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. mary

    All MCcain can see drill,drill,drill for oil right now right here without plans for new developments for energy that can be in use many,many years before a drop of oil can be in use.He can only see wars,wars,wars as the only answer to any conflict that we as american may have with any other country,We can not stand four more years of the bush years.

    August 12, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  2. ran

    NO! It highlight's his willingness to go to WAR first instead of talking. Just another shoot from you hip person (aka bush) . If this person got into office we would be in WWIII before his first year was up. People open your eyes we can not let this happen VOTE OBAMA AND ONLY DEMOCRATS.

    August 12, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  3. PG

    It tells us that he is another COWBOY with a different color hat.

    August 12, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  4. Phil Newton Murphy, Oregon


    August 12, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  5. Barack the Vote!

    John McCain as always, with his "bulllying and sable-rattling" tone and approach to everything! ENOUGH ALREADY!!! That is how we got into this mess with Iraq that has been going on for over 5 years now! The U.S.A. must not be viewed by every nation all over the world, as the "bully with the big stick", interfering in every country's problems and making demands when we are in no position to do anything, as our troops are overstretched in Iraq and Afghanastan – thank you very much Bush and McCain!

    While it is true, Georgia supported the U.S.'s war in Iraq, that we should have never been involved in I might add, by sending 2,000 of their troops to Iraq, I must point out that Georgia had a goal of their own in mind when they provided support to the U.S. They want to become a part of NATO and gain the support of the international community, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, as a soverign nation that has NATO in mind as a goal, they should have consulted with the western/international community BEFORE launching an attack on Russia to maintain the integrity of the Ossetia boundaries (which IS a part of Georgia, but still in confict). Because, the international community probably would have warned them that Russia's response will be disproportinate and inappropriate, but at least they will have been better prepared.

    The larger problem with John McCain shooting off his mouth with all of this tough talk and ominous, threatening sounding tone is that NO ONE IN RUSSIA IS LISTENING! Why, because they along with the rest of the international community know that there is nothing the U.S. can do to stop the violence in Georgia. The decision has to come from Russia and Georgia. Least we all forget, any attack on Russia by the U.S., will cause Iran to become involved!!! Do we really want that?!! Despite the fact that Russia wants to also become a part of NATO and partner with the international community, they are the type of country that will risk that opportunity simply because they too want to show the world how tough they are. In other words, cut off their nose to spite their face. The best solution to this fighting is a firm statement from the U.S. to Russia that highlights Georgia's sovereignty and the integrity of the land that is a part of Georgia, and a request for Georgia and Russia to negotiate a cease fire, which is basically what Senator Obama has proposed. Please, NO MORE SABLE-RATTLING AND TOUGH TALK FROM JOHN McCain, at a time when the U.S. is already in the midst of two wars! I for one do NOT WANT TO GET IN A WAR WITH RUSSIA AND IRAN, because that'ls what's going to happen if we get involved in this mess with Georgia and Russia, JUST SO THAT JOHN McCain can look "tough" on t.v. and try to earn votes!

    August 12, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  6. Robert Bauer, Sonoma County, CA

    Once again, John McCain has taken the old, used, tired & standard line that was so much a part of American politics in the pre-Obama era. Obama, on the other hand, has kept true to his word and offered a level, measured response. There is an arguement to be made, that Russia is not the aggressor in this conflict, but rather, the savior. Obama's response takes that point of view into consideration. The US support of Georgia, like so many of the Bush administration policies, is a dubious one at best.

    August 12, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  7. Willis, Texas


    Why isn't CNN posting anything mentioning how McCain's speech on Georgia had sentences taken out of Wikipedia word-for-word?

    Does quoting Wikipedia on a foreign policy issue show EXPERIENCED leadership?

    If Sen. Obama had made a similar move, it would be a huge story.

    Why isn't the press asking serious questions about John McCain's leadership?

    He has essentially the same foreign and economic policy positions as Bush, and he has shown a similar failure to choose tough executive decisions over loyalty to friends (eg. Charlie Black, Phil Gramm, and Randy Scheunemann).

    McCain needs to explain how the same morally and politically bankrupt policies that have run our country into the ground over the past eight years is a remotely acceptable plan for moving forward over the next four.

    August 12, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  8. Walt, Belton,TX

    Will, NJ:
    Not much on what comprises the military in the US, are you?

    August 12, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  9. FEM

    What toughness? do you think Russia give two hoots about what Mcsame said NO. Thanks to Republican morons USA has lost it leadership in world politics.

    August 12, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  10. Mr Republican

    No, we need less threats and we need to disclose what our true involvements are.

    August 12, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  11. Gary Chandler in Canada

    Two months ago I posted in the CNN BLOGS that Bush would have to manufacture a new crisis or war to help McCain in the polls!
    Did American officials have a hand in the Georgian invasion of the Autonomous State of S Ossetia?
    WHY does Russia support the independence of S Ossetia, while the US does NOT? S Ossetia's claim to independence is actually stronger than Tibet's!

    August 12, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  12. Blake

    I agree with the last sentence of the article. Here's my problem: The fact is this crisis is over because of a measured response and not from overarching threats, thus a deal was made. If it came down to a game of chicken with boycotts etc Russia would win because it could have cut off natural gas to Europe (their only source).

    Obama's position was on target with everyone else based on facts on the ground. The first two days Georgia was pretty much the "bad guy" (if there is such a thing) because they started the crisis by attacking South Ossetia hard. McCain blasted Russia pretty much for coming to the seperatist's aide while everyone else was trying not to make both sides angry before they knew what was going on. Until Russia decided to turn a Peacekeeping operation into a "lets show them who's boss" power play, countries rightfully started to side with Georgia.

    As a side note, didn't everyone blast Obama for going overseas (which McCain suggested), his media over exposure, "setting" policy and acting too Presidential? Now McCain is doing the same thing and not and making speeches about the issue while Obama makes simple statements about his opinion while taking time off. Now the media is attacking Obama for not being Presidential and being on vacation (which the media and the american people suggest he do because of his media coverage).

    Obama can't win, he miught as well just do his own thing. People need to make up there minds what Obama's negatives really are.

    August 12, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  13. JIM...TX

    All Mcacain wants is to get us in another needless war....Republicans scare the helkl out of me with all their sabre rattling!

    August 12, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  14. gayle, ca

    We do not need another 4 to 8 years of simplistic, un-thought-out, knee jerk foreign policy.

    August 12, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  15. Dee

    "Russia should immediately and unconditionally cease its military operations and withdraw all forces from sovereign Georgian territory," the Arizona senator said Friday.
    Or what? We'll send high school ROTC members, because I don't think we have any troops to spare.

    August 12, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |


    August 12, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  17. Robert Johnston

    The Georgia situation highlights Obama's style as a problem solver, not McCain's. It underscores McCain's weaknesses. As we see today, communication and understanding, leading to cooperation are leading to resolutions in Georgia between the Russians and the Georgians. That process is a natural for Obama. McCain would be trying to find a way to instigate, magnify and prolong military campaigns. So what we have is a choice between a Presidential style and a juvenile delinquent style. Take your pick folks! Also please note that the Russians and Georgians didn't need Americans involved at all to get going on the road to resolving that issue. So put it back in your pants, Neocons!

    August 12, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  18. Ellie in Aurora, CO

    No, not all the facts were in, and in fact, Georgia was not blameless. Russia went into overkill, literally, which is when Obama toughened his stance. McCain wants to start the cold war all over again by his continuous nasty retoric against Russia. They are a much stronger nation than they were in the 70s and 80s, and a much bigger threat if they are isolated. Interesting that it was France that brokered the ceasefire. There was a time when we would have had the moral high ground to do that. Hard to tell a nation not to invate a sovereign nation, when that's exactly what the U.S. did.

    August 12, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  19. Vasquez

    It's sad that war is going on over there... But really McCain?

    Why should I care at this point when you McCain who have been in Washington for so long doing dirty work for rollover politicians, the end results are people like myself hurting from lack of economy relief...

    We didn't need the war in Iraq....

    America's current president is a cowboy action dude with limited vocabulary who you're currently imitating in your actions.

    Please quit with the offshore drilling bit and now the tough act on international crisis and give solutions that are realistic and beneficial to America.

    August 12, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  20. Lis

    Cnn, please post everything that senator Obama have said in his last talk with reporters from Hawaii. Don't leave the important things he has said and consentrate on what you choose to comment on. Let the people read everything. Senator Obama' s response is measured , smart and leaves room for negotiation, unlike McCain who sounds as if he is ordering the Russians around like a bully. Putin or Medvedev aren't leaders America can or should bully. We can't effort that, not now nowt later. This show how dangerous McCain will be as a hot headed temper commender in chief. We need Senator Obama's cool thinking and judgment.

    August 12, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  21. James

    Taking advantage of the Russia/Georgia conflict by paying lip service to Saakishvili and his supporters doesn't count as STRENGTH in my book.

    If McCain had any depth he'd explain his position in full detail, which means he's define, or at least outline, how he would handle the Russians on every front from foreigh policy to human rights.

    This will never happen.

    August 12, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  22. Gary Chandler in Canada

    Lou Dobbs just showed the destruction in S Ossetia that was inflicted by the GEORGIAN invasion; all the time talking about Russia.
    Even Bush recognised the Georgian's attacked first, why can't McCain and Lou Dobbs?

    August 12, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  23. Steven in CA

    I agree. The most alarming thing about this crisis is how little Russia or the international community is paying attention to what the US says or the agenda we propose. This is a reflection of the failures of Bush and McCain.

    Its terrifying and disgusting that McCain was waiting for a crisis. The only card he has is fear. I refuse to believe that will be our criteria for the next president.

    That style of black and white diplomacy has failed, unequivocally.

    August 12, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  24. Steve Perzan

    I think this crisis shows that McCain is a very brash and presumption man. He is not our president yet, yet he made this proclamation: "And I told him that I know I speak for every American when I say to him, ‘Today we are all Georgians.’” I do not like Bush or his policies but he is still the president and if anyone has to the right to speak for "all Americans" - and that is always doubtful it is the ELECTED PRESIDENT of the USA and not one who presumptively thinks he is now the elected president. Hopefully, he will not be our president because he already seems to be very confrontive with threatening "warlike words" and a deep desire to take direct military actions towards Russia - Reagan's old evil empire resurrected.

    August 12, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  25. jackson

    This is From Russia With Love, just for McCain. He could not have asked for a better opportunity to bang the war drum and raise the specter of Reagan's arch nemesis from the dead.

    August 12, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22