The REAL John McCain--The "Bush Doctrine" Is Actually McCain's

by: Paul Rosenberg

Thu Feb 07, 2008 at 08:05


h/t to  PLR in  comments for reminding me of this.

Rather than being a maverick who's close to the middle of the political spectrum, McCain's maverick tendencies often take him to extremes--expecially on issues of war and more war.

The day before Tsunami Tuesday, Democracy Now! interviewed Reason Magazine editor Matt Welch, author of McCain: The Myth of a Maverick.  The whole interview--available here w/transcript--is illuminating and important, but most significant that it highlights how the "Bush Doctrine" of endless war is acutally McCain's doctrine, and that he was running on it in 2000, before Bush crushed him in South Carolina.  Extended quote on the flip, but here's the juiciest part:

MATT WELCH: The basic McCain strategy- you know in 1999 McCain advocated this policy of rogue-state rollback which is basically preemptive war three and a half years before Bush ever thought of it.

AMY GOODMAN: He threatened North Korea with extinction.

MATT WELCH: He threatened North Korea with extinction, and he elucidated this doctrine by which- wherever there is an authoritarian dictator, we support the insurgents. And, if we support the insurgent and the dictator cracks down, then we have to defend the insurgents with US force. And any time we make a threat and someone calls our bluff, we also have to use US force. It is incredibly interventionist militaristic approach towards foreign policy that he has had all along. That's the reason why neoconservatives have flocked to his cause and championed it over the years.

Paul Rosenberg :: The REAL John McCain--The "Bush Doctrine" Is Actually McCain's
Okay, here's the longer quote, so you can see how it's contextualized.  Remember this--McCain was running as an insurgent, playing Star Wars music, with "let's fight everyone" agenda a whole lot more like Darth Vader than who he thought he was.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about his relationship with the president- with George Bush?

MATT WELCH: It's an interesting and tortured one, you know? McCain was- not only was he running against Bush, but he was running against Bush very much as an insurgent in 2000. The Republican establishment had coalesced around Bush, and McCain and his backers- largely who are neoconservatives and surrounded the Weekly Standard Magazine, in particular, Bill Kristol and David Brooks. They were speaking a language of Teddy Roosevelt and third parties, this is an insurgency and maybe the Republican party will get blown up in the process. It was a very kind of high wire and thrilling act, and one reason why a lot of people glommed onto it. They saw that he was standing up and having daily "sister soldier" moments with the right. He was calling Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson agents of intolerance and these kind of things. So he ran this sort of very insurgent campaign, playing star wars music, you know? And George Bush was Darth Vader and McCain was Luke Skywalker. And then Bush croaked him in South Carolina in a pretty vicious campaign. I don't know if it was any more vicious than your standard vicious campaign- but then McCain went and sulked basically for a year and a half.

There was a lot of talk, we forget about it now, but there was a lot of talk in 2001 especially of- is McCain going to defect and go to the Democratic Party? He got very interested in campaign finance, which is largely a democratic initiative. He became much more interested in global warming and regulatory issues, which are more traditionally democratic. And you know there were plenty of articles about both him and the Weekly Standard people and neoconservatives in general in late 2001, before September 11th, saying "Hey look, you know, they're basically going to be democrats this time next year." Well, September 11th changed all that.

The basic McCain strategy- you know in 1999 McCain advocated this policy of rogue-state rollback which is basically preemptive war three and a half years before Bush ever thought of it.

AMY GOODMAN: He threatened North Korea with extinction.

MATT WELCH: He threatened North Korea with extinction, and he elucidated this doctrine by which- wherever there is an authoritarian dictator, we support the insurgents. And, if we support the insurgent and the dictator cracks down, then we have to defend the insurgents with US force. And any time we make a threat and someone calls our bluff, we also have to use US force. It is incredibly interventionist militaristic approach towards foreign policy that he has had all along. That's the reason why neoconservatives have flocked to his cause and championed it over the years.

So, after September 11th, Bush started to embrace those ideas. That kind of policy structure grafted onto Bush and so it was natural that McCain and Bush would become closer over that time. And then- starting around 2004 and 2005, when McCain started eyeing the presidency in 2008, he began this long, slow suck-up to the right, particularly social conservatives, and also to Bush because he wanted to be the sort of front runner of the Republican establishment.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened around this period when, well, John McCain started singing.

MATT WELCH: You know

AMY GOODMAN: We'll go to the song.

MATT WELCH: -Are you playing the song now?

AMY GOODMAN: Yes.

   SEN. JOHN McCAIN: You know that old Beach Boys song "Bomb Iran?" [laughter] "Bomb, bomb, bomb- anyway. [laughter]

AMY GOODMAN: What about that, Matt Welch?

MATT WELCH: That was I believe last February or March or something like that, mid January. Look, this is his idea of humor. He does have a kind of blunt and ribald occasionally awful sense of humor. But it speaks also to his policy ideas. Whenever he talks about Vladimir Putin, who is no friend of mine certainly, but when he talks about him on the campaign trail, he says, "I look into his eyes and I see three letters-K.G.B." He is constantly rattling sabers in the general direction of everybody. Of China, Russia, certainly of North Korea. At any given time, he considers this or that dictator or authoritarian or kind of mean guy to be the transcendent issue that we must focus on this very moment. It is the only sort of lever or- the only sort of grade that he knows to approach the world's problems, which is "identify evil everywhere and get in evil's face".

That's the real McCain folks.  That's the guy that America has got to get to know in the next nine months.


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And don't fotget ... (0.00 / 0)
Bill "William the Bloody" Kristol was originally for McCain in 2000.  He switched to Bush after he won the nomination

Ouch!! (0.00 / 0)
I see you did mention it.  I posted before I read the whole story.

[ Parent ]
Priorities (4.00 / 1)
I thought you wanted to go after flip-flopping first.   :-)

Anyway, I agree this needs to be hit hard, as well as going after McCain's lack of actual character and moderation.  I really like your first sentence as it combines both elements nicely.


I'm Just Making Flippy Floppy (0.00 / 0)
Like all the Talking Heads.

My priority is whatever's on the turntable.  Whatever's in the dance mix.

I mean, who's going to ignore a gift horse like this???

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
McCain (0.00 / 0)
likes to paint himself as the second coming of Teddy Roosevelt, and his I like war philosophy keeps the faith with the cowboy.  He kind of embodies the never-ending war state.  Maybe he should adopt the fugs "Kill for Peace" song as his official campaign ditty.  Let's tie him to Bush and hit the McCain-Bush doctrine for all it's worth.  

A Cheap Knock-Off (0.00 / 0)
TR was a bit of showboat himself, but he wasn't simply a warmonger.  He did get the Nobel Peace Price for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
True Enough (0.00 / 0)
Teddy was a complex character.

[ Parent ]
Right (4.00 / 1)
This is what made TR such a fascinating guy, and why he and Lincoln are the two most interesting Presidents to examine -- they were both capable of admitting and learning from error.

TR was the original swash-buckling imperialist -- and learned from the mistakes of the Spanish-American war to become a diplomat and thinker capable of negotiating a peace between two great world powers. [Similarly, Lincoln truly was late to the idea of ending slavery, but seized the mantle when he saw it was possible and it had to be done to rescue the republic.]


[ Parent ]
And, another thing to point out (4.00 / 1)
is their willingness to look the other way when the dictator is convenient to them, like Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah.

the Dark Side of the Force (4.00 / 1)
Paul, your Star Wars reference reminded me of a Jonathan Chait column last year before McCain's initial collapse, "McCain Goes Over to the Dark Side." The original LA Times piece is offline and I can't find another full version (it ran March 10th), but this passage involving Lindsey Graham, working to assuage conservatives, stands out to me:

'THIS IS NOT Luke Skywalker here," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), discussing his friend and Senate colleague John McCain's second run for the presidency. "This is a totally different campaign."

Graham was looking for a way to reassure his fellow conservatives that they no longer had anything to fear from McCain. His choice of metaphor is one of those windows into the fundamental cultural gap that separates hard-core conservatives from the rest of humanity. To most people, who think of Luke Skywalker as a hero battling an evil and immensely powerful empire, Graham's implication would be seen as an unmitigated insult. In the world of the GOP elite, though, it's a form of praise: No, no, don't worry, McCain's with the empire now.

If anything, he obviously was with them all along when it comes to the Empire-building part, but this campaign has definitely marked Mr. Straight Talk's final embrace of Sith identity and tactics.


McCain the esoteric Straussian (4.00 / 1)
From Brad Reed's article in American Prospect:

Of course, even this bloodthirsty rant pales in comparison to the dorkofascist musings of Jonathan Last, the Weekly Standard editor whose review of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones was a love letter to imperialism. "The deep lesson of Stars Wars is that empire is good," wrote Last, who justified his Empireophelia by arguing that the old Galactic Republic had become "simply too big to be governable," and that the galaxy needed an empire to fill the void. Last acknowledged that the Empire was "sometimes brutal" but that acts of planeocide weren't so bad "when viewed in context." Last also showered praise upon Emperor Palpatine, whom he dubbed "an esoteric Straussian" and "a dictator ... but a relatively benign one, like Pinochet."


[ Parent ]
The Benign Ones Are ALWAYS Our Friends! (0.00 / 0)
Funny how that works.

Remember when Saddam was benign?  And Noriega?

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
How deliciously ironic... (4.00 / 1)
[McCain] elucidated this doctrine by which- wherever there is an authoritarian dictator, we support the insurgents

.. that the voting public will likely hand the job to his opponent because they're following the same doctrine.


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