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McCain Is Winning Back His Base

Insofar as there’s any attempt to cover actual policy, it concerns Senator McCain’s stance on Libya, and his approach to foreign interventions generally. Thus the failure to actually interrogate McCain’s position with any kind of depth or sophistication is the article’s most disappointing failure, and the aspect that most vexed me. ~Conor Friedersdorf

I can understand Conor’s frustration with the Kurtz piece he’s criticizing. Kurtz takes McCain’s such meaningless utterances as “I don’t think he [Obama] feels strongly about American exceptionalism” as if they were something other than rehashed talking points. This is supposed to be the core of McCain’s serious critique of Obama’s leadership on Libya, which is the issue around which Kurtz organizes the entire story, and this is what he has to show for it.

Kurtz goes on:

McCain is taking some serious shots: he says Gaddafi would be gone had Obama started the bombing sooner, and that the president should never have relinquished control of the mission to NATO.

Yes, McCain says these things, but these are not “serious” shots. They are the definition of pot shots. He takes whatever Obama has done, and said, “Nope, shouldn’t have done that.” This is Gingrichism with a war record to back it up. Essentially, McCain is saying, “Obama should be more like me!” This drives home that McCain is not a serious when it comes to foreign policy decisions. His impulse is always to intervene, escalate, or throw the U.S. into a fight where it has no business. Did Kurtz ask how McCain knows that Gaddafi would have crumbled had the bombing started sooner? Evidently not. Did McCain volunteer how he knows this? No. He just knows that an even hastier resort to military action would have been successful, because he is confident that this is always the right answer.

Kurtz doesn’t just coddle McCain. Kurtz is busily deceiving the public on McCain’s behalf:

McCain, who insists on visiting Iraq and Afghanistan twice a year, often favors a muscular approach to projecting U.S. military power but is wary of entanglements with no exit strategy [bold mine-DL].

This is just obviously false. Conor picks up on part of this, but there is more that needs to be said. During the 1999 war in Kosovo, McCain was among the first to call for threatening to invade Yugoslavia with ground forces. He had no exit strategy. Indeed, American soldiers are still in Kosovo. He supported the invasion of Iraq from the moment the Bush administration started considering it, where there was no real exit strategy. In 2008, he declared that we are all Georgians, and gave the impression that if it had been up to him the U.S. would have lent some kind of direct support to Georgia during its war with Russia. On Libya, he wanted a no-fly zone almost immediately, and he has been outspoken in his desire to arm the rebels before anyone had a clue who they were.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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