Monday, March 19, 2007

Now McCain wants to be loved by Old Europe too

Will shutting Gitmo and buying into climate change erase decades of resentment?

I’ve never much cottoned to Arizona senator John McCain. For one thing, he has a bad case of what could be called the Mulroney Disease: wanting to be loved by the media. You saw it in his daily and lengthy “Straight Talk Express” media schmoozes during the 2000 campaign. You see it every two months or so when he appears on the Leno or Letterman shows, sweating neediness, as most politicians do in those venues (the only politician I’ve ever seen on Leno or Letterman who didn’t reek of wanting to be loved was George W. Bush, in his Letterman appearance during the 2000 campaign).

For obvious reasons, the Mulroney Disease is dangerous to any politician hoping to be elected, and fatal to elected officials who want to achieve anything that lasts. The media are often poor proxies for the public, and their tastes in politicians and policies are as unreliable as Britney Spears’ lingerie drawer.

But, as if dancing to the whims and fancies of the media weren't frightening enough, McCain says he will make it a top priority to make Europeans love Americans too. From the Telegraph:

In a sign that he wants to distance himself from the president - to whom he lost in an ugly campaign in 2000 - Sen McCain outlined a series of measures to roll back Bush policies and counter the “ugly American” image.

“I would immediately close Guantanamo Bay, move all the prisoners to Fort Leavenworth (an army base in Kansas) and truly expedite the judicial proceedings in their cases,” he said. “I would reaffirm my commitment to address the issue of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. I know how important this is in Europe in particular.”

John Weaver, Sen McCain’s chief strategist, confirmed his plans for a markedly more conciliatory foreign policy. “The next president will have to work extra hard to unite our friends and divide our foes. Sadly the opposite has occurred in recent years,” he said, as Sen McCain addressed a crowded hall in the farming community of Cedar Falls.

Yikes. Where to begin with this? One of the most frequent talking points among Bush critics is that America “squandered” the sympathy that 9/11 engendered among European and other nations. This conveniently papers over the reality that hatred (or at least condescension) towards America is the default position of many Europeans, especially European media, political and intellectual figures. Charles Krauthammer ably exploded the myth in a November 2003 Time magazine column:

It is pure fiction that this pro-American sentiment was either squandered after Sept. 11 or lost under the Bush Administration. It never existed. Envy for America, resentment of our power, hatred of our success has been a staple for decades, but most particularly since victory in the cold war left us the only superpower.

The world apparently likes the U.S. when it is on its knees. From that the Democrats deduce a foreign policy — remain on our knees, humble and supplicant, and enjoy the applause and “support” of the world.

This is not just degrading. It is a fool’s bargain--3,000 dead for a day’s worth of nice words and a few empty U.N. resolutions. The Democrats would forfeit American freedom of action and initiative in order to get back — what? Another nice French editorial? To be retracted as soon as the U.S. stops playing victim?

Sympathy is fine. But if we “squander” it when we go to war to avenge our dead and prevent the next crop of dead, then to hell with sympathy. The fact is that the world hates us for our wealth, our success, our power. They hate us into incoherence. The Europeans, Ajami astutely observes, disdain us for our excessive religiosity (manifest, they imagine, by evolution being expelled from schools while prayer is ushered back in)--while the Arab world despises us as purveyors of secularism. We cannot win for losing. We are widely reviled as enemies of Islam, yet in the 1990s we engaged three times in combat — in the Persian Gulf and in the Balkans — to rescue Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo, Muslim peoples all. And in the last two cases, there was nothing in it for the U.S.; it was humanitarianism and good international citizenship of the highest order.

The search for logic in anti-Americanism is fruitless. It is in the air the world breathes. Its roots are envy and self-loathing — by peoples who, yearning for modernity but having failed at it, find their one satisfaction in despising modernity’s great exemplar.
On Sept. 11, they gave it a rest for a day. Big deal.
--”To hell with sympathy,” Time, November 9, 2003

My other beef with McCain? Like many long-term senators, he seems to have acquired a chronic case of Stockholm Syndrome. In McCain’s case, sometimes his inability to distinguish friend from enemy is so bad, he ends up carrying water for the Democrats, most notably during the 2004 campaign when he was cajoled by his Senate colleague John Kerry, into calling on President Bush to denounce the Swift Boat campaign.

McCain’s aid and comfort to Kerry layered several levels of absurdity onto one another. First, all of the 527 groups, including and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, were all made possible by McCain’s own campaign finance reform legislation. Second, anti-Bush 527 groups had been kicking the stuffing out of Bush for months – with nary a peep from McCain about their tactics or rhetoric.

Third, by taking Kerry’s side, McCain took the side of someone who, though he had served in Vietnam, testified before Congress upon his return that American soldiers had committed war crimes (I believe that at the very moment Kerry was testifying before Congress, McCain was still a guest of the Hanoi Hilton). Fourth, Kerry’s exploitation of his military record for political gain – which would have been distasteful and classless under any circumstances – was astonishingly craven and cynical, given the younger Kerry’s desire to distance himself as far from his service as possible. Yet bizarrely, McCain lent his authority to Kerry’s case, and hurt his own nominee.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth did use patently false information, to be fair. but otherwise the rest of your points are sound.