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. SF4Obama

    McWarmonger needs to stop shooting off his mouth – talking trash to Russia when Russia knows we can't back it up. Really stupid. Bush and company have done everything possible to render us impotent with respect to the political and military leverage we use to have. And yet CNN continues to praise McWarmonger for his irresponsible grand standing this week on the Georgia/Russia conflict.

    August 12, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  2. Olivier

    NO. What we need is strict diplomacy with the aid of other countries. The US need to re-establish its allies.

    August 12, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  3. Saladin

    IMO this current (now resolved) crisis show his weakness and not his strength. With dollar at its lowest, Gold & Oil prices hitting highest ever and not 1 or 2 but three World powers on the rise (Russia, China & India) we Americans can't even in the darkest of our Imaginations think of going in any sort of active or cold war. While we are spending Billions on this War, other rising world powers are spending Billions on strengthening there economy and there Military Might.

    A good example can be seen from this War where Russia retaliated/attacked Georgia while all western powers did was blow some empty rhetoric. This war stopped then Russia wanted it to stop and but when France of US wanted it to End. This was a Military display not against the Georgian people alone, rather this was a display to show the entire world that Russia is still strong.

    Senator McCain blew it away when he said "pipeline that the Russians tried to bomb".

    As reported by BP, the pipelines are intact and all reports of any such bombing are false. The same was reported by Turkish Foreign ministry office and Russia denied these allegations.

    Yet Senator McCain continues to use the fear mongering card and repeats this false claim. I don't refute that The Red Army is indiscriminately bombing cities but for some one who is Running for the highest office should know better not to stick to a claim which has been deemed false.


    August 12, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  4. Linda

    Russia doesn't care what we think or what we want. They'll do what they want to do just as any other country in the world. Thanks to George Bush the United States has no respect from anyone.

    August 12, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  5. PaulC

    The U.S. is totally impotent to affect the Georgia-Russian conflict.
    Our military is committed to the Iraq fiasco and Russia is very aware of our predicament.

    Our invasion of Iraq with very flimsy justification makes it very difficult to keep a straight face when Bush tries to criticize Russia.

    August 12, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  6. M. Winners, Mesa, AZ

    What strengths? Oh, I forgot – Fear, Smear, Mock and Lie. Truth be told McLame is clueless on 21st century foreign politics and policies so he thinks his 60's era cold war "bomb, bomb, bomb" approach is "good for America" because he knows "how to win wars". Excuse me while I stifle my gag reflex...
    This is the same guy that said Obama was "acting presidential" but this Bozo goes around speaking, acting and thinking he already is!
    And by the way McLame, you DON'T speak for this American so cut the crap saying you speak for "all Americans".

    August 12, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  7. Jopan

    McCain = Saakashvili

    Do not need really need another hot head on the world stage?

    August 12, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  8. bob

    we can scare the russins with harsh language on our televisions which they dont watch.

    August 12, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  9. Keeping An Open Mind

    This has shown just how weak a leader Obama would be during an international crisis. Looks like The One is more of a zero

    August 12, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  10. Seth in Florida

    We need a statesman, not a guy who will only level ultimatums.

    August 12, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  11. Foreign Observer

    What a bizarre headline! The Georgia crisis highlighted what the US doesn't want to hear: the strength of the European Union, and, voila, the French President. In other words, McCain was spectacularly wrong, and Obama, who argued for diplomacy, was exactly on target.

    August 12, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  12. Down with the Pubs!

    No. We do not have the bearing anymore to do anything about Russia and their aggression towards our allies. All we can afford to do is sit back and watch, so McCain and any other politician doesn't have the bearing to make a difference.

    August 12, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  13. Jonathan, CA

    Well, we might be weakened by our frivolous war in Iraq, but despite that weakness we still have a strong arm. America is just in this state that if we keep blundering, yes, China and Russia will overpower America. But if we keep on fighting for a stronger economy and push for an international relations front that can walk the tight rope of diplomacy and force, and not allow Russia to impose itself on other countries, we will be okay.

    The fact that Georgia, a country whose president is aiming to create an American like democracy was not overthrown proves to the weakness that still prevails in Russia and its military. And if you read the reports the break away regions were not conceded to Georgia might be weakened, but with the alliance of the former USSR states they'll be okay I think anyway...

    August 12, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  14. dennis from chicago

    MC CAIN stands for freedom for all people he is aware of the domino theory.......not the domino game on your e phone GET IT/// CAN'T WAIT FOR MY PHONE TO RING//// HOPE HE DOESN'T SELL my e mail address when he loses....

    August 12, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  15. bob

    i bet their invasion of georgia is less damaging and more lucretive (for them) than our war in iraq.

    sigh....even a disintegrated republic can manage a war and cease fire terms better than us...

    August 12, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  16. Perusing-through


    McCain and his NeoCon Cronies only have one gear:
    “Threats of Throwing More Young American Souls at Crisis the GOP Policies Have Created”. Bush's threats to place missile on Georgian soil and aimed at Russia has created this mess. Haven't we down this road before – – Can you say "Cuban Missile Crisis"?

    We need fresh new CHANGE of BIPARTISAN IDEAS.


    August 12, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  17. 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 measured approach before commiting to any position in such crisis otherwise you end up starting a third world war.

    Mcain should understand that a measurd position allows a leader to make his opponent look bad in the eyes of the world thereby isolating him. this is a lesson George Bush is just learning 7 years into his administration. I hope it doesnot take Mccain that long to learn.

    Say, Russia 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.

    Mccain ; Learn from Bush's Mistakes: Do not start another cold war just so you can win an election. You kick Russia out of the G8. US economy needs rebuilding, starting another arms race is not the war to go at the time when you don't want to leave Iraq.

    August 12, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  18. kim hussein taylor portland, oregon

    what strengths? his forgetfulness? his terrible geography ("georgia, doesnt that border florida??"), dont even TRY to pretend mccain is strong on foreign policy, we arent buy that load of cr@p!

    "...right, strong, clear, principled — the kind of president we need in the White House," said Senator Joe Lieberman"

    shut up LIEberman, you are a bigger joke than grampa!

    no story here, folks, move's all about the OIL; it ALWAYS is with the neoCONs

    August 12, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  19. Barr '08

    Things younger than John McCain:
    Howdy Doody
    Area Codes
    FM Radio
    Peany Butter & Jelly sandwiches
    Automatic Car Transmissions
    40-Hour Work Week

    I'm leaning towards voting for the presidential candidate NOT endorsed by the worst president in American history.

    August 12, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  20. JB in NJ

    "Does the crisis in Georgia highlight McCain's strengths?"

    To answer your question – No it does not since he had to plagiarize part of his answer from Wikpedia. If anything it highlights his weaknesses and shortcomings.

    August 12, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  21. Redneck4Obama

    Hell no, all this old fart will do is cause World War III..


    August 12, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  22. ShirleyY - Seattle



    August 12, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  23. Barbara - 65 yr old white female in NC

    Hey McWarmonger – we talk to folks in other country via the "internets".

    How can you say you are friends with the Leader of Georgia and you can't even pronounce his name?

    McLiar is a warmonger – McLiar is a warmonger – oh, it"s ok, there's a pipeline running thru that country – another war for oil. ANOTHER WAR FOR OIL.

    August 12, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  24. carlo

    Considering McCain quoted Wikipedia several times in his speech on the Georgia/Russian conflict (an encyclopedic website even my 14 year old daughter says is unrealiable), I'd say that no foreign crisis serves as a beneficial opportunity for him.

    August 12, 2008 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  25. AllTooEasy

    McCain called for Russia to "unconditionally cease its military operations" or else, with no specifics.

    Barack called for mutual withdrawal, negotiations, conditions, and serious talks regarding independence for the two breakaway regions.

    Barack's tactic won the day...and McCain has more experience?

    Plus, why was Sarkozy running the cease-fire effort and not Rice, Bush, etc.

    August 12, 2008 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22