Thursday, March 20, 2008

McCain At The Wailing Wall: Two Messages (Updated)

Here is Republican Senator John McCain with Senator Joseph Lieberman:

According to the caption on this picture at The Chicago Tribune, McCain is leaving a message--a prayer--at the Wailing Wall, as is customary.

Jennifer Rubin notes a second message, that McCain is contrasting himself with his Democratic opponents on how to view US obligations:
The dichotomy he would like us to see is this: he is a man who knows who are friends are, understands the stakes if we do not take our responsibilities seriously and refuses to play to the polls; his opponents, he contends, to varying degrees (either due to lack of political courage or lack of clear-sightedness) refuse to fess up with the American people about the stakes in Iraq and the type of adversaries we face around the world.

In contrast, Barack Obama speaks as though the dangers in the world are largely of our making and the “hard” thing is to “talk to our enemies.” For him what matters is to go and be seen by those who despise us.

Rubin notes that considering how the pressure from Europe and the media, talking with the likes of Iran and Syria really is not so hard at all.
What really is hard is to stick by our friends and allies in the face of international pressure (or even when your personal “mentor” is vilifying them in public) and see through unpopular commitments.
One could argue that though he successfully did that in the short term, in the long run President Bush has failed significantly in this regard. Then again, politicians tend to avoid unpopular commitments and positions. Israel is the kind of unpopular commitment that plays well when you are running for office, but whose shine fades away in the arena of international politics.

You have to give credit to McCain for sticking with the US commitment in Iraq.
His commitment to Israel is still unclear.

Update: Lisa Schiffren works along similar lines when she writes about McCain's visit to Sderot:
McCain's visit is as concrete a demonstration as a presidential candidate can possibly make that he will not abandon Israel, and will respect Israel's security needs. Of course many presidents begin that way, and end up pressuring Israel to betray it's needs for evanescent gains in peace. John McCain made solid statements about the unlikelihood of any peace deal soon. While peace is surely the goal, as those rockets demonstrate, there is a long way till Israel and her hardline neighbors get to a place where serious negotiations are possible. Critics are always happy to to dismiss this kind of trip as grandstanding, photo-ops, and cynical manipulation. To be sure, there is some of that. But candidates choose what photo-ops they want, where they want to stand, and what messages they are sending. McCain gets high marks for this trip.
There might actually be some novelty there--a presidential candidate who admits that peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs really isn't just around the corner. Israel can face up to that--the truth of that has been driven home to them many times, but the Palestinian Arabs will not face the facts. They have been spoiled by the attention and pandering of the UN as well as the money lavished on them by Europe. They have been convinced that a state of their own is just coming to them.

Who is going to tell them how it really is?

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