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Randy Scheunemann: McCain Adviser Campaigned for War

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) speaks with his director of foriegn policy and national security Randy Scheunemann (L), as they board McCain's chartered plane at Washington's Ronald Reagan Airport, May 16, 2008. (Associated Press)

By Peter Slevin
CHICAGO -- Randy Scheunemann, the foreign policy adviser to Sen. John McCain who today accused Sen. Barack Obama of a "policy of delusion" toward terrorism, was a prominent advocate of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the lead-up to the war.

In late 2002, Scheunemann helped create The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and became the group's executive director. Its mission, pursued with the Bush administration's blessing, was to build public support for the overthrow of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

McCain (R-Ariz.) was on the committee, along with Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), former Secretary of State George Shultz, retired Army Gen. Wayne A. Downing and former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), who described the project at the time as "a group of people who will talk to Americans about why the liberation of Iraq is something the United States ought to do."

Scheunemann is a longtime GOP foreign policy specialist who has also worked on the staffs of former Senate Republican leaders Bob Dole (Kan.) and Trent Lott (Miss.) He was a board member of the neoconservative think tank, the Project for the New American Century, which often reflected the views of Bush administration hardliners.

In recent years, Scheunemann has registered as a lobbyist for several foreign governments, including Georgia, Macedonia and Taiwan, according to published reports. His firm has also lobbied for the National Rife Association and defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

A Washington Post article in November 2002 reported that The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq was being created as the Bush administration was preparing the nation for a likely war that was ultimately launched in March 2003.

The committee's founding coincided with what administration officials called a "new phase" of briefings for foreign policy leaders, Iraq specialists and other opinion makers.

One goal was to reverse a decline in support for possible military action.

"Despite campaign trail criticism of Iraq by President Bush and Vice President Cheney," the Post wrote on Nov. 4, 2002, "polls released last week showed a decline in support for U.S. military action to topple Hussein. The Pew Research Center found that 55 percent of Americans support an attack on Iraq, down from 64 percent in August. Fox News polls showed a decline to 62 percent from 72 percent."

Pew researcher Carroll Doherty noted a widening partisan divide, with 51 percent of Democrats opposing action in Iraq and 40 percent favoring it. He cited "a great deal of concern about the consequences of war."

Obama, then an Illinois state legislator, delivered a speech in Chicago the previous month opposing war in Iraq.

"There's going to be a huge need in the post-election vacuum to make sure that what happened in August doesn't happen in November and December," Scheunemann said in The Post story, describing administration determination to avoid a repeat of August, when officials found themselves losing ground to opponents of military action in Iraq. Scheunemann said Capitol Hill offices have been "getting a lot of calls against and not many for."

By Web Politics Editor  |  June 17, 2008; 4:26 PM ET
Categories:  Cast of Characters  
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