Brooks, Broder praised McCain's rebuke of Bush-style unilateralism, but didn't mention McCain's past comments attacking allies who opposed Iraq war

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

The New York Times' David Brooks asserted that Sen. John McCain's March 26 foreign policy speech "was so important because he broke with Bush on several ways" and described one of those ways as, "Should the U.S. go it alone on certain issues? He said no, we are -- we need a strong America, but in the community of nations. And he detailed that." Similarly, The Washington Post's David Broder wrote that McCain "outlin[ed] a vastly different approach from President Bush's" in the speech, in part by offering a "repudiation of unilateralism." Yet neither Brooks nor Broder accounted for any of the statements McCain made during the run-up to the Iraq war about France, Germany, and Belgium, which revealed a very different attitude to U.S. allies.

On the March 30 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, New York Times columnist David Brooks asserted that Sen. John McCain's March 26 foreign policy speech "was so important because he broke with [President] Bush on several ways" and described one of those ways as, "Should the U.S. go it alone on certain issues? He said no, we are -- we need a strong America, but in the community of nations. And he detailed that." Similarly, David Broder wrote in his March 30 Washington Post column that McCain "outlin[ed] a vastly different approach from President Bush's" in the speech, in part by offering a "repudiation of unilateralism." Yet neither Brooks nor Broder accounted for any of the statements McCain made during the run-up to the Iraq war about France, Germany, and Belgium -- statements that revealed a very different attitude toward U.S. allies than the approach that McCain advocated in the March 26 speech. Meet the Press host Tim Russert also failed to mention these statements in response to Brooks' assertion.

In his March 26 foreign policy address, McCain said: "We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies. When we believe international action is necessary, whether military, economic, or diplomatic, we will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we, in return, must be willing to be persuaded by them." Yet, in a February 16, 2003, appearance on CBS' Face the Nation, McCain asserted that the French "remind me of an aging movie actress in the 1940s who's still trying to dine out on her looks, but doesn't have the face for it." In a February 13, 2003, article, The New York Times reported that McCain said: "The Lord said the poor will always be with us, and the French will be with us too. ... This is part of a continuing French practice of throwing sand in the gears of the Atlantic alliance." In a February 10, 2003, interview on CNN's Inside Politics, McCain asserted that then-German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's opposition to the invasion was a case of him "us[ing] an anti-American card to get reelected." McCain continued:

McCAIN: And what I say is both the French and Germans and Belgians have vetoed, for the first time in history of the alliance, a planning for the emplacement of defensive weaponry in Turkey. I mean, that is unheard of. It's so far over the line that we've never seen anything like it. They've made clear their intentions to use whatever means to block our military action in Iraq no matter what we do. So they have to be, I think, treated for what it is, a -- an election ploy on the part of the German leader. And in the case of French, simply kind of classic French misbehavior.

Media Matters for America has documented more of McCain's 2003 statements about European allies who opposed the Iraq war here.

From the March 30 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:

RUSSERT: You wrote a column the other day, David, saying that if you read John McCain's foreign policy speech of last week closely, in your mind it's not a Bush third term, and it's going to be difficult to portray him as that. But what about Iraq and the events of the last few days? Doesn't that make it difficult for John McCain?

BROOKS: Not necessarily. It depends how the events shake out. Remember, this is not like all the other insurgency fighting. This is the Maliki government going after the insurgents. If they win, if they actually establish a monopoly of force in Iraq, make it a more normal country, that'll be good for McCain. But I think the McCain issue, first - it's about character and standing up for his belief in the dark time. That matters. But the second thing, that speech was so important because he broke with Bush on several ways. The first was, is our entire foreign policy about the war on terror? McCain said no. Should the U.S. go it alone on certain issues? He said no, we are -- we need a strong America, but in the community of nations. And he detailed that. So it was a very supple and dramatic speech.

RUSSERT: Take 20 seconds, define the McCain versus the Democratic race this fall.

PETER BEINART (Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow): That the -- McCain race will be Iraq, and national security more generally. It will be to try to make this another 9-11 presidential election, say who has the experience. For the Democrats, it will be, "On the biggest foreign policy issue of our time, John McCain was wrong, and on the economy, he offers more of the same. We represent change."

From Broder's March 30 Washington Post column:

In an equally significant address to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, McCain, the certain Republican nominee, refused to back off his support for remaining in Iraq but put that decision in a broader context of American foreign policy, outlining a vastly different approach from President Bush's and one that might heal the wounds left here at home and abroad by the past seven years.

Like Obama's address, this McCain speech is worthy of careful study and analysis. It began with a note that only a warrior such as McCain could choose -- a declaration by the son and grandson of combat veterans and the survivor of a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp that "I detest war" as only a man who has experienced its horrors can do. "Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the merciless reality of war," he said, in rejecting the caricature of his own belligerence and explaining why he emphasizes diplomacy as the principal tool in a presidential arsenal and says that scholarships will be more important than smart bombs in winning the war on terrorism.

In a world "where power of all kinds is more widely and evenly distributed, the United States cannot lead by virtue of its power alone," McCain said in an implicit rebuke to the mind-set of the current White House. "We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies. When we believe international action is necessary, whether military, economic or diplomatic, we will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we, in return, must be willing to be persuaded by them."

That repudiation of unilateralism was just the first of many efforts to distinguish McCain's approach from Bush's. "America must be a model citizen if we want others to look to us as a model," he said. "We can't torture or treat inhumanely suspected terrorists we have captured. I believe we should close Guantanamo and work with our allies to forge a new international understanding on the disposition of dangerous detainees under our control."

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post, NBC
Person
David Broder, David Brooks
Show/Publication
Meet the Press
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John McCain, 2008 Elections
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