John McCain and the Neocon Resurgence

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Offline bigron

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John McCain and the Neocon Resurgence
« on: February 12, 2008, 06:18:24 AM »
February 12, 2008
John McCain and the Neocon Resurgence
Philip Giraldi
The neoconservatives, who have never been right about anything, have lately suffered more knockdowns than "The Bull of the Pampas," Luis Firpo, did in his first round with Jack Dempsey in 1923, but hopes for their demise as a political force have unfortunately proven to be premature. Part of the problem is that the blog and counterculture world where the neocons have been eviscerated is not the world of the New York Times, the Washington Post, Fox News, or the Wall Street Journal, where they continue to set the pace on the editorial and opinion pages. The presence of two neoconservatives, William Kristol and David Brooks, at the ostensibly liberal New York Times is a testimony to their resiliency, as is the Times' endorsement of John McCain as the Republican presidential nominee. Beyond the media, the neocons have deeply embedded themselves in the political system and continue to play a major role in the campaigns of the various presidential candidates of both parties, frequently as foreign policy advisers.

With the withdrawal of Romney, Washington pundits unanimously agree that John McCain will defeat Huckabee to become the Republican nominee. McCain is the neocons' anointed choice for president of the United States, and has been so for many years. He was their candidate when he ran against George Bush in the primaries in 2000 and again when he announced his candidacy for 2008. When McCain's campaign underachieved last summer and it appeared that Rudy Giuliani would be the Republican candidate, many leading neocons, including Norman Podhoretz and Daniel Pipes, joined the New Yorker's campaign. Now that Giuliani has withdrawn, they will presumably return home again, rejoining Robert Kagan and James Woolsey, both of whom have been with McCain since early 2007. That McCain is no traditional conservative if measured by his views on cultural and fiscal issues matters not at all, because the Israel-and-empire-fixated neocons consider such issues unimportant. Nor is there any concern for McCain's hypocrisy on other issues, such as torture, where he publicly opposed the administration before agreeing to a White House-supported bill that permitted waterboarding and other practices.

With McCain as their nominee, the Republicans will be running on a "fear" platform, emphasizing the threat posed by terrorism. Mitt Romney withdrew citing the necessity of winning in Iraq and not surrendering to the terrorists, implying that such pusillanimity is precisely what one might expect from the Democrats if the Republicans do not present a united front. McCain's subsequent speech at the American Conservative Union (ACU) convention provided more of the same, calling for action against Iran and victory over Islamic extremists. On the following day, President Bush called for Republican unity and made essentially the same points about terrorists. It is clear that the Republicans will be the party of war and that they will emphasize their ability to deal with international threats better than the Democrats.

The neocons and McCain do not disguise their belief that Iran must be dealt with by military means because diplomacy has failed. Indeed, one might well regard de-fanging Iran as their principal foreign policy objective, one that they share with the White House and the Israeli government. John McCain's sentiment toward Iran is unrelentingly belligerent. One only has to recall his rendition of the Beach Boys' song "Barbara Ann" substituting the words "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" to realize that the ideologically driven Arizona Republican is not interested in talk if cruise missiles are available. McCain's version of "straight talk" on Iran suggests that he lacks the basic good judgment the American public would presumably like to see in a president.

McCain's speech before the ACU revealed that he supports the U.S. presence in Iraq until there is a "victory," that he will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, and that he is committed to fighting against "Islamic extremists" for as long as it takes to defeat them. In an earlier speech in New Hampshire he stated that it would be fine with him if the U.S. were to remain in Iraq for one hundred years. In Florida, shortly before that state's primary, McCain declared that there would be "other wars" in America's future, but that "we will never surrender." There should be no confusion about McCain's intentions, which are basically all war all the time. He has also declared that the United States has a right to deal with "rogue states" as it sees fit, and he has thrown down a challenge to Russia, insisting that Moscow should be expelled from the G-8 group of industrialized nations and that NATO should be expanded to include the Ukraine and Georgia, which the Kremlin would see as a direct threat. Ronald Reagan, who won the first Cold War, would undoubtedly be horrified by McCain's intention to start a second one.

Many observers in Washington believe that McCain intends to pull a shrewd maneuver to enhance his electability by packaging himself as someone who can end the partisan divide in Congress. McCain knows that the Republican Party's conservative base, which mistrusts him, has nowhere else to go in national elections. Able to take them for granted, he is already speaking of reaching out to moderates, liberals, and traditional Democrats. He has worked closely with the Democrats on many occasions, and his voting record on many issues is decidedly non-Republican. He co-sponsored the McCain-Feingold legislation on political contributions and collaborated on the stillborn McCain-Kennedy amnesty plan for illegal immigrants, both of which were opposed by the Republican Party's conservative base.

To turn himself into a one-man bridge over troubled political waters, McCain will reportedly insist that his vice president be Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a lifelong Democrat who currently calls himself an independent. Lieberman endorsed McCain at the end of December and campaigned actively on his behalf in New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina, and Florida. In Florida he spoke to numerous Jewish groups around Miami, emphasizing McCain's support for Israel. Photos of McCain campaigning frequently feature Lieberman standing in the background. Joe Lieberman is also no social conservative, so he and McCain should get along just fine on most issues. Sources in Washington believe that Lieberman will conveniently become a Republican to gain the GOP's acceptance.

Joe Lieberman denies that he would even consider the position of vice president with his friend McCain, but one should note that an initial denial of one's true intentions has become routine in American politics. As the self-described "conscience of the Senate," Lieberman has voted a straight Democratic Party line on most issues, though he is most definitely a hard-liner when it comes to Israel and the Middle East. When he ran against Ned Lamont for the Senate in Connecticut in 2006 he denounced the latter as weak on Israeli security, saying that Lamont had surrounded himself with "people who were explicitly against Israel." Lieberman, like McCain, would like to attack Iran. He was the co-sponsor of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment that passed Congress in September 2007. Kyl-Lieberman declared that Iran is killing American soldiers and led to the naming of part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group, which would permit military action against it without any deliberation by Congress. Lieberman is opposed to negotiating with the Iranians, claiming that it is akin to a firefighter negotiating with an arsonist. He favors military action to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapons program and asserts that Iran is already at war with the U.S.

Americans who have opposed the Iraq war and who are against another war with Iran should begin to worry, because a McCain-Lieberman ticket would be very electable. It would be promoted as a demonstration that bipartisanship can work in Washington, and it would draw support from many independents and from a Democratic base that would welcome its relatively moderate positions on social issues and immigration. Many would be attracted by its lack of close ties to the religious Right. McCain-Lieberman would also play the fear card extremely well, rallying both the Republican base, which is largely willing to ignore social issues when it comes to national security, and conservative Democrats. This would likely complete America's transition to a militarized state and would empower terrorists everywhere, resulting in constant warfare and bankrupting the United States in fairly short order. Such is the price of the neocon new world order.

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Offline bigron

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Re: John McCain and the Neocon Resurgence
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2008, 06:30:49 AM »
Conceding John McCain's "toughness" on national security
(updated below)

Conventional media wisdom is already solidifying that John McCain's greatest political asset is national security. This is a completely bizarre proposition given that there is no politician who has been more mindlessly supportive than McCain of endless war in Iraq, one of America's most unpopular wars in its history. Only in Media World could undying support for an extremely unpopular war be considered a political asset.

Beyond Iraq, McCain is as pure a warmonger as it gets in the American political mainstream. He is supported by the most extreme neoconservative ideologues, such as Bill Kristol, John Bolton and Joe Lieberman, precisely because they perceive, correctly, that he would be the candidate most likely to enable their paramount dreams of endless Middle East war. The virtual certainty that McCain will ensure the endless occupation of Iraq and, worse, will inevitably provoke more American wars, ought to be considered his greatest political liability, not his greatest asset.

Democrats should be eager -- not afraid -- to have the 2008 election turn on a referendum on whether Americans want to continue paying for the indefinite occupation of Iraq, and more so, whether we will start new Americans wars -- i.e., whether they want to have the same neoconservative extremists who got us into Iraq continue to dominate America's foreign policy, as they will under President McCain. McCain's supposed great strong suit is actually his greatest vulnerability, if Democrats are willing to make that case.

But what has characterized establishment Democrats for the last eight years, at least, is an unwillingness to challenge Republicans on national security. Ever since the 2002 AUMF vote, their "strategy" has been to cede national security to the Republicans by trying defensively to insist that there are few differences between the parties ("we're strong, too") -- all in the hope of shifting the political debate to issues they perceive are politically more advantageous, such as domestic and economic issues. That's why there has been so little contrast between the two parties on foreign policy and national security issues -- because most Democrats believe that the wisest course of action is to become replicas of Republicans on national security policy as a means of eliminating those issues from consideration. The "strategy" has been as ineffective as it has been craven.

Contrary to the media's narrative, John McCain is a huge, juicy target for making the case that Republican warmongering has been, and will continue to be, a complete disaster for the U.S. The central question, though, is whether the Democratic candidate will cede this ground by attempting to copy McCain and argue that they are "tough," too -- or whether they will draw a real contrast by arguing that McCain's insatiable craving for war is anything but "tough."

Top Clinton aide Terry McAuliffe was on MSNBC this week with Chris Matthews and was asked directly whether McCain was too much of a "hawk" on national security -- meaning: is McCain a dangerous warmonger? McAuliffe's answer is a textbook illustration of exactly the Democratic cowardice that has been so destructive both to the country and their own political interests over the last eight years (video is here):

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you again about what you're facing now, John McCain -- he's even joked about bombing Iran. I know it was a joke -- let's not overplay it -- but he's certainly a very strong hawk. Is he too hawkish for the American people as our next president?

MCAULIFFE: Well, listen it's going to be quite a debate as we head into the fall. I think Sen. McCain's biggest problems are going to be dealing with the issues on the economy. That is not considered his strong suit. It is considered the strong suit for Hillary, as you know -- on the housing crisis, she's been the first one to get out in front on that, called for moratorium on home foreclosures, called for a freeze on interest rates for the next five years, she's been dealing with the credit crisis. So I think as it relates to Sen. McCain, he knows that he can't really deal with these economic issues -- he's been all over the map -- supporting the Bush tax cuts, against the Bush tax cuts. Hillary has been very consistent out there on these economic issues.

So he's going to try, I think, Chris, to continue to show that he's the most hawkish, he will be the toughest on national security -- that's going to be their fall campaign. As you know, they did it to us in 2004 with the Swift Boating of Sen. Kerry. They're going to do that same type of campaign again this time. They're not going to Swift Boat Hillary Clinton. They have no ability to do that. We're going to run a strong campaign because we know we're out there fighting for millions of Americans who want health care, want their homes to be preserved, and want to keep us safe.

If the Democrats want a blueprint for a sure losing strategy, they need look no further than McAuliffe's answer. He was asked expressly whether McCain is too much of a hawk -- whether his foreign policy views are dangerously war-loving -- and although he gave a long, rambling answer, McAuliffe never once dared to criticize McCain on national security -- not one word of criticism. Instead, he ignored the issue, immediately switched the topic to the economy, accepted the premise that McCain was "tough" and formidable on foreign policy, and then argued that Hillary was just as "tough" and would not, therefore, be vulnerable to attack. In other words: Hillary and McCain are the same on national security -- equally "tough" -- therefore that can be ignored and the focus should be on domestic issues.

That is the same failed strategy that Democrats have been pursuing with complete futility for the last eight years. In 2002, they became convinced by their vapid, craven "strategists" that if they voted for the war in Iraq, it would take national security off the table and enable the midterm elections to be decided by domestic issues. In 2004, they decided that they would reject a candidate who provided too much of a contrast on national security (Howard Dean) in favor of one who, having supported the war and with a record of combat, would neutralize national security as an election issue.

And ever since, they have continuously run away from any opportunity to create a clear contrast with the GOP on national security issues, most notably refusing to stop the war in Iraq, failing to impede radical measures such as the Military Commissions Act, and -- as the lead Editorial in the NYT this morning angrily points out -- they are now not only capitulating to, but actually leading (in the form of their Intelligence Committee Chair, Jay Rockefeller), the Bush/Cheney crusade to legalize warrantless eavesdropping and institutionalize lawlessness through telecom amnesty.

Notably, the one time they actually allowed a contrast to be created on national security -- in the run-up to the 2006 midterm election, when they were perceived to be the anti-war party and the GOP was perceived to be tied to Iraq -- they won a decisive victory. When they seek to remove national security as an issue by copying Republicans, they lose.

The personality cult that is going to be created around the Great and Honorable Warrior, John McCain, is going to be unlike anything seen since the transformation of George W. Bush into Napoleon on Mission Accomplished Day. Democrats are never going to "out-hawk" John McCain, and if they endorse the premise that a willingness to wage war is the hallmark of American "toughness" and security -- as McAuliffe did -- then they are certain to lose.

It is long past time for America to have the debate over whether our willingness to fight one unnecessary war after the next -- more than any other country in the world -- and to see war as a central method for dealing with other countries, is smart or "tough" or conducive to being "safe." The last thing the country needs -- and the last thing Democrats should want -- is a Democratic candidate whose strategy is to accept the GOP foreign policy premises and then make themselves as much as possible like Joe Lieberman, Bill Kristol and John McCain.

The Democrats' greatest failure over the last eight years -- both political and substantive -- has been a refusal to offer any contrast to Republican warmongering and fearmongering in the national security realm. With the Republicans about to nominate one of the country's most unhinged warlovers, that cowardly strategy is more dangerous, and more self-destructive, than ever before. In general, television appearances by Terry McAuliffe are one of Barack Obama's greatest political assets -- it takes at least 24 hours to begin expunging the sour aftertaste -- but this specific answer by McAuliffe is reflective of exactly what Democrats should want most to reject.

UPDATE: Matt Welch, author of McCain: The Myth of a Maverick, gave a speech last month (h/t Andrew Sullivan) in which he explained that McCain's "whole career, his life, his training, his family background has been to be a member of . . . the Imperial Class"; that McCain is motivated by an "inspiring trust of America's governance of the world"; and that "he would be the most imperial-oriented President, most militaristic President, since Teddy Roosevelt, at least."

For that reason, it's difficult -- really impossible -- to envision a Democratic candidate defeating John McCain without aggressively making the case that that sort of wild militarism and imperialism is destructive to America's future and to both its military and economic security. If the GOP's core foreign policy premises are accepted -- if the Democratic candidate is going to tacitly endorse the principle that American security is preserved by aggressive militarism -- then why wouldn't that lead to the conclusion that the most militaristic candidate of all, John McCain, is the superior choice?