In the ABC New Hampshire debate, John McCain jeered at Paul, “We’re going to miss you tomorrow night, Ron”. McCain was probably referring the upcoming Fox News Roundtable (read: debate) from which Congressman Ron Paul has been excluded despite that he is polling higher than many of its invitees (14% in New Hampshire). The New Hampshire GOP withdrew from the Fox event in protest, but McCain seems perfectly pleased with Fox’s decision, enough so to mock Ron Paul on national television anyway.
This raises an important question: How can John McCain be so smug and be the frontrunner in New Hampshire? McCain certainly has name recognition and he was the Granite State’s pick for the nomination in 2000. He has also been endorsed by a major New Hampshire newspaper, but I suspect there is another subtlety that pollsters and pundits are missing.
During the CNN coverage of the Iowa Caucuses, I listened to a layman explain his vote for John McCain. “I’m one of those people who want to get out of Iraq immediately”, he said. “I think John McCain is the most credible person to do it…like how it took Nixon to go to China”. It occurred to me that perhaps the GOP base does not want to stay in Iraq after all; they just think McCain is most likely to get us out.
They would be disastrously wrong. In this video, a belligerent McCain insists that the U.S. should maintain a presence in Iraq for the next 100 years. While he hopefully meant this in an emissary capacity, voters should note that the “embassy” looks a lot like a military base and it is bigger than Vatican City. Worse, the U.S. presence cannot switch to diplomatic status until military goals are realized and we cannot even define what those are anymore.
As a former McCain apologist, I am especially troubled with his new foreign policy and I have searched for reasons for his change. A haunting answer occurred to me during the CNN/Youtube debacle. There, McCain responded to Ron Paul’s criticism of the Viet Nam War of all things by defiantly stating, “we never lost a battle in Viet Nam, it was American public opinion forced us to loose that conflict”. Yikes. I didn’t know the virtues of the Viet Nam War were still debatable. This statement is creepy on several levels. First, it misunderstands the nature of guerilla warfare where the point is not to win open, protracted battles, but to wear the enemy down until fighting is no longer cost-effective for him. Have the pro-war Republicans become so proud that they have turned us into the redcoats in the American Revolution? Would McCain make us continue eating bullets until he decides to learn the dynamics of insurgencies? CIA reports say “yes”.
Second, the statement gives me pause about McCain’s motivations. McCain always struck me as a reasonable person, but he changed in the last eights years. Could it be that the Iraq War triggered some unsatisfied convictions about the results of Viet Nam? Are we in this war because McCain cannot bear to admit defeat a second time? Is his sacrifice in Viet Nam going to be a liability?
The sad thing is, McCain admits that he failed the Republican cause. In the same debate, he admitted, “We went to Washington to change Washington, but it changed us.” Ron Paul distinguished himself by saying “I don’t think that applies to me.” Indeed, it does not apply to Paul, who has held to the same core theory of governance that once earned Republican Party widespread respect. He has held to it in spite of hysteria and threats of internal ostracization. You should not get second chances in politics, especially when the stakes are this high. If McCain blew it between 2000 and 2008, then Republicans should look for a candidate who is impervious to groupthink and maintains the libertarian-conservative cause even when it is inconvenient. Since we actually have one running this time, this Republican will be voting for Ron Paul.
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