Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How President McCain Might Have Handled Iran

Days like today are one reason I supported the no-nonsense war hero John McCain over Barack Obama.

After the presidential election in Iran was apparently stolen, thousands of protesters took to the streets. Instead of the United States boldly supporting the cause of liberty, and defending dissidents, President Obama meekly said, "It's not productive given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations to be seen as meddling."

That -- of course -- was not a great moment in leadership.

President John F. Kennedy did not say we would "bear any burden -- so long as we don't interfere." Nor can one imagine Winston Churchill saying, "We will fight on the land -- so long as we don't meddle." Nor can one imagine Ronald Reagan saying "Tear down this wall! -- if you're cool with it..."

If the strongest nation in the free world is not willing to take a stand and at least provide moral support for those willing to risk their lives for liberty, the America I know is long gone. While it is understandable for Obama to not invade a nation over this injustice, it is quite another thing to not even bother to forcefully condemn it. Having a humble foreign policy does not preclude one from moral clarity.

Meanwhile, Republican House Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) released a statement calling on Obama to "take a strong public position in the face of violence and human rights abuses." Cantor added that the United States has a "moral responsibility to lead in opposition to Iran's extreme response to peaceful protests." Cantor's full remarks are here.

We'll never know what President McCain would have said, but it's pretty safe to say that he would have taken a forceful stand -- once again positioning America as a beacon of freedom and the last, best hope on Earth.

Instead, we risk becoming a cynical nation that makes decisions based on perceived short-term diplomatic gain.

That's not change I can believe in.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Obama will gain from honoring McCain

By James Forsyth

In a classy gesture, Barack Obama is holding an inaugural eve dinner to honour John McCain. (There are other dinners that night for Colin Powell and Joe Biden). But it is also smart politics, as it costs Obama little and gains much.

McCain is a genuine American hero and the evening will be seen, and is presumably intended to be seen, as a sign that Obama is moving from being the candidate of one party to the president of the whole country. McCain isn’t going to run for president again and his support for various initiatives—think immigratio reform and climate change legislation—would give them a pleasing bi-partisan sheen.

The dinner will make Obama’s administration appear bi-partisan without actually having to compromise on policy.

The soft-focus side of bi-partisanship is something that Obama has excelled at throughout his career. His 2004 convention address, which put such rocket boosters under his rise, was an exercise in it. Now, that he is the president we can expect much more of it. I suspect that, for example, the meetings with all previous Secretaries of State and Defense that the Bush administration instituted in its second term will become major events. Last week’s lunch for all living presidents was, after all, the idea of Obama’s chief of staff.

The conspicuous appearance of bipartisanship will make it harder for those within the Republican Party who argue that the party shouldn’t cooperate with the incoming presiden on the grounds that it should want clean hands if everything goes wrong.

McCain, who will be keen to restore his image as a bi-partisan figure after the election campaign, will be in the cooperation camp. It is to Obama’s benefit to boost his standing and isolate those who are reluctant to work with him.

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