On The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Mark Shields asserted that Sen. John McCain "emphasized a lot of places of disagreement" with President Bush during his March 26 foreign policy speech, including "the sense of communality and collegiality among nations, reaching to the allies." But neither Shields nor the others in the discussion noted any of the highly critical statements McCain made about U.S. allies who opposed the Iraq war.
On the March 28 edition of PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, syndicated columnist Mark Shields asserted that Sen. John McCain "emphasized a lot of places of disagreement" with President Bush during his March 26 foreign policy speech, including "the sense of communality and collegiality among nations, reaching to the allies." But Shields did not note any of the highly critical statements McCain made about France, Germany, and Belgium in discussing their opposition to the Iraq war prior to the 2003 invasion. Further, when asked by host Jim Lehrer if McCain's speech constituted a "major change" from Bush's foreign policy, New York Times columnist David Brooks asserted, "Certainly from the first days of George W. Bush. Bush tore up all these treaties on the grounds that it's not in our national interest." Brooks continued: "McCain would say, 'Well, our national interest is important, but the fabric of global institutions is also important. We've tear up these treaties and we ruin that fabric. We've hurt ourselves.' " But Brooks did not note that during the 2000 presidential campaign, McCain himself threatened to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty if Russia did not agree to changes. President Bush announced on December 13, 2001, that he would unilaterally withdraw the United States from the ABM treaty in six months, a decision that took effect on June 13, 2002.
Even while ignoring McCain's smears of U.S. allies opposed to the invasion, several media outlets and columnists, including Brooks, have highlighted the following assertion from McCain's March 26 speech: "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." Notwithstanding his currently expressed view in favor of respecting U.S. allies, 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, in reference to France's opposition to the war: "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.
Contrary to Brooks' assertion that McCain would say, "We've hurt ourselves" by "tear[ing] up these treaties," a December 7, 1999, CNN.com article reported that McCain said of the ABM treaty: "I will withdraw from a treaty that has become a relic of the Cold War if it cannot be made relevant to our current security needs." Additionally, a March 2, 2000, press release from McCain's Senate office stated that McCain "believes the U.S. should withdraw from the treaty if Russia will not agree to changes":
"Russia must be made to understand that we will not allow our people to be vulnerable to ballistic missile attack from North Korea, Iraq, or any other nation that may seek to threaten our nation," wrote McCain.
McCain believes the ABM Treaty with Russia is an outdated relic of the Cold War. He believes the U.S. should withdraw from the treaty if Russia will not agree to changes that will allow the United States to defend against missiles being developed by countries hostile to the United States.
From the March 28 edition of PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer:
LEHRER: Well, Mark, let's move right in then to the presidential campaign -- U.S. presidential campaign.
LEHRER: John McCain made a major speech today on foreign -- I mean, this week on foreign policy. How did you read what he said about in terms of contrasting his view of foreign affairs and that of George W. Bush?
SHIELDS: Well, I mean, other than his area of agreement, which is Iraq, and where he's emphasized difference with the administration in the past, but, I mean, in support of the Iraqi policy, I mean, he emphasized a lot of places of disagreement.
I mean, that John McCain is his own man, whether it's the closing of Guantánamo, whether it's the refusal to use torture as a policy of -- an instrument of American policy, the sense of communality and collegiality among nations, reaching to the allies, that time that a post-Kyoto treaty would be negotiated, I mean, right across the board.
And there were areas of disagreement and independence that we had come to expect. The one difference --
LEHRER: -- is Iraq.
SHIELDS: -- is Iraq. And John McCain did, in fact, I thought, emphasize that he was going to work with democracies to the exclusion of other nations, that he really had a problem with non -- I mean, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and other autocrats. And I think that could be a sticking point for a McCain policy.
LEHRER: How do you see the comparison?
BROOKS: Well, I guess I would say, first, the speech I thought was important for a number of reasons. One, he moved away from Bush on whether the -- American foreign policy pivots around terror.
Terror was an issue for him, but so were a whole range of other issues, including great power rivalries of Russia and China, including resource issues, a whole range of other issues.
The second area I thought he broke was he made it clear the U.S. is not the unipolar power that's going to dominate the world. There are a lot of powers in the world. We just have -- we are a citizen among these --
LEHRER: Did you find that a major change from George W. Bush?
BROOKS: Certainly from the first days of George W. Bush.
Bush tore up all these treaties on the grounds that it's not in our national interest. McCain would say, "Well, our national interest is important, but the fabric of global institutions is also important. We've tear up these treaties and we ruin that fabric. We've hurt ourselves."
And so what he really did was try to restore what really is a long tradition of American politics, which has been in both parties, which starts with Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, [former Secretary of State] Henry Stimson, [former Secretary of State] Dean Acheson, and especially Harry Truman, who he kept mentioning.
And that's a tradition that says, the world needs a strong America but one that is part of a global system. And a crucial sentence in that speech was: "America didn't win the Cold War. An American-led community of nations won a Cold War."