Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 30, 2011

MCCAIN EYES 'THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY'.... As I mentioned last week, I'm inclined to retire my ongoing count of John McCain's Sunday show appearances. I suspect folks get the point -- Sunday show bookers continue to be obsessed with McCain, and they shouldn't be.

And yet, there was the Arizona Republican on television this morning, making his 28th Sunday show appearance in just two years. This time, it was on CNN, where McCain shared his thoughts on the recent events in Egypt, and argued he'd like to see President Obama "get a little bit more out ahead" of developments.

President Barack Obama's Friday night statement responding to the protests in the Egyptian streets was "good," McCain said, but that the United States needs to work harder to be "on the right side of history."

"The past performance of this administration hasn't been great," McCain said, noting that they cut off some money for "democratization."

"Every time we've got on the right side of history," he said, "it's usually been okay."

So, "the right side of history" is the appropriate place to be. Got it. It certainly makes sense to avoid the "wrong side of history."

The trick, of course, is having the wisdom and good judgment to know the difference. With McCain, it's not quite clear what this policy might be. He warned of a "Tiananmen Square in Cairo," but McCain also applauded the fact that Egyptian military and its tanks are "in control."

McCain also sided with neither Mubarak nor the protestors, but suggested Mubarak should remain in charge until some future transition.

I can appreciate how extremely complex the foreign policy dynamic is here, and the scarcity of unambiguous answers. The problem, though, is that McCain continues to have media credibility on international affairs, but there's just no depth of thought.

The other night I watched "The Rachel Maddow Show," and saw informative interviews with chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, the University of Maryland's Shibley Telhami, the New America Foundation's Steve Clemons, the Center for American Progress' Brian Katulis, and Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin. Watching the interviews as someone who isn't even close to being an expert on Egypt, I felt like I learned a great deal over the course of the hour.

Any and all of them would have made worthwhile guests on CNN's "State of the Union." Instead, we see John McCain and notice there's just nothing to learn from the senator, beyond platitudes regarding the "the right side of history."

It's why the Sunday shows keep inviting him back, and why they shouldn't.

Steve Benen 11:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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We are all Georg...er, Egyptians now.

Posted by: Jeff In Ohio on January 30, 2011 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, but, the senator does one heck of a Professor Irwin Corey !

Posted by: DAY on January 30, 2011 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Sunday morning is brain-dead.

Posted by: SqueakyRat on January 30, 2011 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Missed that interview, oh darn...

On "This Week", mainly fears it will turn into the
Gaza strip. Maybe Iran in the '70's....

How about discussing what it is, their "Fall of the Berlin Wall". Oppressive regimes, need to open up a bit for development (or turn into North Korea), but development not fast enough or there's too much corruption to help the masses so regimes overturned. Extremism not required to do this. So it will be messy, a bit of a roller coaster ride, but ultimately will work out better for all in most places, especially in larger countries. Our policies should help with good gov't-not build their nations for them, but help supply resources until they are on their own feet--as requested.

Yes, simple and naive, and almost as good as "we need to be on the right side of history".

Posted by: golack on January 30, 2011 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

I look at the guest selection across all the Sunday morning blabosphere and it it is "Meet The Village". Insiders Regurgitating talking points to wealthy pundit insiders who lob softball questions. See we filled the public service portion ... now let us get back to selling shit.

Posted by: John R on January 30, 2011 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

The comparison of McCain on CNN and the roster of Maddow's guests makes the point very well. This is why I can tune in MSNBC by pressing the 3-digit code, but I have absolutely no clue how to find CNN.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on January 30, 2011 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Why Sunday shows keep me from turning on the tube and dislocating any bodily orifices.

Posted by: lou on January 30, 2011 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

"Yes, but, the senator does one heck of a Professor Irwin Corey !
Posted by: DAY on January 30, 2011 at 11:31 AM"

Spot on!!!

Posted by: Schtick on January 30, 2011 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

The difference between these shows and Maddow's show is that she knows something about the subjects she asks of her guests, and is willing to learn more. The majority of the other 'hosts' don't want to have to think about or learn about the subjects. They are just show-pieces.

Posted by: roughdraft on January 30, 2011 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

We can afford to be 'on the right side of history' as long as we insist on a separation of church and state.

Posted by: SW on January 30, 2011 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Wait. I thought we were supposed to cut foreign aid and keep our money to ourselves...but they criticize Obama for reducing foreign aid. Day is night, black is white. We are at peace with Oceania.

Posted by: k l m on January 30, 2011 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

This is why I no longer watch the Sunday shows. Thanks for doing it for us so we don't have to!

Posted by: atlliberal on January 30, 2011 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

I'm a little surprised that McCain didn't criticize Obama for not calling up Mubarak and telling him to 'cut the crap.' I guess his meds must be working this morning. Or maybe that's what he meant by "getting out ahead" of this thing.

I thought it was clear back in 2008 that most of the nation didn't want to hear from John McCain about how to handle international crisis moments.

Posted by: biggerbox on January 30, 2011 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to be another piece of evidence that "News" talk shows have become ever more entertainmentized.

Posted by: TK on January 30, 2011 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

forgot before to give kudo's to Maddow before--real people, real discussions, and on the web...

Anne Applebaum over at Slate has nice take on this too (ok, she mentioned Berlin Wall too) :

Posted by: golack on January 30, 2011 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

And of course bitterly supporting the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq and DADT are excellent examples of striving to be "on the right side of history."

Posted by: 400metres on January 30, 2011 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

AND, it's why people should turn off the Sunday shows and read or watch more programs that offer actual information for consideration. Perhaps it's time for a SCARAH tweet on how SHE would be handling this as prez...surely SHE knows the "right side of history" or will just make on up!!!

Posted by: Dancer on January 30, 2011 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

You might add McConnell to the list of ubiquitous Republican guests on the Sunday talk shows. There he was with Gregory on MTP. What's the count of his appearances vs. Harry Reid. Not that I'd be all that interested in what Reid says either, but...

And Harold Ford made another appearance on MTP. Why?

Posted by: registeredguest on January 30, 2011 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

So... John McCain criticizes the President for not taking a more definite stand on the protests in Egypt. Then he fails to take a definite stand on the protests in Egypt.

Why does anyone at all pay attention to this idiot.

Posted by: tanstaafl on January 30, 2011 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

McCain is what Georgetown University professor and historian Derek Leebraert referred to as a classic "emergency man" (like Rumsfeld and Cheney) in his wonderful analysis of U.S. foreign policy disasters in a recent book, "Magic and Mayhem". Emergency men feel they must act immediately and decisely, without any regard to the facts, the history of a region, the broader context, or any thoughtful discussion of possible downstream consequences. McCain should put away his Napoleon hat and take a week off from TV to read this book before he runs us into another ditch.

Posted by: max on January 30, 2011 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Mr.McCain really never had much principled in depth analytical skill tobegin with! What he did possess, was the uncanny ability to look at almost every situation and make honest decisions regardless of any set ideaology. Ever since his failed campaign, he really has become an antiquated bore!

Posted by: Stan on January 30, 2011 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

The truth is at this point there is not a lot the U.S. can do to influence events in Egypt. Our ability to make things worse is definitely greater than our ability to make things better. Why not let the Egyptians handle the Egyptian revolution?

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on January 30, 2011 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, longevity is an obvious trait of his mother.. Let's hope it skips a generation and, quickly, please! From hero to fool in 6 seconds! Again, why are former military personnel automatically perceived to be adept at legislative process? Sure, you occasionally get somebody intelligent and sane but I personally would like to see this idea fade away. It is a false assumption wherein proof is provided nearly daily by the mad-hattery this particular individual.

Posted by: Trollop on January 30, 2011 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

J. Frank for the win! This is not about the United States at all! The US megalomania is stiflingly stupid.

Posted by: Trollop on January 30, 2011 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

I would really love to know what is on the minds of the heavy-hitters who supported McCain - not the PURE SELF-INTEREST CROWD - but those who are simply lifelong Repubs, think of what might have happened if McCain and the "0.5-term GOVERNOR" had won.

I'd guess they are not "after action report" introspection types, even the best of 'em.

Posted by: SteveADor on January 30, 2011 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

"It's why the Sunday shows keep inviting him back, and why they shouldn't."

No, it is why you shouldn't waste time on those Sunday puppet shows, and you should just watch shows like Rachel Maddow's, and learn something from the teevee for a change.

Posted by: labradog on January 30, 2011 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry to disagree, J Frank, but McCain has been an intellectually dishonest impediment to good government since long before 2008 confirmed his stupidity.

Posted by: labradog on January 30, 2011 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

@Trollop: but...but...but...American exceptionalism means we can tell everyone how to be a democracy!!

Posted by: PJ on January 30, 2011 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

@SteveADor...I love it!

0.5-term Governor!

Let's all stop calling her Sarah and start calling her .5 The connotation of half-term governor AND half-wit!

Posted by: PJ on January 30, 2011 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK



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