T Nation

McCain Policy Speech

Good summary, with some critique, from McCain-skeptic Matt Welch of Reason magazine:


[Internal links omitted - follow the original link for those]

[i]Question Time With the Republican President Who Will Appoint Democrats and Reject the Unitary Executive

Posted on May 15, 2008, 5:58pm | Matt Welch

John McCain gave an interesting speech this morning dreaming out loud what the world will look like in January 2013, after the first four years of his administration. The headlines from it will mostly (and inacurrately) be about “Troops Home From Iraq by 2013: McCain,” on which more from me here, but there are some more concrete, semi-radical promises of interest in the speech. For instance:

[quote]I will ask Democrats to serve in my administration. My administration will set a new standard for transparency and accountability. I will hold weekly press conferences. I will regularly brief the American people on the progress our policies have made and the setbacks we have encountered. When we make errors, I will confess them readily, and explain what we intend to do to correct them. I will ask Congress to grant me the privilege of coming before both houses to take questions, and address criticism, much the same as the Prime Minister of Great Britain appears regularly before the House of Commons. 

Wowza! While I am a huge fan of Question Time With the Redcoats, I would worry somewhat that the Rolling Fireside Chat Revue would place even more “bull” in the Bully Pulpit, aggrandizing an already inflated office in which (as Gene Healy taught us in this month’s cover story) presidents before Woodrow Wilson thought it a bit too presumptuous to deliver the State of the Union in person.[/quote]

More from McCain today, on that question of executive power:

[quote]The powers of the presidency are rightly checked by the other branches of government, and I will not attempt to acquire powers our founders saw fit to grant Congress. I will exercise my veto if I believe legislation passed by Congress is not in the nation's best interests, but I will not subvert the purpose of legislation I have signed by making statements that indicate I will enforce only the parts of it I like.[/quote]

Besides being a direct (and welcome) rebuke to George W. Bush and the Unitary Executive theory, this also somewhat contradicts McCain’s long track record of supporting a line-item veto, which the Supreme Court ruled in 1998 gave the executive branch powers our founders did not see fit to include in the Constitution. And more relevantly, it would seem to be in contradiction of McCain’s own longstanding belief that presidents have too little power vis-a-vis Congress in the planning of foreign policy and the waging of war. Here are some of his thoughts on that subject, from his 2002 political memoir Worth the Fighting For:

[quote] My disdain of congressional interference in the conduct of the war in Vietnam made all the stronger my natural antipathy to the notion of 535 self-styled secretaries of defense second-guessing and hamstringing the president’s authority in national security matters.


At timies, my despair [about Bill Clinton's feckless foreign policy], and the disdain it provoked, caused me to doubt principles I had held for a lifetime about the president's preeminence over Congress in the conduct of foreign policy and the imperative that American power never retreat in response to an inferior adversary's provocation.


On October 14, 1993, eleven days after the ambush of our rangers in Mogadishu, I offered an amendment on the Senate floor restricting funds for American forces in Somalia to the purpose of their "prompt and orderly withdrawal." [...] [I]t was an encroachment on presidential authorrity and a retreat in the face of aggression from an inferior foe that I would never have contemplated in the past. [...] In hindsight, I wish I had not undertaken so drastic a step.


[Theodore Roosevelt] invented the modern presidency by liberally interpreting the constitutional authority of the office to redress the imbalance of power between the executive and legislative branches that had tilted decisively toward Congress in the half century since the Civil War.[/quote]

McCain ain’t no John Yoo, but he agrees with Dick Cheney that the War Powers Act is unconstitutional, and he won’t lightly brook any shackles on his ability to move troops hither and yon.[/i]

McCain speaking to the NRA:



[i]Senator Obama has said, if elected, he will withdraw Americans from Iraq quickly no matter what the situation on the ground is and no matter what U.S. military commanders advise. But if we withdraw prematurely from Iraq, al Qaeda in Iraq will survive, proclaim victory and continue to provoke sectarian tensions that, while they have been subdued by the success of the surge, still exist, and are ripe for provocation by al Qaeda. Civil war in Iraq could easily descend into genocide, and destabilize the entire region as neighboring powers come to the aid of their favored factions. A reckless and premature withdrawal would be a terrible defeat for our security interests and our values. Iran will view it as a victory, and the biggest state supporter of terrorists, a country with nuclear ambitions and a stated desire to destroy the Sta te of Israel, will see its influence in the Middle East grow significantly.

The consequences of our defeat would threaten us for years, and those who argue for premature withdrawal, as both Senators Obama and Clinton do, are arguing for a course that would eventually draw us into a wider and more difficult war that would entail far greater dangers and sacrifices than we have suffered to date. Thanks to the counterinsurgency instigated by General Petreaus, after four years of terribly costly mistakes, we have a realistic chance to succeed in helping the forces of political reconciliation prevail in Iraq, and the democratically elected Iraqi Government, with a professional and competent Iraqi army, impose its authority throughout the country and defend its borders. We have a realistic chance of denying al Qaeda any sanctuary in Iraq. We have a realistic chance of leaving behind in Iraq a force for stability and peace in the region, and not a cause for a wider and far more dangerous war. I do not argue against withdrawal because I am indifferent to war and the suffering it inflicts on too many American families. I hold my position because I hate war, and I know very well and very personally how grievous its wages are. But I know, too, that we must sometimes pay those wages to avoid paying even higher ones later. I want our soldiers home, too, just as quickly as we can bring them back without risking everything they suffered for, and burdening them with greater sacrifices in the years ahead. That I will not do. I have spent my life in service to my country, and I will never, never, never risk her security for the sake of my own ambitions. I will defend her, and all her freedoms, so help me God. And I ask you to help me in that good cause. Thank you, and God bless you.[/i]

McCain descending into dreamy-time conjecture about a possible future was probably a political mistake.

As I understand the situation, it is we do not want Iran to become too powerful because they are a big threat to Israel. If it were not for their threat, I would say Iran would keep Al Qaeda in check. All we need is to involve Iran in the world like we are now doing with China. I believe it would take a change in foreign policy

Welcome back Vroom

Interesting article in NYT Magazine detailing how McCain foreign policy would be different than GWB foreign policy: