first word in. A vote for McCain is a vote for World War 3 and a mushroom cloud over your city

    August 12, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  4. James in Santa Fe

    Given the state of the US economy and the over-extension of our military worldwide, 50-year-old attitude of brinkmanship with the Russians is completely unrealistic. Diplomacy is what is called for here, under the supervision of the UN and NATO. It has not been, and is not now, the Untied States' duty to police the world. The criminal actions of the Bush administration in Iraq should not be repeated; if the UN/NATO request military/humanitarian/diplomatic aid, then it should be provided, if not, then we should not involve ourselves with the politics of other nations.

    August 12, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  5. Gennamir

    Yes. It highlights he wants to start another war that we do not need! He is hell bent on staring a war just to prove he can! Shame on you John mccain:(

    August 12, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  6. Lesley

    Not even close! In trying to show how tough he is, he highlights his cold war mentality. He is still mired the 1950s while the rest of the world is in the 21st Century. Diplomacy is the key here, not imitating John Wayne. It's a new world now and forward thinking vision is the best way to protect our interests and security. He is spinning the events to introduce fear into our hearts and minds. How arrogant he is, talking to the Georgian president and speaking for the American people, sending Georgians a message! Even Obama acknowledged to foreign leaders that we only have one president at a time, and he was called down for being presumptuous. McCain is overstepping his boundaries, he's just a candidate, and the media isn't even flinching. How about some equal and fair-minded reporting!

    August 12, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  7. Maritza

    Obama can't live up to or even improvise the skill, background and experience McCain has on his resume, his knowledge is proven with his track record, and years of service, compare the comments McCain made on the unfortunate military action of Russia, to the generic and whimsy statements made by genious Obama , McCAins Strenghts? are concrete and longstanding as evidenced by way of serving his country in the Senate, in war, and in the political process, he leaves Obama in the dust.

    Maritza

    August 12, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  8. akaDoug

    McCain, like Bush before him, is a paper tiger...roars load but when you see what kind of solution he has you start to laugh. This world needs a "measured" leader someone that will think long term, not just what will get us by for now.

    As a former Republician and more recently Clinton voter, I now see what we need and it's Obama!

    August 12, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  9. Steve

    Simply stating what Russia should do doesn't show any particular strength. Big deal. If McCain had any real sense, and any real international experience, he'd provide a solution that both sides can live with, or at least start talking about. Telling other countries what they should do has never worked very well. Can anyone think of a single situation in which our government has said, "What you should do is...." and the country has replied, "You know what? You're right. We'll start on that right away." Barking orders at other countries shows a complete lack of understanding of international policy and sensibilities.

    August 12, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  10. Jay

    He did not speak for the majority of Americans when he uttered "Today, we are all Georgians." Prior to this conflict, the ONLY Georgia MOST Americans knew was the the one that borders Florida. That comment is not meant to be snide – its true!!

    August 12, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  11. Tim, TX

    Strength? Just what we need...Bush's bullheaded foreign policy without his constraint.

    August 12, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  12. jamie

    I support McCain,and will vote for him in November.However,he is incorrect on this issue.Georga,recieved exactly what they needed.The Georgan president is something like a small dog that likes to bark a lot but puts his tail between his lages when confronted.This is Georga.Russia,has every right to protect its interests just like the U.S. or any other nation.How would Americans feel if Russia had plans of placing military bases in Mexico or Canada? Would you like it? This is the goal of the U.S. and Nato.Estonia,Latvia,Lithuania,Bulgaria,and Romania,already belong to the E.U. and are all members of Nato or soon will be and remember these are all ex-Sovit States, to have Georga and the Ukraine join would completly isolate Russia. I understand there point of view.I'm sure most Americans are to dumb to know these countrys exist and where they are situated geographicly!

    August 12, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  13. Griff

    The Last Hurrah, of the "Soviet-Block". Russia must be really hurting in the World'sMarket, otherwise they would not have done this. This is their biggest mistake since Poland...

    August 12, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  14. FYI

    Will,
    The war in Russia-Georgia is not identical to the war in Iraq. There are stark differences between the two conflicts. Iraq was proven to be run by a dictator, while no such evidence exists in Georgia's case. US attacked Iraq after it did go to the UN. The attack was illigal (I agree), however there was support for it by some countries, the US senate voted on it, the world public new about the US trying to go to war for weeks. The world did not wake up to US being in war without any prior knowledge. Ultimately, the outcome is an illegal war, just as what Russia did, however the methods and road to war matter as well, and they are starkly different. US presented its case to the world, and it did have support from UK. Russia didn't present its case to anyone. It crossed the border to anther country, and no major Democracy supports its action.

    An argument that Russia's behaviour is identical to US helps no one.

    August 12, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  15. Randy

    McCain talks tough because he can't do anything about this. All we need right now is for some blowhard Republican telling another country not to invade someone. Our record right now is not a shining example of a caring peaceful nation.

    August 12, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  16. BOOTSTOMPER

    McCain is the worst person for these kinds of situations, stuck in Vietnam wanting to fight any country at the drop of a hat. Forget about diplomacy big john says just attack. It was the French who got this mess stopped. People who actually can think are best suited for these types of crisis.

    August 12, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  17. Barbara - 65 yr old white female in NC

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

    August 12, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  18. the US media lies by the way

    The US Media & McCain are full of disinformation – Georgia invaded North Onrettia first and killed over 2000 civillians.

    McCain was dishonest in his explanation of the the situation, playing it up as if Russia attacked first (lie). Also, McCain deceptively used emotional buzzwords (Georgia is a sovereign "democratic" country full of "christians") with the intent to tug at the heartstrings of the American people. Also, McCain plagiarized portions of his Georgia speech from Wikipedia – google it if you dont believe me.

    August 12, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  19. Upon Further Review

    Does he have one?

    August 12, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  20. Chris, Denver CO

    Is this a joke? McCain had to look up Georgia on Wikipedia to give a speech on it and that's supposed to show his strength?

    August 12, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  21. yawe london

    For a man who taunts his foreigh policy credentials I am supprised that Mccain does not understand that any effective foreign policy does not start with a beligerent position. Mccain doesnot understand that starting with such position limits a leaders option because he will have already played his last card. It is important to start with a firm but measures approach before commiting to any position in such crisis otherwise you end up starting a third world war.

    Mcain should understand that a measure position allows a leader to make his opponet look bad in the eyes of the world thereby isalting him. this is a lesson George bush is just learning 7 years into his administation. I hope it doesnot take Mccain that long to learn.

    Say, Russian refuses to stop fighting then what? is Mccain going to send US soldiers to kick the Russians out of Georgia? Mccain may sound tough on Russia but in the end US and Europe needs Russian as much as Russia needs them. Only when an initial measured response fail should a leader adopt an escalated tone. that way your options are not limited. you also keep your opponent on balance not knowing what you are going to do next.

    August 12, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  22. D Nelson

    McCain's comments have seemed a little too aggressive to me. They remind me more of the cowboy "diplomacy" – the "you're with us or against us" type of talk – that we've had under Bush. This actually makes him a less appealing choice to me. He appears to much like a hot heard – speaking before he thinks.

    Barack Obama seems more like he subscribes to Teddy Roosevelt's idea of speaking softly, but carrying a big stick. Obama, with his more measured, but equally decisive comments, seems to be the better diplomat and the kind of leader this country needs, and has been desperately lacking.

    Yes, Russia severely over-reacted in their attack, and ultimate invasion of Georgia. Yes, their move into Georgia and complete lack of any sign that they will back off is a sign that they are using this as an opportunity to take back a former part of their country by force. (although the unanimous calls from around the world for them to back off may have now given them pause if the latest news is any indication)

    However – The Georgian President definitely wasn't thinking clearly about possible consequences when taking the actions they took against south Ossetia.

    August 12, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  23. Anita from Arizona

    Let the UN handle this, McCain. We don't have any leg to stand on regarding that war in Georgia since we did our own invading in Iraq. Who are we to tell Russia anything?? Georgia started it in the first place. Check out McCain's lobbyists ties to Georgia. VERY Interesting.......

    August 12, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  24. Big D

    McCain believes in hammers so much that he thinks everything looks like a nail. Using the hammer is only solution to suggest. Obama has a more steady temperment and the judgement to step back and figure out which tool is the best one to use in different situations. Sometimes it does require a hammer, sometimes something else is better, sometimes a combination of things is best. McCain is not showing leadership by always suggesting that the answer is a hammer, when not every situation is a nail.

    August 12, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  25. the US media lies by the way

    The US Media & McCain are full of disinformation – Georgia invaded South Onrettia first and killed over 2000 civillians.

    McCain was dishonest in his explanation of the the situation, playing it up as if Russia attacked first (lie). Also, McCain deceptively used emotional buzzwords (Georgia is a sovereign "democratic" country full of "christians") with the intent to tug at the heartstrings of the American people. Also, McCain plagiarized portions of his Georgia speech from Wikipedia – google it if you dont believe me.

    August 12, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
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