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John McCain appeared on Meet The Press this morning and spoke about the relationship between the administration and a powerful political figure. No, it wasn't Jerry Falwell, although his comments on the preacher has his former admirers on the left rather annoyed today. McCain told MTP that Bush should isolate Russia and Vladimir Putin by shunning the G-8 meeting in Moscow, advice which Bush declined:
Sen. John McCain said Sunday the United States should respond harshly to Russia’s anti-democratic actions and suggested that President Bush is reconsidering his assessment of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
After meeting Putin for the first time in June 2001, Bush said he had been able to gain “a sense of his soul” and had found Putin to be “very straightforward and trustworthy.”
Recalling Bush’s assessment just months after taking office, McCain said: “Look, we all say things that are stupid. ... I’m sure that the president has re-evaluated his position in light of Putin’s recent actions.”
According to the MS-NBC report, McCain gave a laundry list of reasons to split with Putin and to start pushing for the return of democracy, all of them good but forgetting the most egregious of all. McCain noted Putin's push to repress the free media, bully his own people and especially potential political rivals, and the Russian anchor on any concerted effort to confront Teheran about its nuclear-weapons development. Missing in this indictment is the Russian perfidy of supplying Saddam Hussein with military intelligence prior to and during Operation Iraqi Freedom, operational information that would have put our troops in serious risk had the Iraqis been bright enough to actually use it.
However, McCain is right. Even without the Russian alliance with Saddam -- and that is most definitely what it was -- continued engagement with Putin has gotten us nowhere. Russia tried protecting Saddam, and now they're protecting Iran. Under those circumstances, we owe Putin nothing except a strong message that we have a limit to our patience, and the G-8 lies beyond that limit. It's time to deliver that message.
ADDENDUM: This is the issue that has soured the left on McCain:
Potential presidential candidate John McCain says he longer considers evangelist Jerry Falwell to be one of the "agents of intolerance" that he criticized during a previous White House run.
The Republican senator from Arizona will be the commencement speaker in May at Liberty University, the Lynchburg, Va., institution that Falwell founded in 1971.
"We agreed to disagree on certain issues, and we agreed to move forward," McCain said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
I don't have much to say about Falwell, myself. I've never considered him terribly compelling as a preacher or a politico. Falwell ha never seemed as much of a problem as Pat Robertson, who can always be counted upon to issue a stupid statement on almost any major story. McCain's attack on him earlier seemed outsize and overblown, which complicates his attempt to back away from it now. I'd hardly think that this will be his most difficult climb-down, however, if he hopes to attract the conservative base to his banner in 2008, and I doubt that burying the hatchet with Falwell will get him very far on that goal anyway.Sphere It View blog reactions
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