Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 20, 2011

HOW QUICKLY HE FORGETS.... I really have retired my ongoing count of John McCain's Sunday show appearances. I'm sure folks have gotten the point -- Sunday show bookers continue to be obsessed with McCain, and they shouldn't be.

With that in mind, I won't mention that the senator has made five Sunday show appearances over the last six weeks, on top of the near-constant appearances over the last two years. And I also won't mention how ridiculous this is. Wouldn't dream of it.

I will, however, mention that it was interesting to hear McCain, who's demanded a military confrontation with Libya's Moammar Qadhafi, complain this morning that President Obama didn't give the senator what he wanted quickly enough.

Earlier action, the senator said on CNN's "State of the Union," would have been more effective in weakening the grip of the controversial leader, who's deployed his forces against rebelling civilians.

"He waited too long, there is no doubt in my mind about it," McCain said of the president. "But now, it is what it is. And we need, now, to support him and the efforts that our military are going to make. And I regret that it didn't -- we didn't act much more quickly, and we could have."

This may be one of the more amusing McCain quotes in a while. To paraphrase, "We should all support the president at this important time, but first I'd like to whine just a little more about the timing on his efforts."

The often-confused senator went on to tell CNN "a no-fly zone is not enough," and that McCain wants an even more expansive U.S. military assault against Libya. Try not to be surprised.

As a substantive matter, McCain, whose track record of consistent and striking failures leaves him with no meaningful credibility, is complaining about the only part of this military effort that's actually reassuring -- the methodical steps the administration took to participate in a legitimate international coalition. The senator may not care about such niceties, but "waiting" made it possible for the Arab League and the United Nations to endorse the very actions McCain wanted to see.

But it's also worth noting the larger political context. It's easy to forget, but during the Bush era, Republicans, including McCain, repeated certain talking points over and over again: there's one Commander in Chief and one Secretary of Defense, not 535. When the president orders U.S. troops to engage a foreign foe, it's not the job of politicians on Capitol Hill to run to the cameras to second guess every White House decision. Indeed, questioning the national security judgment of the president during a war necessarily emboldens our enemies and needlessly divides the country during a delicate time.

At least, that's what we were told during the previous administration, when the very notion of dissent during military engagement was enough to have one's patriotism called into question.

In this case, U.S. forces started using force not quite 24 hours ago, and McCain is already telling a national (and international) television audience that he's unhappy with the particulars.

For the record, I have no problem whatsoever with McCain and others raising questions about the administration's policy, which obviously deserves intense scrutiny and debate. We're no longer hearing the talking points from the Bush era, and that's a healthy development, not only for the quality of the discourse, but for the idea of dissent itself.

Given the source this morning, however, it's worth noting that if we were playing by 2003 rules, and the senator were a Democrat, we'd spend the next several months asking "which side" McCain is on.

And as long as we're on the subject, I'm reminded of a Frank Rich column from a while back, noting McCain's record of being consistently wrong about what's alleged to be his signature issue.

To appreciate this crowd's spotless record of failure, consider its noisiest standard-bearer, John McCain. He made every wrong judgment call that could be made after 9/11. It's not just that he echoed the Bush administration's constant innuendos that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaeda's attack on America. Or that he hyped the faulty W.M.D. evidence to the hysterical extreme of fingering Iraq for the anthrax attacks in Washington. Or that he promised we would win the Iraq war "easily." Or that he predicted that the Sunnis and the Shiites would "probably get along" in post-Saddam Iraq because there was "not a history of clashes" between them.

What's more mortifying still is that McCain was just as wrong about Afghanistan and Pakistan. He routinely minimized or dismissed the growing threats in both countries over the past six years, lest they draw American resources away from his pet crusade in Iraq.

Two years after 9/11 he was claiming that we could "in the long term" somehow "muddle through" in Afghanistan. (He now has the chutzpah to accuse President Obama of wanting to "muddle through" there.) Even after the insurgency accelerated in Afghanistan in 2005, McCain was still bragging about the "remarkable success" of that prematurely abandoned war. In 2007, some 15 months after the Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf signed a phony "truce" ceding territory on the Afghanistan border to terrorists, McCain gave Musharraf a thumb's up. As a presidential candidate in the summer of 2008, McCain cared so little about Afghanistan it didn't even merit a mention among the national security planks on his campaign Web site.

He takes no responsibility for any of this. Asked by Katie Couric last week about our failures in Afghanistan, McCain spoke as if he were an innocent bystander: "I think the reason why we didn't do a better job on Afghanistan is our attention -- either rightly or wrongly -- was on Iraq." As Tonto says to the Lone Ranger, "What do you mean 'we,' white man?"

Along with his tribunes in Congress and the punditocracy, Wrong-Way McCain still presumes to give America its marching orders. With his Senate brethren in the Three Amigos, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, he took to The Wall Street Journal's op-ed page to assert that "we have no choice" but to go all-in on Afghanistan -- rightly or wrongly, presumably -- just as we had in Iraq. Why? "The U.S. walked away from Afghanistan once before, following the Soviet collapse," they wrote. "The result was 9/11. We must not make that mistake again."

This shameless argument assumes -- perhaps correctly -- that no one in this country remembers anything.

That was in September 2009, and yet here we are, with Wrong-Way McCain still confident enough in his comically flawed judgment to keep giving America its marching orders.

The fact that anyone takes him seriously at all reflects widespread amnesia.

Steve Benen 11:55 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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Comments

But Steve, in one important sense McCain continues to do us a huge favor.

By continually speaking out loudly and forcefully for failed policies, getting himself on the TV to make it clear that he would have us fighting more wars and going deeper in debt, he has shown us what an unmitigated DISASTER it would have been had he won the election.

Plus, also, Palin, too.

Posted by: BGinCHI on March 20, 2011 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

You know how “Meet the Press” may as well be called “Same Ol’ Guests?” Well, I had an idea:

Get rid of Gregory and the desk.
Put in a comfortable old sofa big enough to fit the lard asses of Nutz Gingrich, Johnny McSame, and Joe Leibers-himself, then put the host, Pat Buchanan, in an armchair to their left, give them each a beer to drink, and call it “All in the Family!”

They can then all sit there and bitch about the schvartze in the White House, get out a Ouija board and channel David Broder to remind Obama that this is a center-right nation and that he needs to get rid of Social Security in a bipartisan manner, and get tough on some Muslim nation (the country can vary from week to week - for some variety).

To lighten things up once in awhile, Buchanan can tell some old Gestapo interrogation jokes - in the original German.

Towards the end of the show, all three guests and the host get a minute each to tell everyone what they’d do if they were President.
Now, THAT, I might watch!

Nah, on second though, that’s what we have now with Gregory and these same guests - just without the sofa, armchair and beer.

Oh well, I thought I might have had something there…

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 20, 2011 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Imagine if just one of those Sunday news shows confronted McCain with his self-righteous platitudes from the Bush era about how we have to unite around the commander-in-chief.

Of course, it'll never happen...

Posted by: Chris S. on March 20, 2011 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Under RepuG useage, Commander in Chief only applies to RepuG Presidents.

Appears Double Talk wanted the US to bypass the UN. However, from a coalition standpoint, there are Canadian and Brit planes, subs and ships, French war planes, Italian AF Bases being used, plus, Denmark is sending a supply of open faced sandwiches and Tuborg.

BTW, the last time Adm. Locklear III made the news was when he was disrupting whales and dolphins off the coast of CA. From mammals to Colonel Q or K.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 20, 2011 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

As always in this great republic, image wins out over reality. McCain has the same relation to a genuine foreign relations expert as John Wayne had to a genuine hero.

Posted by: davidp on March 20, 2011 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

IOKIYAR.

Every time this senile old failure opens his mouth, I think about how he proves the old saying: the first generation makes it, the second generation keeps it, and the third generation loses it.

Posted by: TCinLA on March 20, 2011 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

The often-confused senator went on to tell CNN "a no-fly zone is not enough," and that McCain wants an even more expansive U.S. military assault against Libya....

Okay, Ace, but the House will be required to raise taxes to pay for it this time.

You still game?

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on March 20, 2011 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

HOW QUICKLY HE FORGETS....

It was never important enough to remember. It's not as though McCain has principled integrity. He aims his vitriol at the last opponent who defeated him. It will remain thus until his next defeat, or until he croaks. Whichever comes first.

Posted by: jcricket on March 20, 2011 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

"which side" McCain is on."

Well you guys brought this up, so which side IS McCain on?

I think he's on the Republican side.

Posted by: Mark-NC on March 20, 2011 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

I don't suppose McCain was asked to comment on Palin's remarks in India, she suggested that one reason they lost in the last presidential election was because she was not on the top of the ticket.

Posted by: j on March 20, 2011 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Appears John dearly wants to be launched from a carrier in the Mediterranean so he can use his ejection seat, once again. He excelled, at one time, at crashes and he, by gum, can still pull it off.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 20, 2011 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

first time in a while that Benen made me snort.
You've got his number.

Posted by: m2 on March 20, 2011 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

he's on the same side every time-the side he thinks will benefit John McCain.

Posted by: sue on March 20, 2011 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly, I'm flabbergasted

...that the US military was actually able to send in planes on this short of notice. Seriously - Obama must have gotten them planning this on the very first day of demonstrations. In TUNISIA.

It generally takes months for the military to do the planning, preparation, and mobilization. After all this, finally ACTING seems to take them a minimum of weeks. Moreover, they tend to drag their feet if a Democrat is the CiC, typically asserting that "it's just impossible." This saves them a lot of work.

Contrary to Ol' Coot McCain, I don't see that any "dithering" was involved. I suspect massive butt-kicking by the President and SoS Gates, to have gotten action so quickly.

Even if they started the plans during the Tunisian demonstrations.

Posted by: zandru on March 20, 2011 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

"We must also crush this League of Arabs, ASAP!"

-President John McCain

Posted by: Trollop on March 20, 2011 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Ultimately the question has to be whether McCain is an inherently dishonest man in the vein of Karl Rove, or a senile old man who doesn't know when he's crapping his pants. Frankly I think McCain has gone past the former and is well into the latter.

Posted by: beb on March 20, 2011 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

If America had wanted to listen to John McCain on foreign policy for all this time, they would have elected him. We didn't.

Can't he just retire and go work as a pundit full-time, so at least I know some of my tax money isn't paying him to make these foolish noises every Sunday.

Posted by: biggerbox on March 20, 2011 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

How does Wolfowitz dare to even show his discredited face on Sunday morning TV ? And shame on ABC for inviting him.


Posted by: Joe Friday on March 20, 2011 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

"We're no longer hearing the talking points from the Bush era, and that's a healthy development..."

Temporary and wholly circumstantial, guaranteed.

The changed circumstance being that it's a GOPer doing the whining about the Dem Prez, which would have been condemned as treasonous under the reversed circumstance during the Bush regime.

(The UNchanged circumstance being that such demonization of political opposition is mainly [not solely, of course] a GOP/con tactic. So Dems AREN'T doing to McCain what the modern GOP would be doing to any Dem making equivalent remarks in the reverse case.)

The moment those roles reverse again, those talking points will be right back. If there's one thing the current GOP has demonstrated, it's that it does not change its spots (unless in the direction of even greater extremism, e.g., teabaggin').

Posted by: oaguabonita on March 20, 2011 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Whatever the immediate benefits of Bigger U.S. Intervention might be, in the long run it's valuable to the Libyan people and their future if they seize control on their own. Libya is one of many semi-fictional states in that region, all of which lack a national identity as robust as those of (say) France or China. The specific path the Libyan people take to self-government, and the perception of that path among their peers in other Arab and Muslim nations, will matter down the road. Intervention should prioritize civilian lives above all, clearly. But I hope that Libyans aren't perceived as being delivered to power by the Pentagon, because that's a lesser victory for them and other oppressed people.

Ironically, a diplomatically measured U.S. military intervention in Libya might lead to the Sweeping Democratic Change Throughout the Muslim World that Perle, Wolfowitz et al were touting ten years ago. Recall that Marx predicted the first Marxist revolution would happen in England, not Tsarist Russia...

Posted by: Jim on March 20, 2011 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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