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McCain Ad Has a Familiar Ring

By Anne E. Kornblut
LOS ANGELES -- First, Sen. John McCain switched his campaign theme to one of "change" -- offering up the "change you can believe in" motto that Sen. Barack Obama had been running on for more than a year.

Now McCain has picked off another Obama turn of phrase.

"Enough is enough," McCain says in a new eponymously named ad. That's a line that Obama has used at various points during the campaign, often to object to something the McCain team has said or done.

Stealing the other side's words can be effective -- and McCain should know. After he won the New Hampshire primary as a "reformer" in 2000, McCain suddenly saw George W. Bush campaigning as a "reformer with results." Bush, of course, won.

But the tactic did not work so well for Sen. Hillary Clinton earlier this year. When she added "change" to her "experience" argument during the Democratic primaries, it fell flat.

Obama advisers think the same thing will happen to McCain's attempt.

"I feel like we're ghostwriting for the McCain campaign right now," senior Obama adviser David Axelrod said on Tuesday when reporters on the campaign plane asked about the trend. McCain is basically "expropriating" Obama's material, he added.

"The problem is," he said, "the suit doesn't fit."

By Web Politics Editor  |  September 16, 2008; 5:44 PM ET
Categories:  Ad Watch , Barack Obama , John McCain  
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Posted by: adhesive number plate serial | September 20, 2008 12:58 AM | Report abuse

Are you kidding me??? McCain just said "our economy is strong", now he says "it is in turmoil!" This dude doesn't have any clue.

Posted by: czlong | September 17, 2008 1:16 PM

WRONG, mccain previously stated that the fundamentals of the economy are good, this means that the economy in general (apart from the housing market) is working in a positive direction, which is why you dont see mass runs on wall street, people are still profiting outside of the housing market.

this ad refers to the housing crisis and how it has shown a major fault in major companies, aided mostly by democrats, should u follow the money.

Posted by: dale | September 18, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Are you kidding me??? McCain just said "our economy is strong", now he says "it is in turmoil!" This dude doesn't have any clue.

Posted by: czlong | September 17, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Since the "change" theme is associated with Obama, the more McCain talks about change, the more people will think of Obama. This is great! My friends, now even McCain is working for Obama.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 17, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

There he goes again -- "Me-Too" McCain. After the Democrats almost chose a woman, it's "Me too! I found a woman in Alaska -- and she graduated from town hall three years ago!" After the Democrats said it's time for real change, he says, "Me too! I was for change, after I was against it!" And now that Bush's economy is crumbling, John McCain does it again: "Me too! I hate those greedy Wall Street types (even though I voted with Bush to avoid regulating them for 8 years)". So our choice is clear. After 8 years of foreign and domestic disasters, do we want real change or do we want "Me-Too McCain" change?

Posted by: gpbrown | September 17, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

For those of you in this comment trail talking about Obama asking the Iraqi government not to continue negotiations about troop withdrawal until the next presidency...have you considered the point you are making? Thus far Obama has been painted as someone who does not have foreign policy experience and who is not suited to represent the American people on foreign policy. It has been said that he doesn't have the close relationships as does McCain (and by default now Palin) and that his trip overseas was just a celebrity tour that didn't justify his being ready to lead America in relationships with other countries.

Now you mean to tell me this same man has so much influence that he has convinced a sitting head of Iraq to not work with the current administration to broker the withdrawal timetable (well coincidentally that Obama fought for and received by Bush moving forward with Iraq's request).

Be careful what you say tote Republicans because you are affirming that Obama does have the skills needed to handle our foreign partners...interesting.

Posted by: ... | September 17, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

How can the economy be "fundamentally sound", yet in "crisis" at the same time?

Lies, damn lies and John McCain!

Posted by: itsonlyme | September 17, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

How can the economy be "fundamentally sound", yet in "crisis" at the same time?

Lies, damn lies and John McCain!

Posted by: itsonlyme | September 17, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

eltaldo

Posted by: elzelalg | September 17, 2008 12:04 AM | Report abuse

Anyone who does not factor in McCain's health plan when discussing taxes is missing the point. If you are currently insured through your employer, you will face both increased taxes, and greatly increased expenses in obtaining health insurance in the individual market, with the risk of having inadequate insurance or losing coverage entirely if you have any preexisting condition. Furthermore, because insurance will be too expensive, many people will choose not to insure, and unless we are willing to deny care (which we never are - look at our ER rules), the taxpayers will end up picking up the costs. ANY discussion of taxes that does not include this is pointless.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 16, 2008 11:58 PM | Report abuse

Just because you were a POW doesn't entitle you to the presidency.

If fact some POW's and Veterans don't seem to like McCain

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTe7cuyx6J4

I wonder why? COULD IT BE THIS????

http://thinkprogress.org/2008/08/27/iava-va/

He doesn't even take care of his own and was against the release of his records. Wonder what he is trying to hide?

McCain+Palin=lying to the country one townhall at a time.

WE ARE A BETTER COUNTRY THAN THIS

Vote for change vote OBAMA/BIDEN

Posted by: Truth | September 16, 2008 11:10 PM | Report abuse

Are you a U.S. citizen? Are you aware that McCain almost gave the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of his country?
Posted by: JakeD

Just curious, JakeD. Do you think there is anyone on the friggin' PLANET that doesn't know that John McCain is a WAR HERO? He's rubbed our noses in it enough. We get it already.

Republicans like to nominate war heroes. Truman pointed this out in 1952, but it seems to play well today. We were just entering into the McCarthy era then and we've got the terrorist fears today. Here's part of what he said.
===========================================
The underlying differences between the Republican and Democratic Parties boils down to a very simple thing. The Republicans believe that the power of the Government should be used, first of all, to help the rich and privileged people of this country. With them property comes first. The Democrats believe that the powers of the Government should be used to give the common man some protection, and a chance to make a decent living. With the Democrats the people come first.

The Democratic Party is a political organization that has a heart--it cares about the people--it cares about all the people, rich and poor alike. The Republican Party is ruled by a little group of men who have calculating machines where their hearts ought to be.

Sometimes the Republicans aid their clientele by special favors--like the rich man's tax cut bill which was passed by the 80th Congress over my veto--or like their attempts to give away the Nation's resources to all the big oil interests.

Sometimes the Republicans aid their special friends by doing nothing--by a philosophy of each man for himself and the devil take the hindmost. That's why they've fought such measures as minimum wage laws, social security, and the protection of the right of labor unions to organize. All these things and others like them have been opposed by the Republicans.

...

Every 4 years the Republicans take their outworn, discredited philosophy and dress it up in a new disguise--and try to sell it to the American people. They try to convince the people it's been made over into something different.

This year, they tried to clothe it in the shining armor of a national hero. But before the campaign has ended, each 4 years, the new disguise wears mighty thin. In fact, you can see through it, and you can see that nothing's changed.

---Harry S Truman---
October 6, 1952

Posted by: Anonymous | September 16, 2008 10:05 PM | Report abuse

OBAMA CAMP HITS BACK AT IRAQ DOUBLE-TALK CLAIM

PUEBLO, Colorado (AFP) — Barack Obama's White House campaign angrily denied Monday a report that he had secretly urged the Iraqis to postpone a deal to withdraw US troops until after November's election.

In the New York Post, conservative Iranian-born columnist Amir Taheri quoted Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari as saying the Democrat made the demand when he visited Baghdad in July, while publicly demanding an early withdrawal.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview, according to Taheri.

...

But Obama's national security spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said Taheri's article bore "as much resemblance to the truth as a McCain campaign commercial."

In fact, Obama had told the Iraqis that they should not rush through a "Strategic Framework Agreement" governing the future of US forces until after President George W. Bush leaves office, she said.

In the face of resistance from Bush, the Democrat has long said that any such agreement must be reviewed by the US Congress as it would tie a future administration's hands on Iraq.

"Barack Obama has never urged a delay in negotiations, nor has he urged a delay in immediately beginning a responsible drawdown of our combat brigades," Morigi said.

"These outright distortions will not changes the facts -- Senator Obama is the only candidate who will safely and responsibly end the war in Iraq and refocus our attention on the real threat: a resurgent Al-Qaeda and Taliban along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border."

Last Tuesday, Bush announced plans to remove 8,000 US troops from Iraq in the coming months and send 4,500 to Afghanistan by January.

Obama said the president was belatedly coming round to his own way of thinking, but also accused Bush of "tinkering around the edges" and "kicking the can down the road to the next president."

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hi9TDNHvuBZpFsO8ZbiFYsnbIl3A

Sounds like just more distortions and lies from the McCain campaign.

Posted by: Double-Talk Express | September 16, 2008 9:47 PM | Report abuse

Really? We're supposed to trust the fellow who helped usher in the savings and loan crisis, who wasn't trusted enough by his fellow Republicans to actually work on finance issues, who admitted he doesn't really understand the economy?

McCain used to be a man of honor, who knew his limitations and considered the well-being of the country. He's turned into a complete sellout, permitting people to lie in his name and adopting a bankrupt set of policies.

Stealing his opponent's ideas goes with the picture.

Posted by: Helen | September 16, 2008 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Obama's Double-Dealing Diplomacy
1 hour, 52 minutes ago (9-16-08)
Investor's Business Daily


Election '08: Barack Obama premised his campaign on calling for a speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. But now he's been quietly telling Iraq "not so fast." It's part of a deceptive pattern.


Election: Barack Obama, who premised his campaign on calling for a speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, has now been quietly telling Iraq "not so fast." It's part of a deceptive pattern.Iraq's Foreign Minister Moshyar Zebari told the New York Post's Amir Taheri that Obama made delaying the troops' return a key theme of his talks with Iraqi leaders during his campaign stop in Baghdad last July.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the U.S. elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari told Teheri, on the record.

Funny, that's not what Obama told voters. He has made an immediate pullout the cornerstone of his campaign. Taheri's report signals the Democratic standard-bearer would manipulate the war's end for political advantage and is willing to deceive voters to do it.

This in itself is reprehensible. But his secret calls also leave U.S. troops unnecessarily in harm's way. It's the kind of foreign policy meddling that serves Obama's interests over the national interest.

"Obama has given Iraqis the impression that he doesn't want Iraq to appear anything like a success, let alone a victory, for America," Taheri reported. "To be credible, his foreign-policy philosophy requires Iraq to be seen as a failure, a disaster, a quagmire, a pig with lipstick or any of the other apocalyptic adjectives used by the American defeat industry in the past five years."

Can Obama be trusted? We ask because he's shown a pattern of secretive double-dealing with voters, not just in his talking about small town voters one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco, as Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin pointed out, but particularly in foreign affairs.

It dates back to at least February, when Obama's economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, secretly told the Canadian embassy that Obama's demagoguery against NAFTA in the primaries was just a Styrofoam-pillar bid to win the Ohio vote.

Obama's pattern of deception continued. In March, Colombian troops raided a FARC terrorist camp in Ecuador and recovered a terrorist computer belonging to a top FARC warlord, Raul Reyes.

Computer e-mails revealed that someone who knew Obama's positions had secretly met with the terrorists and assured them Obama would cut U.S. military aid under Plan Colombia and veto its free trade pact. Both are major goals of the Marxist terrorists aligned with America's enemies.

Subsequent events confirmed this. Obama did come out in favor of shutting Colombia out of free trade. More disturbingly, Obama adviser Daniel Restrepo last week told Colombia's Radio Caracol that Obama planned to convert the military aid Colombia needs to crush terrorists into social aid programs that don't.

That's not the end of it. Now Obama is double-dealing with Iraqi officials to leave American troops in harm's way and prolong the appearance of war long enough to call it a failure and win votes.

The astonishing thing about Obama's deals is they're the very thing Democrats accused Republicans of without a shred of proof.

They accused Richard Nixon of making a secret deal with the North Vietnamese to prolong the Vietnam war enough to presumably win election in 1968.

Years later, in 1980, they accused Ronald Reagan of making a secret deal with Iranian terrorists holding U.S. diplomats hostage to win election over incumbent Jimmy Carter.

Neither of these claims, often repeated by leftist historians, has ever been proven. But the statement of Iraq's foreign minister, speaking to a leading writer on foreign policy, is considerably stronger as evidence. It signals that Obama places politics over the national interest to the extent that he would work against his own public positions to gull voters into electing him.

It's the absolute opposite of John McCain's courageous position supporting the surge in Iraq, even as politicos were warning him he'd lose the election for it. "I'd rather lose an election than lose a war," McCain said.

With Obama's promises to sit down with dictators in Venezuela, Cuba, Syria and Iran, voters have a right to ask if he's made any deals at odds with his public condemnations of them, too. Before he starts acting like president, he needs to come clean to voters and reveal his true positions. Whatever they are, voters have a right to know.


Posted by: Scott | September 16, 2008 8:49 PM | Report abuse

Posted By bgjd1979:
You say Obama wants to tax anyone who makes "real money." Since he would only increase the tax on people making more than $250,000.00 per years, I guess you believe any of us making less than that are not making "real money." That is true McCain/Repub thinking.

Actually, the chosen one voted 17 times in the Illinois legislature to raise taxes on those making $42,000 a year. So what do we know that Milhouse will do? He will NOT make the Bush tax cuts permanent (my taxes are going back up). Those making over 250,000 a year he is raising the payroll cap so that means that those taxpayers (most of whom are small business owners) will be paying almost 54% in tax (39% base + 12.4% social security + 2.9% medicare). Source: BarackObama.com

Posted by: LeeHInAlexandria | September 16, 2008 8:24 PM | Report abuse

I just want to comment on the add in a totally non-partisan way, as I think both sides have had some pretty awful ads. It's dull and flat. "Enough is enough." No conviction at all. It sounded like he was reading a bedtime story.

Posted by: Jess | September 16, 2008 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Posted by TiredofJakeD:

Oh, and another thing about McCain and how he "reforms"--he supported the deregulation of our financial institutions, which is one of the primary reasons our economy is currently in the dump. Seems like he really understands the implications of his backed 'reform' policies on the functioning of the American economy...Let's face it---reform isn't always the answer, especially the kind of reform that the GOP has in mind.

Actually, the financial sector has been run primarily by Democrats see:
http://tinyurl.com/trailwp01

Posted by: LeeHInAlexandria | September 16, 2008 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Posted By JakeD:
Perhaps you haven't heard of McCain-Feingold, or the McCain-Kennedy bills? What about the Lieberman-McCain bill to help on Global Warming? You are seriously UNDERESTIMATING the reformer label.

Actually JakeD you moron, it was the Lieberman/Warner Bill which was successfully killed.

Posted by: LeeHInAlexandria | September 16, 2008 8:07 PM | Report abuse

The ultimate sacrifice to the defense of this country? Why, was Vietnam attacking us? Or was it another war of choice that resolved nothing, as a matter of fact Vietnam enjoys now special status with the USA. I am growing tired of hearing about Mccain heroism...heroism by doing what exactly? Kerry was an hero by putting his life at risk to save some of his brothers in arm and was vilified by the republicans like a trsaitor ENOUGH of the bull sh*#t!

Posted by: color blind | September 16, 2008 7:59 PM | Report abuse

That's funny, JakeD, but perhaps a bit too sarcastic.

Posted by: SSB | September 16, 2008 7:41 PM | Report abuse

THE HEADLINE WASHINGTON POST DOESN'T WANT YOU TO SEE!

http://michellemalkin.com/2008/09/16/exclusive-doj-will-not-conduct-witch-hunts-for-obama/

U.S. GOVERNMENT SAYS NOBAMA TO CONSTRICTING FREE SPEECH!

Posted by: dale | September 16, 2008 7:38 PM | Report abuse

tp:

Are you a U.S. citizen? Are you aware that McCain almost gave the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of his country?

Posted by: JakeD | September 16, 2008 7:37 PM | Report abuse

clearly, Mccain doean't know the demand of American and have vision for this country. out of touch! when he saw rival's motto meet american's demand, he brazenly imitate it.

Posted by: tp | September 16, 2008 7:33 PM | Report abuse

bgjd1979:

Then why did Obama vote for a tax increase on anyone making more than $43,500? You see, we don't BELIEVE Obama will make the Bush tax cuts permanent.

Posted by: JakeD | September 16, 2008 7:14 PM | Report abuse

This is why Obama thinks there are 57 states in our union:
The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is an international organization with a permanent delegation to the United Nations. It groups 57 member states, from the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, Caucasus, Balkan, Southeast Asia, South Asia and South America. The official languages of the organization are Arabic, English and French. You can put a Muslim in the White House, if you're that dumb.
From Audacity of Hope:'I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.'
Not to mention his admitted Muslim faith comment on national TV...

Posted by: Don | September 16, 2008 7:14 PM | Report abuse

TiredofJake:

Perhaps you haven't heard of McCain-Feingold, or the McCain-Kennedy bills? What about the Lieberman-McCain bill to help on Global Warming? You are seriously UNDERESTIMATING the reformer label.

Posted by: JakeD | September 16, 2008 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Obamination-

You say Obama wants to tax anyone who makes "real money." Since he would only increase the tax on people making more than $250,000.00 per years, I guess you believe any of us making less than that are not making "real money." That is true McCain/Repub thinking.

Posted by: bgjd1979 | September 16, 2008 7:07 PM | Report abuse

First McCain turned into a liar of epic porportions. Now he is also an intellectual thief. The Double-Talk Express rumbles on.

Posted by: bgjd1979 | September 16, 2008 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Mr. McCain has voted with Mr. Bush 0ver 90% of the time; he even bragged about it. So he has fully supported the bush philosophy of deregulation and "market forces" will correct any problems.

Well, market forces are now driving the US economy into the ground. Major banks, the heart of our financial community, are going broke or being bought out by the Feds, a socialist approach but only for the rich, the well connected, the bush friends.

Any middle-class american who cannot see through the Republican/Palin deception is blind. They have repeated Palin's "I cancelled the bridge" claim ad nauseum but don't mention she KEPT THE MONEY. Yea, a $230 million gift from the rest of us to use as they wish. She's not for change, she's for BIG BUCK ripoffs.

Obama for me. A democrat converted from Republican.

RCG

Posted by: RCharles | September 16, 2008 7:02 PM | Report abuse

OH and to the poster that wants the lesser of two evils thinking that McCain would put you on the street as a business owner. YOu better look at the fine print. If you own a business, be prepared to be out on the street in an Obama White house. He thinks you deserve to pay for the rest of the work force with higher taxes. Taxes on business, Corp taxes, death tax, tax hike for anyone making any real money, etc. Oh wait, if you like living like the Cubans with great health care and at the same level while the Dems drive in Limosines, buy into the hype. How anyone pro business can say they will hurt under MCCain is a lemming. I am sure you have a sub prime loan too ...

Posted by: Obamination | September 16, 2008 7:00 PM | Report abuse

OH and to the poster that wants the lesser of two evils thinking that McCain would put you on the street as a business owner. YOu better look at the fine print. If you own a business, be prepared to be out on the street in an Obama White house. He thinks you deserve to pay for the rest of the work force with higher taxes. Taxes on business, Corp taxes, death tax, tax hike for anyone making any real money, etc. Oh wait, if you like living like the Cubans with great health care and at the same level while the Dems drive in Limosines, buy into the hype. How anyone pro business can say they will hurt under MCCain is a lemming. I am sure you have a sub prime loan too ...

Posted by: Obamination | September 16, 2008 7:00 PM | Report abuse

OH and to the poster that wants the lesser of two evils thinking that McCain would put you on the street as a business owner. YOu better look at the fine print. If you own a business, be prepared to be out on the street in an Obama White house. He thinks you deserve to pay for the rest of the work force with higher taxes. Taxes on business, Corp taxes, death tax, tax hike for anyone making any real money, etc. Oh wait, if you like living like the Cubans with great health care and at the same level while the Dems drive in Limosines, buy into the hype. How anyone pro business can say they will hurt under MCCain is a lemming. I am sure you have a sub prime loan too ...

Posted by: Obamination | September 16, 2008 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Tomorrow McCain is going to change his lat name to McObama.

Posted by: Tom | September 16, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

wouldn't you have to be able to "understand economics" to be able to fix an economic crisis? maybe john mccain can go study econ and come back and run AGAIN when he's 90.

Posted by: jjb | September 16, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and another thing about McCain and how he "reforms"--he supported the deregulation of our financial institutions, which is one of the primary reasons our economy is currently in the dump. Seems like he really understands the implications of his backed 'reform' policies on the functioning of the American economy...Let's face it---reform isn't always the answer, especially the kind of reform that the GOP has in mind

Posted by: TiredofJakeD | September 16, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and another thing about McCain and how he "reforms"--he supported the deregulation of our financial institutions, which is one of the primary reasons our economy is currently in the dump. Seems like he really understands the implications of his backed 'reform' policies on the functioning of the American economy...Let's face it---reform isn't always the answer, especially the kind of reform that the GOP has in mind

Posted by: TiredofJakeD | September 16, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and another thing about McCain and how "reform" has nothing to do with him--he supported the deregulation of our financial institutions, which is one of the primary reasons our economy is currently in the dump. Seems like he really understands the implications of his backed policies on the functioning of the American economy...

Posted by: TiredofJakeD | September 16, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Democrats have always believed in bigger government and raising taxes. That hasn't changed and Obama will have to do that to accomplish anything he platforms on. You don't think Obama will tax the middle class? McCain doesn't understand the complexities of national economics. Who does? At least he admits it. Obama doesn't either. Not by a long shot. He will however take long. loving glances at himself in the mirror in the oval office should that tragedy happen.

Posted by: Rob | September 16, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Democrats have always believed in bigger government and raising taxes. That hasn't changed and Obama will have to do that to accomplish anything he platforms on. You don't think Obama will tax the middle class? McCain doesn't understand the complexities of national economics. Who does? At least he admits it. Obama doesn't either. Not by a long shot. He will however, take long, loving glances at himself in the oval office mirror should that tragedy happen.

Posted by: Rob | September 16, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Can Obama just run ads about the McCain changing position with McCain own sound bites kind of Bush Sr. Read my lips no more taxes.
I respect McCain service but he does not have the best interest of the country in his heart anymore. At 72, we sure deserve more than the Palin person.
I hope the media will hold them accountable

Posted by: Intelligent Conservative | September 16, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Democrats have always believed in bigger government and raising taxes. That hasn't changed and Obama will have to do that to accomplish anything he platforms on. You don't think Obama will tax the middle class? McCain doesn't understand the complexities of national economics. Who does? At least he admits it. Obama doesn't either. Not by a long shot. He will however, take long, loving glances at himself in the oval office mirror should that tragedy happen.

Posted by: Rob | September 16, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Democrats have always believed in bigger government and raising taxes. That hasn't changed and Obama will have to do that to accomplish anything he platforms on. You don't think Obama will tax the middle class? McCain doesn't understand the complexities of national economics. Who does? At least he admits it. Obama doesn't either. Not by a long shot. He will however, take long, loving glances at himself in the oval office mirror should that tragedy happen.

Posted by: Rob | September 16, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Our party has become a disappointment.
We use to say "Tax and spend" Democrats, but now it is
"Don't tax but still spend" Republicans.
Start two wars and put 'em on the credit card.
Give big tax breaks to people who don't really need them, and put that on the credit card. Pass out fortunes in non-competed contracts (to Halliburton) and put it on the card. Wall street companies are failing? Put 'em on the card. Don't worry about the payments. The thing is, we can always have a little inflation to make that debt shrivel up and then it will seem small.

Posted by: RichrepublicaninCA | September 16, 2008 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Except, of course, that McCain has actually obtained results like campaign finance REFORM, education REFORM, etc.

McCain-Palin PROVEN REFORMERS!!!

Posted by: JakeD
..........................................
Palin has an abysmal record of reform, which is pointless to argue with you as I'm sure you have immediately disregarded and discounted every news source that checks into her policy background. You cling to McCain/Palin in the same way white clings to rice.
Education reform? Our schools are going to *&$% and our kids have higher dropout rates than ever before. Campaign reform? McCain is using the same GOP tactics and petty complaints that were used in '00 and '04 (the ones that were used against him! lol), and his campaign is literally stealing Barack's words and ideas.
"Reformer" does not apply to a man who will give corporations and the obscenely rich tax cuts, while giving fewer tax cuts to the average American than Barack's own economic plan. The term also does not apply to a man who will do anything to win, including going back on the many "reform"-centered promises he has made in the past. JakeD-- you are blind. Your one-track ideology is one that will seriously doom America if it prevails. God help America from voters such as yourself.

Posted by: TiredofJakeD | September 16, 2008 6:40 PM | Report abuse

That's because one has Hollywood screenwriters serving up nice on camera speeches as if Obama was a Soap star while the other uses the words in a way that means something. Funny how the Democrats "Housing for all" bill that Bill Clinton started with the abolishment of the "Glass-Steagall" back in 1996 that was created by FDR to stop banks from making risky investments and sub prime loans is suddenly back in focus. Oh yeah, blame it on the White House. Sorry. Your candidate, Obama voted for it and Demorats ran on it. Republicans (who are now in the minority) embraced it (which was their mistake). So both are guilty. But McCain is no Bush and Obama is nothing more than a Manchurian manufactured candidate. All words and ridiculous ideas without a way to pay for it. Oh wait, that's right, tax all the top 5% that now are at the bottom anyway since the colapse of the bad loans made to people who should never have received them. Time to be accountable and stop bailing people out. Democrats whine and so do their consituents. They want everything handed to them like a house but dont want to pay for it.

Posted by: Obamination | September 16, 2008 6:39 PM | Report abuse

I am neither a Republican or Democrat. I usually vote for the lesser of 2 evils. With everything that has been going on I cannot believe for one minute that anyone would vote for McCain. 4 more years of the same rhetoric would have me and my business out in the street.

Posted by: Kelley W. | September 16, 2008 6:39 PM | Report abuse

John Sidney McCain III will say anything ... do anything ... subvert anyone ... lie ... cheat ... steal ... did I say "lie?" ... to win a tainted election.

When - and if - Americans wake up to this sobering fact (as if the last several days of economic news haven't been sobering enough) then we can move forward towards the REAL change of which Senator Obama speaks.

Until such time, this country will wallow in its own mess, unable to re-calibrate forward into the real 21st century. I fear that may be the case - it's happened already twice - it was called "the Bush victories."

Cripes, folks, if this evaluation process is diffcult, where were you all in 8th grade math class? Sixth grade english? Fourth grade coloring book? Wake the hell up and smell the End of the US!!!

Posted by: FreeFlorida08 | September 16, 2008 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Where has the candidate who wants to help the USA more than he wants to get elected. Nobody can be everybody to anybody. At some point honesty and strength has to show itself. Are we only to have weak backed presidents? Neither candidate has a plan, neither has any desire other than getting elected. I am sad to see the US going this way. I feel though that at least with Obama we have a chance that the man can grow into the job. With McCain the only chance we get is Palin when he cannot make it beyone 4 years, or even sooner if he dies in office. We need a leader, not a person who believes in destiny but a person who creates our future with strong and wise actions.

Posted by: Jon Barry | September 16, 2008 6:39 PM | Report abuse

John Sidney McCain III will say anything ... do anything ... subvert anyone ... lie ... cheat ... steal ... did I say "lie?" ... to win a tainted election.

When - and if - Americans wake up to this sobering fact (as if the last several days of economic news haven't been sobering enough) then we can move forward towards the REAL change of which Senator Obama speaks.

Until such time, this country will wallow in its own mess, unable to re-calibrate forward into the real 21st century. I fear that may be the case - it's happened already twice - it was called "the Bush victories."

Cripes, folks, if this evaluation process is diffcult, where were you all in 8th grade math class? Sixth grade english? Fourth grade coloring book? Wake the hell up and smell the End of the US!!!

Posted by: FreeFlorida08 | September 16, 2008 6:39 PM | Report abuse

John Sidney McCain III will say anything ... do anything ... subvert anyone ... lie ... cheat ... steal ... did I say "lie?" ... to win a tainted election.

When - and if - Americans wake up to this sobering fact (as if the last several days of economic news haven't been sobering enough) then we can move forward towards the REAL change of which Senator Obama speaks.

Until such time, this country will wallow in its own mess, unable to re-calibrate forward into the real 21st century. I fear that may be the case - it's happened already twice - it was called "the Bush victories."

Cripes, folks, if this evaluation process is diffcult, where were you all in 8th grade math class? Sixth grade english? Fourth grade coloring book? Wake the hell up and smell the End of the US!!!

Posted by: FreeFlorida08 | September 16, 2008 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Here at Muslims for McCain (formerly, Muslims for Bush), we're convinced Sen. McCain is on to something. Can someone tell us what it is?

Posted by: Hassan Ali Al-Hadoodi | September 16, 2008 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Why doesn't McCain vote for Obama? Obama is alreay a leader and McCain just falling in line. He uses all of Obama's ideas. He can't even think for himself!!!

McCains lies just don't end. I guess that's why he abandoned the straighttalk express.

Posted by: Andrea | September 16, 2008 6:38 PM | Report abuse


JOHN MCCAIN LEADER OR MADMAN
YOU BE THE JUDGE.

WASHINGTON — Senator John McCain arrived late at his Senate office on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, just after the first plane hit the World Trade Center. “This is war,” he murmured to his aides. The sound of scrambling fighter planes rattled the windows, sending a tremor of panic through the room.


Erik Jacobs for The New York Times
John McCain said he had consulted Henry A. Kissinger on foreign policy before and after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Within hours, Mr. McCain, the Vietnam War hero and famed straight talker of the 2000 Republican primary, had taken on a new role: the leading advocate of taking the American retaliation against Al Qaeda far beyond Afghanistan. In a marathon of television and radio appearances, Mr. McCain recited a short list of other countries said to support terrorism, invariably including Iraq, Iran and Syria.

“There is a system out there or network, and that network is going to have to be attacked,” Mr. McCain said the next morning on ABC News. “It isn’t just Afghanistan,” he added, on MSNBC. “I don’t think if you got bin Laden tomorrow that the threat has disappeared,” he said on CBS, pointing toward other countries in the Middle East.

Within a month he made clear his priority. “Very obviously Iraq is the first country,” he declared on CNN. By Jan. 2, Mr. McCain was on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in the Arabian Sea, yelling to a crowd of sailors and airmen: “Next up, Baghdad!”

Now, as Mr. McCain prepares to accept the Republican presidential nomination, his response to the attacks of Sept. 11 opens a window onto how he might approach the gravest responsibilities of a potential commander in chief. Like many, he immediately recalibrated his assessment of the unseen risks to America’s security. But he also began to suggest that he saw a new “opportunity” to deter other potential foes by punishing not only Al Qaeda but also Iraq.

“Just as Sept. 11 revolutionized our resolve to defeat our enemies, so has it brought into focus the opportunities we now have to secure and expand our freedom,” Mr. McCain told a NATO conference in Munich in early 2002, urging the Europeans to join what he portrayed as an all but certain assault on Saddam Hussein. “A better world is already emerging from the rubble.”

To his admirers, Mr. McCain’s tough response to Sept. 11 is at the heart of his appeal. They argue that he displayed the same decisiveness again last week in his swift calls to penalize Russia for its incursion into Georgia, in part by sending peacekeepers to police its border.

His critics charge that the emotion of Sept. 11 overwhelmed his former cool-eyed caution about deploying American troops without a clear national interest and a well-defined exit, turning him into a tool of the Bush administration in its push for a war to transform the region.

“He has the personality of a fighter pilot: when somebody stings you, you want to strike out,” said retired Gen. John H. Johns, a former friend and supporter of Mr. McCain who turned against him over the Iraq war. “Just like the American people, his reaction was: show me somebody to hit.”

Whether through ideology or instinct, though, Mr. McCain began making his case for invading Iraq to the public more than six months before the White House began to do the same. He drew on principles he learned growing up in a military family and on conclusions he formed as a prisoner in North Vietnam. He also returned to a conviction about “the common identity” of dangerous autocracies as far-flung as Serbia and North Korea that he had developed consulting with hawkish foreign policy thinkers to help sharpen the themes of his 2000 presidential campaign.

While pushing to take on Saddam Hussein, Mr. McCain also made arguments and statements that he may no longer wish to recall. He lauded the war planners he would later criticize, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney. (Mr. McCain even volunteered that he would have given the same job to Mr. Cheney.) He urged support for the later-discredited Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi’s opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, and echoed some of its suspect accusations in the national media. And he advanced misleading assertions not only about Mr. Hussein’s supposed weapons programs but also about his possible ties to international terrorists, Al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 attacks.

Five years after the invasion of Iraq, Mr. McCain’s supporters note that he became an early critic of the administration’s execution of the occupation, and they credit him with pushing the troop “surge” that helped bring stability. Mr. McCain, though, stands by his support for the war and expresses no regrets about his advocacy.

In written answers to questions, he blamed “Iraq’s opacity under Saddam” for any misleading remarks he made about the peril it posed.

The Sept. 11 attacks “demonstrated the grave threat posed by a hostile regime, possessing weapons of mass destruction, and with reported ties to terrorists,” Mr. McCain wrote in an e-mail message on Friday. Given Mr. Hussein’s history of pursuing illegal weapons and his avowed hostility to the United States, “his regime posed a threat we had to take seriously.” The attacks were still a reminder, Mr. McCain added, of the importance of international action “to prevent outlaw states — like Iran today — from developing weapons of mass destruction.”

Formative Years

Mr. McCain has been debating questions about the use of military force far longer than most. He grew up in a family that had sent a son to every American war since 1776, and international relations were a staple of the McCain family dinner table. Mr. McCain grew up listening to his father, Adm. John S. McCain Jr., deliver lectures on “The Four Ocean Navy and the Soviet Threat,” closing with a slide of an image he considered the ultimate factor in the balance of power: a soldier marching through a rice paddy with a rifle at his shoulder.

“To quote Sherman, war is all hell and we need to fight it out and get it over with and that is when the killing stops,” recalled Joe McCain, Senator McCain’s younger brother.

Vietnam, for Senator McCain, reinforced those lessons. He has often said he blamed the Johnson administration’s pause in bombing for prolonging the war, and he credited President Richard M. Nixon’s renewed attacks with securing his release from a North Vietnamese prison. He has made the principle that the exercise of military power sets the bargaining table for international relations a consistent theme of his career ever since, and in his 2002 memoir he wrote that one of his lifelong convictions was “the imperative that American power never retreat in response to an inferior adversary’s provocation.”


But Mr. McCain also took away from Vietnam a second, restraining lesson: the necessity for broad domestic support for any military action. For years he opposed a string of interventions — in Lebanon, Haiti, Somalia, and, for a time, the Balkans — on the grounds that the public would balk at the loss of life without clear national interests. “The Vietnam thing,” he recently said.

In the late 1990s, however, while he was beginning to consider his 2000 presidential race, he started rebalancing his view of the needs to project American strength and to sustain public support. The 1995 massacre of 5,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica under NATO’s watch struck at his conscience, he has said, and in addition to America’s strategic national interests — in that case, the future and credibility of NATO — Mr. McCain began to speak more expansively about America’s moral obligations as the only remaining superpower.

His aides say he later described the American air strikes in Bosnia in 1996 and in Kosovo in 1999 as a parable of political leadership: Mr. McCain, Senator Bob Dole and others had rallied Congressional support for the strikes despite widespread public opposition, then watched approval soar after the intervention helped to bring peace.

“Americans elect their leaders to make these kinds of judgments,” Mr. McCain said in the e-mail message.

It was during the Balkan wars that Mr. McCain and his advisers read a 1997 article on the Wall Street Journal editorial page by William Kristol and David Brooks of The Weekly Standard — both now Op-Ed page columnists at The New York Times — promoting the idea of “national greatness” conservatism, defined by a more activist agenda at home and a more muscular role in the world.

“I wouldn’t call it a ‘eureka’ moment, but there was a sense that this is where we are headed and this is what we are trying to articulate and they have already done a lot of the work,” said John Weaver, a former McCain political adviser. “And, quite frankly, from a crass political point of view, we were in the making-friends business. The Weekly Standard represented a part of the primary electorate that we could get.”

Soon Mr. McCain and his aides were consulting regularly with the circle of hawkish foreign policy thinkers sometimes referred to as neoconservatives — including Mr. Kristol, Robert Kagan and Randy Scheunemann, a former aide to Mr. Dole who became a McCain campaign adviser — to develop the senator’s foreign policy ideas and instincts into the broad themes of a presidential campaign. (In his e-mail message, Mr. McCain noted that he had also consulted with friends like Henry A. Kissinger, known for a narrower view of American interests.)

One result was a series of speeches in which Mr. McCain called for “rogue state rollback.” He argued that disparate regional troublemakers, including Iraq, North Korea and Serbia, bore a common stamp: they were all autocracies. And as such, he contended, they were more likely to export terrorism, spread dangerous weapons, or start ethnic conflicts. In an early outline of what would become his initial response to the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. McCain argued that “swift and sure” retribution against any one of the rogue states was an essential deterrent to any of the others. But Mr. McCain’s advisers and aides say his “rogue state” speeches stopped short of the most sweeping international agenda put forth by Mr. Kristol, Mr. Kagan and their allies. Mr. McCain explicitly disavowed direct military action merely to advance American values, foreswearing any “global crusade” of interventions in favor of relying on covert and financial support for internal opposition groups.

As an example, he could point to his 1998 sponsorship of the Iraqi Liberation Act, which sought to direct nearly $100 million to Iraqis who hoped to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The bill, signed by President Bill Clinton, also endorsed the ouster of Mr. Hussein.

Mr. McCain said then that he doubted the United States could muster the political will to use ground troops to remove the Iraqi dictator any time soon. “It was much easier when Saddam Hussein was occupying Kuwait and threatening Saudi Arabia,” the senator told Fox News in November 1998. “We’d have to convince the American people that it’s worth again the sacrifice of American lives, because that would also be part of the price.”

Hard Calls

Mr. McCain spent the afternoon of Sept. 11 in a young aide’s studio apartment near the Capitol. There was no cable television, nothing but water in the kitchen, and the hallway reminded him of an old boxing gym. Evacuated from his office but stranded by traffic, he could not resist imagining himself at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. “There are not enough Secret Service agents in the world to keep me away from Washington and New York at a time like this,” Mr. McCain told an adviser.


Over the next days and weeks, however, Mr. McCain became almost as visible as he would have been as president. Broadcasters rushed to him as a patriotic icon and reassuring voice, and for weeks he was ubiquitous on the morning news programs, Sunday talk shows, cable news networks, and even late-night comedy shows.

In the spotlight, he pushed rogue state rollback one step further, arguing that the United States should go on the offensive as a warning to any other country that might condone such an attack. “These networks are well-embedded in some of these countries,” Mr. McCain said on Sept. 12, listing Iraq, Iran and Syria as potential targets of United States pressure. “We’re going to have to prove to them that we are very serious, and the price that they will pay will not only be for punishment but also deterrence.”

Although he had campaigned for President Bush during the 2000 general election, he was still largely frozen out of the White House because of animosities left over from the Republican primary. But after Mr. Bush declared he would hold responsible any country condoning terrorism, Mr. McCain called his leadership “magnificent” and his national security team the strongest “that has ever been assembled.” A few weeks later, Larry King of CNN asked whether he would have named Mr. Rumsfeld and Colin L. Powell to a McCain cabinet. “Oh, yes, and Cheney,” Mr. McCain answered, saying he, too, would have offered Mr. Cheney the vice presidency.

Even during the heat of the war in Afghanistan, Mr. McCain kept an eye on Iraq. To Jay Leno in mid-September, Mr. McCain said he believed “some other countries” had assisted Osama bin Laden, going on to suggest Iraq, Syria and Iran as potential suspects. In October 2001, when an Op-Ed page column in The New York Times speculated that Iraq, Russia or some other country might bear responsibility for that month’s anthrax mailings, Mr. McCain interrupted a question about Afghanistan from David Letterman on that night’s “Late Show.” “The second phase is Iraq,” Mr. McCain said, adding, “Some of this anthrax may — and I emphasize may — have come from Iraq.” (The Federal Bureau of Investigation says it came from a federal government laboratory in Maryland.) By October, United States and foreign intelligence agencies had said publicly that they doubted any cooperation between Mr. Hussein and Al Qaeda, noting Al Qaeda’s opposition to such secular nationalists. American intelligence officials soon declared that Mr. Hussein had not supported international terrorism for nearly a decade.

But when the Czech government said that before the attacks, one of the 9/11 hijackers had met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence official, Mr. McCain seized the report as something close to a smoking gun. “The evidence is very clear,” he said three days later, in an Oct. 29 television interview. (Intelligence agencies quickly cast doubt on the meeting.)

Frustrated by the dearth of American intelligence about Iraq, Mr. McCain’s aides say, he had long sought to learn as much as he could from Iraqi opposition figures in exile, including Mr. Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress. Over the years, Mr. McCain often urged support for the group, saying it had “significant support, in my view, inside Iraq.”

After Sept. 11, Mr. Chalabi’s group said an Iraqi emissary had once met with Osama bin Laden, and brought forward two Iraqi defectors who described terrorist training camps and biological weapons efforts. At times, Mr. McCain seemed to echo their accusations, citing the “two defectors” in a television interview and attesting to “credible reports of involvement between Iraqi administration officials, Iraqi officials and the terrorists.”

Growing Impatient

But United States intelligence officials had doubts about Mr. Chalabi at the time and have since discredited his group. In 2006, Mr. McCain acknowledged to The New Republic that he had been “too enamored with the I.N.C.” In his e-mail message, though, he said he never relied on the group for information about Iraq’s weapons program.

At a European security conference in February 2002, when the Bush administration still publicly maintained that it had made no decision about moving against Iraq, Mr. McCain described an invasion as all but certain. “A terrorist resides in Baghdad,” he said, adding, “A day of reckoning is approaching.”

Regime change in Iraq in addition to Afghanistan, he argued, would compel other sponsors of terrorism to mend their ways, “accomplishing by example what we would otherwise have to pursue through force of arms.”

Finally, as American troops massed in the Persian Gulf in early 2003, Mr. McCain grew impatient, his aides say, concerned that the White House was failing to act as the hot desert summer neared. Waiting, he warned in a speech in Washington, risked squandering the public and international support aroused by Sept. 11. “Does anyone really believe that the world’s will to contain Saddam won’t eventually collapse as utterly as it did in the 1990s?” Mr. McCain asked.

In retrospect, some of Mr. McCain’s critics now accuse him of looking for a pretext to justify the war. “McCain was hell-bent for leather: ‘Saddam Hussein is a bad guy, we have got to teach him, let’s send a message to the other people in the Middle East,’ ” said Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts.

But Mr. McCain, in his e-mail message, said the reason he had supported the war was the evolving threat from Mr. Hussein.

“I believe voters elect their leaders based on their experience and judgment — their ability to make hard calls, for instance, on matters of war and peace,” he wrote. “It’s important to get them right.”

Posted by: Anonymous | September 16, 2008 6:38 PM | Report abuse


JOHN MCCAIN LEADER OR MADMAN
YOU BE THE JUDGE.

WASHINGTON — Senator John McCain arrived late at his Senate office on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, just after the first plane hit the World Trade Center. “This is war,” he murmured to his aides. The sound of scrambling fighter planes rattled the windows, sending a tremor of panic through the room.


Erik Jacobs for The New York Times
John McCain said he had consulted Henry A. Kissinger on foreign policy before and after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Within hours, Mr. McCain, the Vietnam War hero and famed straight talker of the 2000 Republican primary, had taken on a new role: the leading advocate of taking the American retaliation against Al Qaeda far beyond Afghanistan. In a marathon of television and radio appearances, Mr. McCain recited a short list of other countries said to support terrorism, invariably including Iraq, Iran and Syria.

“There is a system out there or network, and that network is going to have to be attacked,” Mr. McCain said the next morning on ABC News. “It isn’t just Afghanistan,” he added, on MSNBC. “I don’t think if you got bin Laden tomorrow that the threat has disappeared,” he said on CBS, pointing toward other countries in the Middle East.

Within a month he made clear his priority. “Very obviously Iraq is the first country,” he declared on CNN. By Jan. 2, Mr. McCain was on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in the Arabian Sea, yelling to a crowd of sailors and airmen: “Next up, Baghdad!”

Now, as Mr. McCain prepares to accept the Republican presidential nomination, his response to the attacks of Sept. 11 opens a window onto how he might approach the gravest responsibilities of a potential commander in chief. Like many, he immediately recalibrated his assessment of the unseen risks to America’s security. But he also began to suggest that he saw a new “opportunity” to deter other potential foes by punishing not only Al Qaeda but also Iraq.

“Just as Sept. 11 revolutionized our resolve to defeat our enemies, so has it brought into focus the opportunities we now have to secure and expand our freedom,” Mr. McCain told a NATO conference in Munich in early 2002, urging the Europeans to join what he portrayed as an all but certain assault on Saddam Hussein. “A better world is already emerging from the rubble.”

To his admirers, Mr. McCain’s tough response to Sept. 11 is at the heart of his appeal. They argue that he displayed the same decisiveness again last week in his swift calls to penalize Russia for its incursion into Georgia, in part by sending peacekeepers to police its border.

His critics charge that the emotion of Sept. 11 overwhelmed his former cool-eyed caution about deploying American troops without a clear national interest and a well-defined exit, turning him into a tool of the Bush administration in its push for a war to transform the region.

“He has the personality of a fighter pilot: when somebody stings you, you want to strike out,” said retired Gen. John H. Johns, a former friend and supporter of Mr. McCain who turned against him over the Iraq war. “Just like the American people, his reaction was: show me somebody to hit.”

Whether through ideology or instinct, though, Mr. McCain began making his case for invading Iraq to the public more than six months before the White House began to do the same. He drew on principles he learned growing up in a military family and on conclusions he formed as a prisoner in North Vietnam. He also returned to a conviction about “the common identity” of dangerous autocracies as far-flung as Serbia and North Korea that he had developed consulting with hawkish foreign policy thinkers to help sharpen the themes of his 2000 presidential campaign.

While pushing to take on Saddam Hussein, Mr. McCain also made arguments and statements that he may no longer wish to recall. He lauded the war planners he would later criticize, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney. (Mr. McCain even volunteered that he would have given the same job to Mr. Cheney.) He urged support for the later-discredited Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi’s opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, and echoed some of its suspect accusations in the national media. And he advanced misleading assertions not only about Mr. Hussein’s supposed weapons programs but also about his possible ties to international terrorists, Al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 attacks.

Five years after the invasion of Iraq, Mr. McCain’s supporters note that he became an early critic of the administration’s execution of the occupation, and they credit him with pushing the troop “surge” that helped bring stability. Mr. McCain, though, stands by his support for the war and expresses no regrets about his advocacy.

In written answers to questions, he blamed “Iraq’s opacity under Saddam” for any misleading remarks he made about the peril it posed.

The Sept. 11 attacks “demonstrated the grave threat posed by a hostile regime, possessing weapons of mass destruction, and with reported ties to terrorists,” Mr. McCain wrote in an e-mail message on Friday. Given Mr. Hussein’s history of pursuing illegal weapons and his avowed hostility to the United States, “his regime posed a threat we had to take seriously.” The attacks were still a reminder, Mr. McCain added, of the importance of international action “to prevent outlaw states — like Iran today — from developing weapons of mass destruction.”

Formative Years

Mr. McCain has been debating questions about the use of military force far longer than most. He grew up in a family that had sent a son to every American war since 1776, and international relations were a staple of the McCain family dinner table. Mr. McCain grew up listening to his father, Adm. John S. McCain Jr., deliver lectures on “The Four Ocean Navy and the Soviet Threat,” closing with a slide of an image he considered the ultimate factor in the balance of power: a soldier marching through a rice paddy with a rifle at his shoulder.

“To quote Sherman, war is all hell and we need to fight it out and get it over with and that is when the killing stops,” recalled Joe McCain, Senator McCain’s younger brother.

Vietnam, for Senator McCain, reinforced those lessons. He has often said he blamed the Johnson administration’s pause in bombing for prolonging the war, and he credited President Richard M. Nixon’s renewed attacks with securing his release from a North Vietnamese prison. He has made the principle that the exercise of military power sets the bargaining table for international relations a consistent theme of his career ever since, and in his 2002 memoir he wrote that one of his lifelong convictions was “the imperative that American power never retreat in response to an inferior adversary’s provocation.”


But Mr. McCain also took away from Vietnam a second, restraining lesson: the necessity for broad domestic support for any military action. For years he opposed a string of interventions — in Lebanon, Haiti, Somalia, and, for a time, the Balkans — on the grounds that the public would balk at the loss of life without clear national interests. “The Vietnam thing,” he recently said.

In the late 1990s, however, while he was beginning to consider his 2000 presidential race, he started rebalancing his view of the needs to project American strength and to sustain public support. The 1995 massacre of 5,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica under NATO’s watch struck at his conscience, he has said, and in addition to America’s strategic national interests — in that case, the future and credibility of NATO — Mr. McCain began to speak more expansively about America’s moral obligations as the only remaining superpower.

His aides say he later described the American air strikes in Bosnia in 1996 and in Kosovo in 1999 as a parable of political leadership: Mr. McCain, Senator Bob Dole and others had rallied Congressional support for the strikes despite widespread public opposition, then watched approval soar after the intervention helped to bring peace.

“Americans elect their leaders to make these kinds of judgments,” Mr. McCain said in the e-mail message.

It was during the Balkan wars that Mr. McCain and his advisers read a 1997 article on the Wall Street Journal editorial page by William Kristol and David Brooks of The Weekly Standard — both now Op-Ed page columnists at The New York Times — promoting the idea of “national greatness” conservatism, defined by a more activist agenda at home and a more muscular role in the world.

“I wouldn’t call it a ‘eureka’ moment, but there was a sense that this is where we are headed and this is what we are trying to articulate and they have already done a lot of the work,” said John Weaver, a former McCain political adviser. “And, quite frankly, from a crass political point of view, we were in the making-friends business. The Weekly Standard represented a part of the primary electorate that we could get.”

Soon Mr. McCain and his aides were consulting regularly with the circle of hawkish foreign policy thinkers sometimes referred to as neoconservatives — including Mr. Kristol, Robert Kagan and Randy Scheunemann, a former aide to Mr. Dole who became a McCain campaign adviser — to develop the senator’s foreign policy ideas and instincts into the broad themes of a presidential campaign. (In his e-mail message, Mr. McCain noted that he had also consulted with friends like Henry A. Kissinger, known for a narrower view of American interests.)

One result was a series of speeches in which Mr. McCain called for “rogue state rollback.” He argued that disparate regional troublemakers, including Iraq, North Korea and Serbia, bore a common stamp: they were all autocracies. And as such, he contended, they were more likely to export terrorism, spread dangerous weapons, or start ethnic conflicts. In an early outline of what would become his initial response to the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. McCain argued that “swift and sure” retribution against any one of the rogue states was an essential deterrent to any of the others. But Mr. McCain’s advisers and aides say his “rogue state” speeches stopped short of the most sweeping international agenda put forth by Mr. Kristol, Mr. Kagan and their allies. Mr. McCain explicitly disavowed direct military action merely to advance American values, foreswearing any “global crusade” of interventions in favor of relying on covert and financial support for internal opposition groups.

As an example, he could point to his 1998 sponsorship of the Iraqi Liberation Act, which sought to direct nearly $100 million to Iraqis who hoped to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The bill, signed by President Bill Clinton, also endorsed the ouster of Mr. Hussein.

Mr. McCain said then that he doubted the United States could muster the political will to use ground troops to remove the Iraqi dictator any time soon. “It was much easier when Saddam Hussein was occupying Kuwait and threatening Saudi Arabia,” the senator told Fox News in November 1998. “We’d have to convince the American people that it’s worth again the sacrifice of American lives, because that would also be part of the price.”

Hard Calls

Mr. McCain spent the afternoon of Sept. 11 in a young aide’s studio apartment near the Capitol. There was no cable television, nothing but water in the kitchen, and the hallway reminded him of an old boxing gym. Evacuated from his office but stranded by traffic, he could not resist imagining himself at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. “There are not enough Secret Service agents in the world to keep me away from Washington and New York at a time like this,” Mr. McCain told an adviser.


Over the next days and weeks, however, Mr. McCain became almost as visible as he would have been as president. Broadcasters rushed to him as a patriotic icon and reassuring voice, and for weeks he was ubiquitous on the morning news programs, Sunday talk shows, cable news networks, and even late-night comedy shows.

In the spotlight, he pushed rogue state rollback one step further, arguing that the United States should go on the offensive as a warning to any other country that might condone such an attack. “These networks are well-embedded in some of these countries,” Mr. McCain said on Sept. 12, listing Iraq, Iran and Syria as potential targets of United States pressure. “We’re going to have to prove to them that we are very serious, and the price that they will pay will not only be for punishment but also deterrence.”

Although he had campaigned for President Bush during the 2000 general election, he was still largely frozen out of the White House because of animosities left over from the Republican primary. But after Mr. Bush declared he would hold responsible any country condoning terrorism, Mr. McCain called his leadership “magnificent” and his national security team the strongest “that has ever been assembled.” A few weeks later, Larry King of CNN asked whether he would have named Mr. Rumsfeld and Colin L. Powell to a McCain cabinet. “Oh, yes, and Cheney,” Mr. McCain answered, saying he, too, would have offered Mr. Cheney the vice presidency.

Even during the heat of the war in Afghanistan, Mr. McCain kept an eye on Iraq. To Jay Leno in mid-September, Mr. McCain said he believed “some other countries” had assisted Osama bin Laden, going on to suggest Iraq, Syria and Iran as potential suspects. In October 2001, when an Op-Ed page column in The New York Times speculated that Iraq, Russia or some other country might bear responsibility for that month’s anthrax mailings, Mr. McCain interrupted a question about Afghanistan from David Letterman on that night’s “Late Show.” “The second phase is Iraq,” Mr. McCain said, adding, “Some of this anthrax may — and I emphasize may — have come from Iraq.” (The Federal Bureau of Investigation says it came from a federal government laboratory in Maryland.) By October, United States and foreign intelligence agencies had said publicly that they doubted any cooperation between Mr. Hussein and Al Qaeda, noting Al Qaeda’s opposition to such secular nationalists. American intelligence officials soon declared that Mr. Hussein had not supported international terrorism for nearly a decade.

But when the Czech government said that before the attacks, one of the 9/11 hijackers had met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence official, Mr. McCain seized the report as something close to a smoking gun. “The evidence is very clear,” he said three days later, in an Oct. 29 television interview. (Intelligence agencies quickly cast doubt on the meeting.)

Frustrated by the dearth of American intelligence about Iraq, Mr. McCain’s aides say, he had long sought to learn as much as he could from Iraqi opposition figures in exile, including Mr. Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress. Over the years, Mr. McCain often urged support for the group, saying it had “significant support, in my view, inside Iraq.”

After Sept. 11, Mr. Chalabi’s group said an Iraqi emissary had once met with Osama bin Laden, and brought forward two Iraqi defectors who described terrorist training camps and biological weapons efforts. At times, Mr. McCain seemed to echo their accusations, citing the “two defectors” in a television interview and attesting to “credible reports of involvement between Iraqi administration officials, Iraqi officials and the terrorists.”

Growing Impatient

But United States intelligence officials had doubts about Mr. Chalabi at the time and have since discredited his group. In 2006, Mr. McCain acknowledged to The New Republic that he had been “too enamored with the I.N.C.” In his e-mail message, though, he said he never relied on the group for information about Iraq’s weapons program.

At a European security conference in February 2002, when the Bush administration still publicly maintained that it had made no decision about moving against Iraq, Mr. McCain described an invasion as all but certain. “A terrorist resides in Baghdad,” he said, adding, “A day of reckoning is approaching.”

Regime change in Iraq in addition to Afghanistan, he argued, would compel other sponsors of terrorism to mend their ways, “accomplishing by example what we would otherwise have to pursue through force of arms.”

Finally, as American troops massed in the Persian Gulf in early 2003, Mr. McCain grew impatient, his aides say, concerned that the White House was failing to act as the hot desert summer neared. Waiting, he warned in a speech in Washington, risked squandering the public and international support aroused by Sept. 11. “Does anyone really believe that the world’s will to contain Saddam won’t eventually collapse as utterly as it did in the 1990s?” Mr. McCain asked.

In retrospect, some of Mr. McCain’s critics now accuse him of looking for a pretext to justify the war. “McCain was hell-bent for leather: ‘Saddam Hussein is a bad guy, we have got to teach him, let’s send a message to the other people in the Middle East,’ ” said Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts.

But Mr. McCain, in his e-mail message, said the reason he had supported the war was the evolving threat from Mr. Hussein.

“I believe voters elect their leaders based on their experience and judgment — their ability to make hard calls, for instance, on matters of war and peace,” he wrote. “It’s important to get them right.”

Posted by: Anonymous | September 16, 2008 6:38 PM | Report abuse


JOHN MCCAIN LEADER OR MADMAN
YOU BE THE JUDGE.

WASHINGTON — Senator John McCain arrived late at his Senate office on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, just after the first plane hit the World Trade Center. “This is war,” he murmured to his aides. The sound of scrambling fighter planes rattled the windows, sending a tremor of panic through the room.


Erik Jacobs for The New York Times
John McCain said he had consulted Henry A. Kissinger on foreign policy before and after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Within hours, Mr. McCain, the Vietnam War hero and famed straight talker of the 2000 Republican primary, had taken on a new role: the leading advocate of taking the American retaliation against Al Qaeda far beyond Afghanistan. In a marathon of television and radio appearances, Mr. McCain recited a short list of other countries said to support terrorism, invariably including Iraq, Iran and Syria.

“There is a system out there or network, and that network is going to have to be attacked,” Mr. McCain said the next morning on ABC News. “It isn’t just Afghanistan,” he added, on MSNBC. “I don’t think if you got bin Laden tomorrow that the threat has disappeared,” he said on CBS, pointing toward other countries in the Middle East.

Within a month he made clear his priority. “Very obviously Iraq is the first country,” he declared on CNN. By Jan. 2, Mr. McCain was on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in the Arabian Sea, yelling to a crowd of sailors and airmen: “Next up, Baghdad!”

Now, as Mr. McCain prepares to accept the Republican presidential nomination, his response to the attacks of Sept. 11 opens a window onto how he might approach the gravest responsibilities of a potential commander in chief. Like many, he immediately recalibrated his assessment of the unseen risks to America’s security. But he also began to suggest that he saw a new “opportunity” to deter other potential foes by punishing not only Al Qaeda but also Iraq.

“Just as Sept. 11 revolutionized our resolve to defeat our enemies, so has it brought into focus the opportunities we now have to secure and expand our freedom,” Mr. McCain told a NATO conference in Munich in early 2002, urging the Europeans to join what he portrayed as an all but certain assault on Saddam Hussein. “A better world is already emerging from the rubble.”

To his admirers, Mr. McCain’s tough response to Sept. 11 is at the heart of his appeal. They argue that he displayed the same decisiveness again last week in his swift calls to penalize Russia for its incursion into Georgia, in part by sending peacekeepers to police its border.

His critics charge that the emotion of Sept. 11 overwhelmed his former cool-eyed caution about deploying American troops without a clear national interest and a well-defined exit, turning him into a tool of the Bush administration in its push for a war to transform the region.

“He has the personality of a fighter pilot: when somebody stings you, you want to strike out,” said retired Gen. John H. Johns, a former friend and supporter of Mr. McCain who turned against him over the Iraq war. “Just like the American people, his reaction was: show me somebody to hit.”

Whether through ideology or instinct, though, Mr. McCain began making his case for invading Iraq to the public more than six months before the White House began to do the same. He drew on principles he learned growing up in a military family and on conclusions he formed as a prisoner in North Vietnam. He also returned to a conviction about “the common identity” of dangerous autocracies as far-flung as Serbia and North Korea that he had developed consulting with hawkish foreign policy thinkers to help sharpen the themes of his 2000 presidential campaign.

While pushing to take on Saddam Hussein, Mr. McCain also made arguments and statements that he may no longer wish to recall. He lauded the war planners he would later criticize, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney. (Mr. McCain even volunteered that he would have given the same job to Mr. Cheney.) He urged support for the later-discredited Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi’s opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, and echoed some of its suspect accusations in the national media. And he advanced misleading assertions not only about Mr. Hussein’s supposed weapons programs but also about his possible ties to international terrorists, Al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 attacks.

Five years after the invasion of Iraq, Mr. McCain’s supporters note that he became an early critic of the administration’s execution of the occupation, and they credit him with pushing the troop “surge” that helped bring stability. Mr. McCain, though, stands by his support for the war and expresses no regrets about his advocacy.

In written answers to questions, he blamed “Iraq’s opacity under Saddam” for any misleading remarks he made about the peril it posed.

The Sept. 11 attacks “demonstrated the grave threat posed by a hostile regime, possessing weapons of mass destruction, and with reported ties to terrorists,” Mr. McCain wrote in an e-mail message on Friday. Given Mr. Hussein’s history of pursuing illegal weapons and his avowed hostility to the United States, “his regime posed a threat we had to take seriously.” The attacks were still a reminder, Mr. McCain added, of the importance of international action “to prevent outlaw states — like Iran today — from developing weapons of mass destruction.”

Formative Years

Mr. McCain has been debating questions about the use of military force far longer than most. He grew up in a family that had sent a son to every American war since 1776, and international relations were a staple of the McCain family dinner table. Mr. McCain grew up listening to his father, Adm. John S. McCain Jr., deliver lectures on “The Four Ocean Navy and the Soviet Threat,” closing with a slide of an image he considered the ultimate factor in the balance of power: a soldier marching through a rice paddy with a rifle at his shoulder.

“To quote Sherman, war is all hell and we need to fight it out and get it over with and that is when the killing stops,” recalled Joe McCain, Senator McCain’s younger brother.

Vietnam, for Senator McCain, reinforced those lessons. He has often said he blamed the Johnson administration’s pause in bombing for prolonging the war, and he credited President Richard M. Nixon’s renewed attacks with securing his release from a North Vietnamese prison. He has made the principle that the exercise of military power sets the bargaining table for international relations a consistent theme of his career ever since, and in his 2002 memoir he wrote that one of his lifelong convictions was “the imperative that American power never retreat in response to an inferior adversary’s provocation.”


But Mr. McCain also took away from Vietnam a second, restraining lesson: the necessity for broad domestic support for any military action. For years he opposed a string of interventions — in Lebanon, Haiti, Somalia, and, for a time, the Balkans — on the grounds that the public would balk at the loss of life without clear national interests. “The Vietnam thing,” he recently said.

In the late 1990s, however, while he was beginning to consider his 2000 presidential race, he started rebalancing his view of the needs to project American strength and to sustain public support. The 1995 massacre of 5,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica under NATO’s watch struck at his conscience, he has said, and in addition to America’s strategic national interests — in that case, the future and credibility of NATO — Mr. McCain began to speak more expansively about America’s moral obligations as the only remaining superpower.

His aides say he later described the American air strikes in Bosnia in 1996 and in Kosovo in 1999 as a parable of political leadership: Mr. McCain, Senator Bob Dole and others had rallied Congressional support for the strikes despite widespread public opposition, then watched approval soar after the intervention helped to bring peace.

“Americans elect their leaders to make these kinds of judgments,” Mr. McCain said in the e-mail message.

It was during the Balkan wars that Mr. McCain and his advisers read a 1997 article on the Wall Street Journal editorial page by William Kristol and David Brooks of The Weekly Standard — both now Op-Ed page columnists at The New York Times — promoting the idea of “national greatness” conservatism, defined by a more activist agenda at home and a more muscular role in the world.

“I wouldn’t call it a ‘eureka’ moment, but there was a sense that this is where we are headed and this is what we are trying to articulate and they have already done a lot of the work,” said John Weaver, a former McCain political adviser. “And, quite frankly, from a crass political point of view, we were in the making-friends business. The Weekly Standard represented a part of the primary electorate that we could get.”

Soon Mr. McCain and his aides were consulting regularly with the circle of hawkish foreign policy thinkers sometimes referred to as neoconservatives — including Mr. Kristol, Robert Kagan and Randy Scheunemann, a former aide to Mr. Dole who became a McCain campaign adviser — to develop the senator’s foreign policy ideas and instincts into the broad themes of a presidential campaign. (In his e-mail message, Mr. McCain noted that he had also consulted with friends like Henry A. Kissinger, known for a narrower view of American interests.)

One result was a series of speeches in which Mr. McCain called for “rogue state rollback.” He argued that disparate regional troublemakers, including Iraq, North Korea and Serbia, bore a common stamp: they were all autocracies. And as such, he contended, they were more likely to export terrorism, spread dangerous weapons, or start ethnic conflicts. In an early outline of what would become his initial response to the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. McCain argued that “swift and sure” retribution against any one of the rogue states was an essential deterrent to any of the others. But Mr. McCain’s advisers and aides say his “rogue state” speeches stopped short of the most sweeping international agenda put forth by Mr. Kristol, Mr. Kagan and their allies. Mr. McCain explicitly disavowed direct military action merely to advance American values, foreswearing any “global crusade” of interventions in favor of relying on covert and financial support for internal opposition groups.

As an example, he could point to his 1998 sponsorship of the Iraqi Liberation Act, which sought to direct nearly $100 million to Iraqis who hoped to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The bill, signed by President Bill Clinton, also endorsed the ouster of Mr. Hussein.

Mr. McCain said then that he doubted the United States could muster the political will to use ground troops to remove the Iraqi dictator any time soon. “It was much easier when Saddam Hussein was occupying Kuwait and threatening Saudi Arabia,” the senator told Fox News in November 1998. “We’d have to convince the American people that it’s worth again the sacrifice of American lives, because that would also be part of the price.”

Hard Calls

Mr. McCain spent the afternoon of Sept. 11 in a young aide’s studio apartment near the Capitol. There was no cable television, nothing but water in the kitchen, and the hallway reminded him of an old boxing gym. Evacuated from his office but stranded by traffic, he could not resist imagining himself at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. “There are not enough Secret Service agents in the world to keep me away from Washington and New York at a time like this,” Mr. McCain told an adviser.


Over the next days and weeks, however, Mr. McCain became almost as visible as he would have been as president. Broadcasters rushed to him as a patriotic icon and reassuring voice, and for weeks he was ubiquitous on the morning news programs, Sunday talk shows, cable news networks, and even late-night comedy shows.

In the spotlight, he pushed rogue state rollback one step further, arguing that the United States should go on the offensive as a warning to any other country that might condone such an attack. “These networks are well-embedded in some of these countries,” Mr. McCain said on Sept. 12, listing Iraq, Iran and Syria as potential targets of United States pressure. “We’re going to have to prove to them that we are very serious, and the price that they will pay will not only be for punishment but also deterrence.”

Although he had campaigned for President Bush during the 2000 general election, he was still largely frozen out of the White House because of animosities left over from the Republican primary. But after Mr. Bush declared he would hold responsible any country condoning terrorism, Mr. McCain called his leadership “magnificent” and his national security team the strongest “that has ever been assembled.” A few weeks later, Larry King of CNN asked whether he would have named Mr. Rumsfeld and Colin L. Powell to a McCain cabinet. “Oh, yes, and Cheney,” Mr. McCain answered, saying he, too, would have offered Mr. Cheney the vice presidency.

Even during the heat of the war in Afghanistan, Mr. McCain kept an eye on Iraq. To Jay Leno in mid-September, Mr. McCain said he believed “some other countries” had assisted Osama bin Laden, going on to suggest Iraq, Syria and Iran as potential suspects. In October 2001, when an Op-Ed page column in The New York Times speculated that Iraq, Russia or some other country might bear responsibility for that month’s anthrax mailings, Mr. McCain interrupted a question about Afghanistan from David Letterman on that night’s “Late Show.” “The second phase is Iraq,” Mr. McCain said, adding, “Some of this anthrax may — and I emphasize may — have come from Iraq.” (The Federal Bureau of Investigation says it came from a federal government laboratory in Maryland.) By October, United States and foreign intelligence agencies had said publicly that they doubted any cooperation between Mr. Hussein and Al Qaeda, noting Al Qaeda’s opposition to such secular nationalists. American intelligence officials soon declared that Mr. Hussein had not supported international terrorism for nearly a decade.

But when the Czech government said that before the attacks, one of the 9/11 hijackers had met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence official, Mr. McCain seized the report as something close to a smoking gun. “The evidence is very clear,” he said three days later, in an Oct. 29 television interview. (Intelligence agencies quickly cast doubt on the meeting.)

Frustrated by the dearth of American intelligence about Iraq, Mr. McCain’s aides say, he had long sought to learn as much as he could from Iraqi opposition figures in exile, including Mr. Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress. Over the years, Mr. McCain often urged support for the group, saying it had “significant support, in my view, inside Iraq.”

After Sept. 11, Mr. Chalabi’s group said an Iraqi emissary had once met with Osama bin Laden, and brought forward two Iraqi defectors who described terrorist training camps and biological weapons efforts. At times, Mr. McCain seemed to echo their accusations, citing the “two defectors” in a television interview and attesting to “credible reports of involvement between Iraqi administration officials, Iraqi officials and the terrorists.”

Growing Impatient

But United States intelligence officials had doubts about Mr. Chalabi at the time and have since discredited his group. In 2006, Mr. McCain acknowledged to The New Republic that he had been “too enamored with the I.N.C.” In his e-mail message, though, he said he never relied on the group for information about Iraq’s weapons program.

At a European security conference in February 2002, when the Bush administration still publicly maintained that it had made no decision about moving against Iraq, Mr. McCain described an invasion as all but certain. “A terrorist resides in Baghdad,” he said, adding, “A day of reckoning is approaching.”

Regime change in Iraq in addition to Afghanistan, he argued, would compel other sponsors of terrorism to mend their ways, “accomplishing by example what we would otherwise have to pursue through force of arms.”

Finally, as American troops massed in the Persian Gulf in early 2003, Mr. McCain grew impatient, his aides say, concerned that the White House was failing to act as the hot desert summer neared. Waiting, he warned in a speech in Washington, risked squandering the public and international support aroused by Sept. 11. “Does anyone really believe that the world’s will to contain Saddam won’t eventually collapse as utterly as it did in the 1990s?” Mr. McCain asked.

In retrospect, some of Mr. McCain’s critics now accuse him of looking for a pretext to justify the war. “McCain was hell-bent for leather: ‘Saddam Hussein is a bad guy, we have got to teach him, let’s send a message to the other people in the Middle East,’ ” said Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts.

But Mr. McCain, in his e-mail message, said the reason he had supported the war was the evolving threat from Mr. Hussein.

“I believe voters elect their leaders based on their experience and judgment — their ability to make hard calls, for instance, on matters of war and peace,” he wrote. “It’s important to get them right.”

Posted by: Anonymous | September 16, 2008 6:38 PM | Report abuse


JOHN MCCAIN LEADER OR MADMAN
YOU BE THE JUDGE.

WASHINGTON — Senator John McCain arrived late at his Senate office on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, just after the first plane hit the World Trade Center. “This is war,” he murmured to his aides. The sound of scrambling fighter planes rattled the windows, sending a tremor of panic through the room.


Erik Jacobs for The New York Times
John McCain said he had consulted Henry A. Kissinger on foreign policy before and after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Within hours, Mr. McCain, the Vietnam War hero and famed straight talker of the 2000 Republican primary, had taken on a new role: the leading advocate of taking the American retaliation against Al Qaeda far beyond Afghanistan. In a marathon of television and radio appearances, Mr. McCain recited a short list of other countries said to support terrorism, invariably including Iraq, Iran and Syria.

“There is a system out there or network, and that network is going to have to be attacked,” Mr. McCain said the next morning on ABC News. “It isn’t just Afghanistan,” he added, on MSNBC. “I don’t think if you got bin Laden tomorrow that the threat has disappeared,” he said on CBS, pointing toward other countries in the Middle East.

Within a month he made clear his priority. “Very obviously Iraq is the first country,” he declared on CNN. By Jan. 2, Mr. McCain was on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in the Arabian Sea, yelling to a crowd of sailors and airmen: “Next up, Baghdad!”

Now, as Mr. McCain prepares to accept the Republican presidential nomination, his response to the attacks of Sept. 11 opens a window onto how he might approach the gravest responsibilities of a potential commander in chief. Like many, he immediately recalibrated his assessment of the unseen risks to America’s security. But he also began to suggest that he saw a new “opportunity” to deter other potential foes by punishing not only Al Qaeda but also Iraq.

“Just as Sept. 11 revolutionized our resolve to defeat our enemies, so has it brought into focus the opportunities we now have to secure and expand our freedom,” Mr. McCain told a NATO conference in Munich in early 2002, urging the Europeans to join what he portrayed as an all but certain assault on Saddam Hussein. “A better world is already emerging from the rubble.”

To his admirers, Mr. McCain’s tough response to Sept. 11 is at the heart of his appeal. They argue that he displayed the same decisiveness again last week in his swift calls to penalize Russia for its incursion into Georgia, in part by sending peacekeepers to police its border.

His critics charge that the emotion of Sept. 11 overwhelmed his former cool-eyed caution about deploying American troops without a clear national interest and a well-defined exit, turning him into a tool of the Bush administration in its push for a war to transform the region.

“He has the personality of a fighter pilot: when somebody stings you, you want to strike out,” said retired Gen. John H. Johns, a former friend and supporter of Mr. McCain who turned against him over the Iraq war. “Just like the American people, his reaction was: show me somebody to hit.”

Whether through ideology or instinct, though, Mr. McCain began making his case for invading Iraq to the public more than six months before the White House began to do the same. He drew on principles he learned growing up in a military family and on conclusions he formed as a prisoner in North Vietnam. He also returned to a conviction about “the common identity” of dangerous autocracies as far-flung as Serbia and North Korea that he had developed consulting with hawkish foreign policy thinkers to help sharpen the themes of his 2000 presidential campaign.

While pushing to take on Saddam Hussein, Mr. McCain also made arguments and statements that he may no longer wish to recall. He lauded the war planners he would later criticize, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney. (Mr. McCain even volunteered that he would have given the same job to Mr. Cheney.) He urged support for the later-discredited Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi’s opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, and echoed some of its suspect accusations in the national media. And he advanced misleading assertions not only about Mr. Hussein’s supposed weapons programs but also about his possible ties to international terrorists, Al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 attacks.

Five years after the invasion of Iraq, Mr. McCain’s supporters note that he became an early critic of the administration’s execution of the occupation, and they credit him with pushing the troop “surge” that helped bring stability. Mr. McCain, though, stands by his support for the war and expresses no regrets about his advocacy.

In written answers to questions, he blamed “Iraq’s opacity under Saddam” for any misleading remarks he made about the peril it posed.

The Sept. 11 attacks “demonstrated the grave threat posed by a hostile regime, possessing weapons of mass destruction, and with reported ties to terrorists,” Mr. McCain wrote in an e-mail message on Friday. Given Mr. Hussein’s history of pursuing illegal weapons and his avowed hostility to the United States, “his regime posed a threat we had to take seriously.” The attacks were still a reminder, Mr. McCain added, of the importance of international action “to prevent outlaw states — like Iran today — from developing weapons of mass destruction.”

Formative Years

Mr. McCain has been debating questions about the use of military force far longer than most. He grew up in a family that had sent a son to every American war since 1776, and international relations were a staple of the McCain family dinner table. Mr. McCain grew up listening to his father, Adm. John S. McCain Jr., deliver lectures on “The Four Ocean Navy and the Soviet Threat,” closing with a slide of an image he considered the ultimate factor in the balance of power: a soldier marching through a rice paddy with a rifle at his shoulder.

“To quote Sherman, war is all hell and we need to fight it out and get it over with and that is when the killing stops,” recalled Joe McCain, Senator McCain’s younger brother.

Vietnam, for Senator McCain, reinforced those lessons. He has often said he blamed the Johnson administration’s pause in bombing for prolonging the war, and he credited President Richard M. Nixon’s renewed attacks with securing his release from a North Vietnamese prison. He has made the principle that the exercise of military power sets the bargaining table for international relations a consistent theme of his career ever since, and in his 2002 memoir he wrote that one of his lifelong convictions was “the imperative that American power never retreat in response to an inferior adversary’s provocation.”


But Mr. McCain also took away from Vietnam a second, restraining lesson: the necessity for broad domestic support for any military action. For years he opposed a string of interventions — in Lebanon, Haiti, Somalia, and, for a time, the Balkans — on the grounds that the public would balk at the loss of life without clear national interests. “The Vietnam thing,” he recently said.

In the late 1990s, however, while he was beginning to consider his 2000 presidential race, he started rebalancing his view of the needs to project American strength and to sustain public support. The 1995 massacre of 5,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica under NATO’s watch struck at his conscience, he has said, and in addition to America’s strategic national interests — in that case, the future and credibility of NATO — Mr. McCain began to speak more expansively about America’s moral obligations as the only remaining superpower.

His aides say he later described the American air strikes in Bosnia in 1996 and in Kosovo in 1999 as a parable of political leadership: Mr. McCain, Senator Bob Dole and others had rallied Congressional support for the strikes despite widespread public opposition, then watched approval soar after the intervention helped to bring peace.

“Americans elect their leaders to make these kinds of judgments,” Mr. McCain said in the e-mail message.

It was during the Balkan wars that Mr. McCain and his advisers read a 1997 article on the Wall Street Journal editorial page by William Kristol and David Brooks of The Weekly Standard — both now Op-Ed page columnists at The New York Times — promoting the idea of “national greatness” conservatism, defined by a more activist agenda at home and a more muscular role in the world.

“I wouldn’t call it a ‘eureka’ moment, but there was a sense that this is where we are headed and this is what we are trying to articulate and they have already done a lot of the work,” said John Weaver, a former McCain political adviser. “And, quite frankly, from a crass political point of view, we were in the making-friends business. The Weekly Standard represented a part of the primary electorate that we could get.”

Soon Mr. McCain and his aides were consulting regularly with the circle of hawkish foreign policy thinkers sometimes referred to as neoconservatives — including Mr. Kristol, Robert Kagan and Randy Scheunemann, a former aide to Mr. Dole who became a McCain campaign adviser — to develop the senator’s foreign policy ideas and instincts into the broad themes of a presidential campaign. (In his e-mail message, Mr. McCain noted that he had also consulted with friends like Henry A. Kissinger, known for a narrower view of American interests.)

One result was a series of speeches in which Mr. McCain called for “rogue state rollback.” He argued that disparate regional troublemakers, including Iraq, North Korea and Serbia, bore a common stamp: they were all autocracies. And as such, he contended, they were more likely to export terrorism, spread dangerous weapons, or start ethnic conflicts. In an early outline of what would become his initial response to the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. McCain argued that “swift and sure” retribution against any one of the rogue states was an essential deterrent to any of the others. But Mr. McCain’s advisers and aides say his “rogue state” speeches stopped short of the most sweeping international agenda put forth by Mr. Kristol, Mr. Kagan and their allies. Mr. McCain explicitly disavowed direct military action merely to advance American values, foreswearing any “global crusade” of interventions in favor of relying on covert and financial support for internal opposition groups.

As an example, he could point to his 1998 sponsorship of the Iraqi Liberation Act, which sought to direct nearly $100 million to Iraqis who hoped to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The bill, signed by President Bill Clinton, also endorsed the ouster of Mr. Hussein.

Mr. McCain said then that he doubted the United States could muster the political will to use ground troops to remove the Iraqi dictator any time soon. “It was much easier when Saddam Hussein was occupying Kuwait and threatening Saudi Arabia,” the senator told Fox News in November 1998. “We’d have to convince the American people that it’s worth again the sacrifice of American lives, because that would also be part of the price.”

Hard Calls

Mr. McCain spent the afternoon of Sept. 11 in a young aide’s studio apartment near the Capitol. There was no cable television, nothing but water in the kitchen, and the hallway reminded him of an old boxing gym. Evacuated from his office but stranded by traffic, he could not resist imagining himself at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. “There are not enough Secret Service agents in the world to keep me away from Washington and New York at a time like this,” Mr. McCain told an adviser.


Over the next days and weeks, however, Mr. McCain became almost as visible as he would have been as president. Broadcasters rushed to him as a patriotic icon and reassuring voice, and for weeks he was ubiquitous on the morning news programs, Sunday talk shows, cable news networks, and even late-night comedy shows.

In the spotlight, he pushed rogue state rollback one step further, arguing that the United States should go on the offensive as a warning to any other country that might condone such an attack. “These networks are well-embedded in some of these countries,” Mr. McCain said on Sept. 12, listing Iraq, Iran and Syria as potential targets of United States pressure. “We’re going to have to prove to them that we are very serious, and the price that they will pay will not only be for punishment but also deterrence.”

Although he had campaigned for President Bush during the 2000 general election, he was still largely frozen out of the White House because of animosities left over from the Republican primary. But after Mr. Bush declared he would hold responsible any country condoning terrorism, Mr. McCain called his leadership “magnificent” and his national security team the strongest “that has ever been assembled.” A few weeks later, Larry King of CNN asked whether he would have named Mr. Rumsfeld and Colin L. Powell to a McCain cabinet. “Oh, yes, and Cheney,” Mr. McCain answered, saying he, too, would have offered Mr. Cheney the vice presidency.

Even during the heat of the war in Afghanistan, Mr. McCain kept an eye on Iraq. To Jay Leno in mid-September, Mr. McCain said he believed “some other countries” had assisted Osama bin Laden, going on to suggest Iraq, Syria and Iran as potential suspects. In October 2001, when an Op-Ed page column in The New York Times speculated that Iraq, Russia or some other country might bear responsibility for that month’s anthrax mailings, Mr. McCain interrupted a question about Afghanistan from David Letterman on that night’s “Late Show.” “The second phase is Iraq,” Mr. McCain said, adding, “Some of this anthrax may — and I emphasize may — have come from Iraq.” (The Federal Bureau of Investigation says it came from a federal government laboratory in Maryland.) By October, United States and foreign intelligence agencies had said publicly that they doubted any cooperation between Mr. Hussein and Al Qaeda, noting Al Qaeda’s opposition to such secular nationalists. American intelligence officials soon declared that Mr. Hussein had not supported international terrorism for nearly a decade.

But when the Czech government said that before the attacks, one of the 9/11 hijackers had met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence official, Mr. McCain seized the report as something close to a smoking gun. “The evidence is very clear,” he said three days later, in an Oct. 29 television interview. (Intelligence agencies quickly cast doubt on the meeting.)

Frustrated by the dearth of American intelligence about Iraq, Mr. McCain’s aides say, he had long sought to learn as much as he could from Iraqi opposition figures in exile, including Mr. Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress. Over the years, Mr. McCain often urged support for the group, saying it had “significant support, in my view, inside Iraq.”

After Sept. 11, Mr. Chalabi’s group said an Iraqi emissary had once met with Osama bin Laden, and brought forward two Iraqi defectors who described terrorist training camps and biological weapons efforts. At times, Mr. McCain seemed to echo their accusations, citing the “two defectors” in a television interview and attesting to “credible reports of involvement between Iraqi administration officials, Iraqi officials and the terrorists.”

Growing Impatient

But United States intelligence officials had doubts about Mr. Chalabi at the time and have since discredited his group. In 2006, Mr. McCain acknowledged to The New Republic that he had been “too enamored with the I.N.C.” In his e-mail message, though, he said he never relied on the group for information about Iraq’s weapons program.

At a European security conference in February 2002, when the Bush administration still publicly maintained that it had made no decision about moving against Iraq, Mr. McCain described an invasion as all but certain. “A terrorist resides in Baghdad,” he said, adding, “A day of reckoning is approaching.”

Regime change in Iraq in addition to Afghanistan, he argued, would compel other sponsors of terrorism to mend their ways, “accomplishing by example what we would otherwise have to pursue through force of arms.”

Finally, as American troops massed in the Persian Gulf in early 2003, Mr. McCain grew impatient, his aides say, concerned that the White House was failing to act as the hot desert summer neared. Waiting, he warned in a speech in Washington, risked squandering the public and international support aroused by Sept. 11. “Does anyone really believe that the world’s will to contain Saddam won’t eventually collapse as utterly as it did in the 1990s?” Mr. McCain asked.

In retrospect, some of Mr. McCain’s critics now accuse him of looking for a pretext to justify the war. “McCain was hell-bent for leather: ‘Saddam Hussein is a bad guy, we have got to teach him, let’s send a message to the other people in the Middle East,’ ” said Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts.

But Mr. McCain, in his e-mail message, said the reason he had supported the war was the evolving threat from Mr. Hussein.

“I believe voters elect their leaders based on their experience and judgment — their ability to make hard calls, for instance, on matters of war and peace,” he wrote. “It’s important to get them right.”

Posted by: Anonymous | September 16, 2008 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Outside the Box:

Keep playing defense, all the way to Election Day.

Posted by: JakeD | September 16, 2008 6:38 PM | Report abuse

this election will have shockwaves that will last a generation- if mccaiin wins b/c democrats fail to support obama- it will certainly mark the end of blind support by the most loyal democrats ( having a clear indication the coalition has failed them)- then the middle class ( already an engdangered species- will fade away. if that's what american's want( a certain loss or hope for the "american way of life" - go ahead an vote for mccain. people this is no longer amusing the r's do not deserve another 4-8 yrs

Posted by: jacade | September 16, 2008 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Obama needs to do an instant response ad, maybe using the same video, boxed, reminding folks that he's been in the Senate 26 years and never proposed a major economic reform during that time. and recently has confessed that economics is not his strong suit. Instead, he supported the team and the policies that got us into this mess.

At this late date, every assault must be returned in kind.

Posted by: Outside the Box | September 16, 2008 5:58 PM | Report abuse

John did change though. Changed from a moderate to an ultra-con Bush clone. He's changed his positions on immigration, energy policy, social security, guns, civil rights, taxes, abortion, religion, torture...

McCain in the White House? Thanks, but no thanks!

Posted by: Enough | September 16, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Except, of course, that McCain has actually obtained results like campaign finance REFORM, education REFORM, etc.

McCain-Palin PROVEN REFORMERS!!!

Posted by: JakeD | September 16, 2008 5:47 PM | Report abuse

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