President George W. Bush pulled the rug out from underneath John McCain this week . . . twice. The result is that Barack Obama has seized the foreign policy momentum in the campaign.
Here is how this happened: G.W. Bush had two pillars of his foreign policy and John McCain adopted these and adhered to them as if they were the Holy Grail. 1. We will not negotiate with Iran until and unless they cease trying to build nuclear weapons. 2. There cannot be any talk of timelines or deadlines or any fixed schedule of US troop withdrawal from Iraq.
In the course of the past few days, the Bush White House totally reversed course on both!
They sent the under secretary of state, William Burns, to join the ongoing talks the EU was having with Iran. This sudden change of policy (granted, secretary Burns was instructed to listen and not to say anything) has sent shock waves throughout the foreign policy community. (At meetings like this there is much off-the-record conversation in hallways and back-rooms; this is where real breakthroughs happen and where real communication takes place. Undoubtedly Burns had private face-to-face talks with Iran.) It is viewed as a total reversal by a lame-duck Bush White House which is now trying to patch up a badly damaged legacy.
Obama has for over a year advocated a dialogue with Tehran.
On the heels of this shocker came another: the Bush White House again reversing itself and agreeing to something called time horizons with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Let’s face it, these time horizons are the very same timelines that Bush and McCain have been blasting for years.
Bush is now on the same page as Obama who, for years, has advocated a timetable of withdrawal.
Of course in doing so the Bush White House has actually joined with Obama to isolate McCain — out on a precarious foreign policy limb.
A noted GOP strategist e-mailed on Monday that “Obama has check-mated McCain so badly that the GOP Convention should drop McCain and pick another nominee.”
Indeed, this Obama trip has been a a raging PR success for Obama. And a desperate McCain has been forced to flail about in an effort to get coverage: He journeyed to Kennebunkport to see former President Bush, attended a N.Y. Yankees game with Rudy Giuliani and leaked out a deliberately false story that he was going to pick his running mate this weekend. Oh, he also went to New Hampshire and was greeted by one reporter and one photographer.
McCain’s campaign has no theme to it. Just as he is all over the place on all issues, his campaign has no consistency.
Where is John McCain’s vision about what he want to do for the United States? Why hasn’t he communicated a coherent philosophy about the role of government in our collective future? What exactly would be the purpose of a McCain presidency?
McCain and his (ever-changing) staff need to hunker down and figure all of this out — and fast. They are losing traction to a surging Obama, who has the media eating out of his hand.
It used to be McCain who had that compliant media; now they are ignoring him.
Message to John McCain who used to revel in cozying up to the liberal media and dumping on conservatives: If you live by the sword, you die by that sword.
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