And McCain forced Obama to debate Russia, Iran, and post-2007 Iraq almost entirely on Republican terms, something that would have been unthinkable as recently as the last election. ~James Antle
I’m not sure why he says this. First of all, McCain didn’t force Obama to do anything. Obama has been quite happy to accommodate himself to the Washington consensus on Russia, Iran and post-2007 Iraq without McCain’s help. More’s the pity, in my view, but Obama reached these positions months or even years ago. There is and was no meaningful difference between establishment Republican and Democratic views on Russia or Iran and in 2004 the Iraq debate was even more on Republican terms than it is this time. Kerry was attempting to cast himself as the more credible candidate to conclude the war in Iraq successfully, but the notion of withdrawal was not even part of the debate. Back in 2004, the great antiwar Obama was insisting on the importance of stabilizing Iraq, so to the extent that Obama held his ground at all on Iraq is an impressive statement of how far public attitudes and the Democratic Party have shifted. Since Kerry’s defeat, antiwar Democrats have become much more forthright and influential with their own party, perceiving in Kerry’s lame “reporting for duty” me-tooism the cause of Bush’s re-election. On Russia, ever since the end of the Cold War Democrats have traditionally been more meddlesome and obnoxious concerning NATO expansion, Balkan interventions, Kosovo and the Caucasus. McCain has managed to outstrip them in his hostility to Russia, but even this is a fairly recent development. KLA thug Hacim Thaci was a guest at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 (which may have helped to push Serbs to vote for Bush and allowed him to win Ohio); Richard Holbrooke continues to be taken seriously for some reason; Biden has been at the forefront of every expansion of NATO since 1996 and seems to love Saakashvili almost as much as McCain does. If there is a Democratic alternative view on Russia and policy in the Balkans and Caucasus, I would be interested to know what it is.
On Iran, even Howard Dean made more belligerent noises about the Iranian nuclear program in 2004, and it has become a minor Democratic hawk talking point that the administration attacked the wrong country when it invaded Iraq. Obama has felt compelled to take a hard line against Iran throughout the campaign. The debate over meeting with leaders of “rogue” states is something of a distraction, since there is no disagreement about ends. In all of these things, McCain offers the impatient, intemperate expression of the same policies that Obama presents with a calm and cool demeanor. One might argue that Obama makes these dangerous policies more palatable by making them seem more sane, but equally one might argue that what has been happening over the last four or eight years is simply the convergence of both parties as they both move toward terrible policies all over the world.