Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., holds a meeting in the hallway outside the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

John McCain’s winter of discontent

With a crisis in Ukraine, violence in Syria, and diplomatic talks underway with Iran, Sen. John McCain (R) is deeply unhappy - and he’s eager to let everyone know about his dissatisfaction.
On various areas of foreign policy and the Obama administration, McCain sees an “abysmal failure” and a “disgrace.” He doesn’t know “what planet” Secretary of State John Kerry is on. When it comes to developments in Kiev, McCain believes President Obama is guilty of “stunning naivete” adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin has “played us so incredibly” and Obama is “the most naive president in history.”
What’s all of this based on? Well, that’s less clear. Apparently McCain is outraged that the Obama administration tried to improve U.S. relations with Russia five years ago. McCain also believes, for reasons that appear to be imaginary, that Russia may try to seize control of parts of Ukraine, presumably through some kind of invasion.
Paul Waldman’s suspicion that McCain has no idea what he’s talking about seems well grounded.
[I]f you had to sum up John McCain’s foreign policy beliefs in a single word, that word would probably be “Grrrr!” Whatever the situation is, McCain’s view is always that we should be tougher than whatever the White House is doing. […]
That is, I promise you, the extent of the sophistication of McCain’s foreign policy thinking. Despite the fact that he is regularly lauded by the reporters who have worshipped him for so long as an “expert” in foreign policy with deep “knowledge” and “experience,” I have never heard him say a single thing that demonstrated any kind of understanding of any foreign country or foreign crisis beyond what you could have gleaned from watching a three-minute report on the Today show.
In the case of Ukraine, McCain’s latest outrage leads him to believe the U.S. should impose sanctions – a position that’s entirely in line with the Obama administration, which McCain is publicly condemning apparently for the sake of public condemnation.
Looking back over the last several years, I’m hard pressed to think of instances in which McCain’s views on international affairs and national security were correct. In fact, I’m reminded of this Frank Rich piece from 2009.

[McCain] made every wrong judgment call that could be made after 9/11. It’s not just that he echoed the Bush administration’s constant innuendos that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaeda’s attack on America. Or that he hyped the faulty W.M.D. evidence to the hysterical extreme of fingering Iraq for the anthrax attacks in Washington. Or that he promised we would win the Iraq war “easily.” Or that he predicted that the Sunnis and the Shiites would “probably get along” in post-Saddam Iraq because there was “not a history of clashes” between them.

What’s more mortifying still is that McCain was just as wrong about Afghanistan and Pakistan. He routinely minimized or dismissed the growing threats in both countries over the past six years, lest they draw American resources away from his pet crusade in Iraq.

Two years after 9/11 he was claiming that we could “in the long term” somehow “muddle through” in Afghanistan. (He now has the chutzpah to accuse President Obama of wanting to “muddle through” there.) Even after the insurgency accelerated in Afghanistan in 2005, McCain was still bragging about the “remarkable success” of that prematurely abandoned war. In 2007, some 15 months after the Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf signed a phony “truce” ceding territory on the Afghanistan border to terrorists, McCain gave Musharraf a thumb’s up. As a presidential candidate in the summer of 2008, McCain cared so little about Afghanistan it didn’t even merit a mention among the national security planks on his campaign Web site.

He takes no responsibility for any of this.

But apparently we’re supposed to take his contemporary complaints seriously anyway, because, well, he’s John McCain.