August 13th, 2008
08:23 AM ET
10 years ago

McCain adviser criticizes Obama's lack of experience with Georgia

McCain's adviser said the GOP candidate has 15 years of experience on Russia policy.

McCain's adviser said the GOP candidate has 15 years of experience on Russia policy.

NEWARK, New Jersey (CNN) - John McCain's top foreign policy adviser briefed reporters Tuesday on his candidate's policy towards Russia and Georgia, noting that McCain and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili are friends that have been speaking throughout the conflict "to exchange daily updates about what's going on."

The adviser, Randy Scheunemann, also confirmed a report that McCain and Saakashvili enjoyed a day of water sports in the summer of 2006.

"I can confirm that Sen. McCain and President Saakashvili were jet-skiing on the Black Sea together," he said.

Reporters spent several minutes asking Scheunemann, a former lobbyist for the government of Georgia, to firm up details on McCain's comments regarding the crisis that has unfolded in recent days.

Asked about Barack Obama's statements on the Georgia situation, Scheunemann accused the Democrat of lacking experience on the matter, saying his record consists only of a handful of paper statements, most of which related to matters of loose nuclear material. But McCain's record on Georgia and Russia, he argued, runs deep.

"There's a depth of knowledge, a breadth of knowledge, and an extent of historical experience that doesn't compare between the two on Russia policy," Scheunemann said. "You can't compare a 15-year historical record to three or four statements over the course of 15 months."

Scheunemann repeatedly stressed McCain's position that Russia's actions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia are without merit.

"What he has said is whatever tensions and hostilities preceded the Russian invasion, nothing justified the Russian invasion," he said.

Scheunemann said that Western leaders are now coming around to positions that McCain "has raised for years," in particular his calls for Russia to be expelled from the Group of Eight and for NATO to reconsider its decision to not extend membership to Georgia.

He said "nobody is talking about military action" against Russia. He also indicated that U.S. troops wouldn't likely be part of an international peacekeeping force in the separatist regions.

Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (367 Responses)
  1. Alisa--GA

    Get over it!! That didn't work for the Clinton's and it won't work for you.

    August 13, 2008 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  2. bluesky

    ("I can confirm that Sen. McCain and President Saakashvili were jet-skiing on the Black Sea together," he said.)

    Definitely puts McCain in touch with the average American, doesn't it?

    August 13, 2008 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  3. eyes

    McCain sounds like a celebrity to me – waterskiing on the Black Sea with the Georgian President! We need someone who will work on the issues and not confuse play dates with making history.

    August 13, 2008 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  4. Sean

    But how would McCain handle it if they weren't "best buddies"? It's much easier to deal with a crisis when you have a pre-existing relationship with that person.

    August 13, 2008 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  5. Judgement over experience

    Oh well since mccain went jet skiing with the guy then that certainly means he has the foreign credentials to make a decisive judgment on this issue......NOT! Mccain has proved he is lacking in judgement, despite his so called 'experience', his judgement is poor and I don't trust him for a second. He will have us at war quicker than we can blink an eye.

    August 13, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  6. Rob

    If you are a smart candidate that you back the heck away from Saakashvili. This was one of the worst calculated moves ever. He gambled and lost. He lost badly and as a result of his headstrong ways, thousands died. I keep seeing the pictures how he tucked tail and ran like a coward through the streets. He has the courage to send innocents to die for his natiionalistic aspirations but when he has a moment to be brave, he looks like a chicken.
    I wouldn't be bragging about jet skiing with this imbecile. He just ruined any chance Georgia had a peace and prosperity.
    Here is a new campaign them.
    McCain and Saakashvili- support them if you want to see a country in ruin!

    August 13, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  7. Charles I Am

    I would like to see these pictures. If John McCain ate lunch with the man it would be all over TV by now. CNN handle J Mac with kid gloves and they would be more than happy to publish these photos. GO AHEAD CNN CONTINUE TO MAKE HIS CASE. WHO NEEDS CAMPAIGN MONEY WHEN YOU GET UNCOMFIRMED REPORTS LIKE THIS ONE!!!!!

    OBAMA 08

    August 13, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  8. Nathan

    Is this the same McCain who refers repeatedly to "Czechoslovakia," which does not even exist? Oh, he's a FINE one for foreign policy!

    August 13, 2008 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  9. Russ

    A day jet-skiing qualifies as having a good grasp of the situation between Georgia and Russia? Oh please spare me. I suspect the water sports McCain and Georgia's president partook in consisted of peeing on one another's legs.

    August 13, 2008 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  10. Tony

    And just how much experience does McCain have with Georgia?

    Stop whining McCain. You are turning into a real BORE!

    August 13, 2008 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  11. americaN for Peace

    McCain knows war, that's for sure.

    I'd rather the U.S. get out of the war business altogether which won't happen with MCWar in office.

    August 13, 2008 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  12. Laura

    I am for neither candidate at this point; however, my gut tells me that Sen. McCain would be able to handle this situation in the much better manner than Sen. Obama. Why? Experience!

    So much has been made in the campaigns about "Change" and it seems that experience has become a "dirty" word. Well, when I have a medical problem, I want the guy with the most experience helping me. If I was to need counseling for anything, again I would go immediately to the person who had experience in helping me with whatever problems I had.

    The same is true in running the country. Obama will be a great candidate when he gets a little more experience under his belt. Until then I feel the way other Americans do. McCain for foreign issues. Its a no brainer!!

    Laura, Boston

    August 13, 2008 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  13. John B. From New Hampshire

    oh, it's deep alright, he'll bring us into ww111. don't mess with the kremlin, you'll lose! mccain is way too scary to elect!! is and ALWAYS for OBAMA!!

    August 13, 2008 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  14. Rick S

    What leverage do we have against the Russians, right-none

    August 13, 2008 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  15. Tony

    There is only one thing that runs deep with McCain and that is B.S.!

    August 13, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  16. Puck

    So, "nobody is talking about military action" against Russia?

    Well, then all McCain can tout is that he and Saakashvili are
    BFFs and they talk on the phone every day. Wow. Oh wait,
    I forgot that they went jet skiing together 2 years ago – which,
    I might add, I wouldn't mind seeing photogrpahic evidence
    of, due ot the fact that I can't picture a wobbly. 70-year old
    John McCain racing around on a jetski.

    Where does that leave us? McCain pretending he'd make a
    better president because he talks to Saakashvili on the phone.
    McCain has been salivating for something like this to happen
    so that he could exploit his relationship with one of the very
    few world leaders that he has a relationship with.

    Wait, wait – McCain jetskiing on the Black Sea? If it had been
    Obama, people would be talking about what an elitist he is.

    August 13, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  17. sherry for Obama

    It amazes me how McCain feels he is an expert in all things just because he was a prisoner of war.
    He's a legend in his own mind.

    OBAMA 08

    August 13, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  18. Ok

    Scheunemann is a lobbyist for Georgia for goodness sake. Of course he and McSame's team of lobbyists turned "advisor" would just brief McBush about the conflict/war in Georgia. McBush's response to the Georgian war stirrs up the dust of the cold war, potentially wounds our relationship with Russia, and it frankly sounds like something a lobbyist for Russia would put together, not the potential,hopefully not, leader of the free world. By the way I am in no way saying Georgia is bad.

    August 13, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  19. Bob Stephens

    McSame got all his information that was in his statement on Georgia, pretty much word for word , from Wikipedia ( If you don't believe that , look up the statement he made the other day, and compare it word for word.). Then he couldn't even get the President's name correct, although he said they were " Good Friends"....... What a loser...

    August 13, 2008 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  20. Jiggles

    Hold on- Obama has said much the same thing as McCain, the only difference is that Obama waited for the facts before laying the balme as Russias door, and didn't choose to rachet up the tension by suggesting (without any real evidence) that Russia had suddenly decided to attempt to create a new Czar republic.

    McCains speeches on the conflict have betrayed a cold war mentality that neeedas to be left behind for the good of America, and indeed for the rest of the world.

    Obama showed that he can talk tuff, and say what needs to be said without becoming hysterical and paranoid like McCain- seems to me that in his few months he has learnt how to deal with world events in a far more nuanced way that McCain has managed in 15 years...

    August 13, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  21. Chips

    Yell, 15 years of experience and he still can't pronounce your name.

    August 13, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  22. Concerned INDEPENDENT CT voter

    we get it... He's OLD... of course he has more experience talking about the Russia/Georgia issue.... He's been in Washington forever & still couldn't prevent this disaster nor help them take steps to sure up their region... Also....

    What did Russia do that was any different from what the U.S. did to Iraq? Maybe they thought Georgia had WMD's........


    August 13, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  23. Lisa M

    Maybe we're looking for someone who won't make the same mistakes over and over.

    August 13, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  24. McCain = Bush-Cheney 3rd term

    Hmmmmmm. McCain went jet skiing with a man whose name he cannot even pronounce. Must have been a 'bonding' trip.

    Aways question the source & if it doesn't sound right – don't believe it.

    August 13, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  25. Watermann

    Oh, holy cow, what a nonsense. I am so fed up with the crap these kind of advisers are talking. They do not at all knowing the facts but they keep on talking because their foreign donors or their boss told them to do.

    August 13, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
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