Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) talked at some length with Andrea Mitchell this afternoon about the crisis in Ukraine, and the question of what steps, specifically, the senator would like to see the Obama administration take.
McCain didn’t offer much in the way of foreign policy specifics, but he had a more general piece of advice: McCain wants President Obama to see Vladimir Putin the way McCain does.
“One is a fundamental understanding of Vladimir Putin. [Obama administration officials] have been near delusional in thinking the Cold War was over.“Maybe the president thinks the Cold War is over, but Vladimir Putin doesn’t. And that’s what this is all about.”
Later in the interview, McCain said about the limits of U.S. intervention, “I do not see a military option and it’s tragic.” (I’m going to hope the senator meant the crisis is a tragedy, not the fact that the U.S. won’t intervene in the crisis with military force.)
With the Obama administration already taking many of the same steps congressional Republicans want him to take, it’s not too surprising that McCain would many the shift from specific criticism to vague suggestions about perceptions.
But it’s this notion of U.S. officials being “near delusional” about the end of the Cold War that’s problematic.
The Cold War’s end isn’t exactly a secret. Igor Bobic flagged a fascinating quote from a Republican senator who boasted not too long ago, “The Cold War is over, the Soviet empire is gone and neither one is missed.”
The senator was John McCain, who now apparently considers his previous rhetoric to be absurd.
As president, George W. Bush said of Putin, “I looked the man in the eye, I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul.”
If McCain wanted to characterize that sentiment as “near delusional,” that would certainly be understandable. If Obama ever said anything even remotely similar to what Bush said, it’d be easy to understand Republican criticism.
But for the Obama administration to believe “the Cold War is over” is hardly an outrageous position to take and McCain is mistaken to insist otherwise.