McCain First, Country Last


The man who crashed in the 2000 primaries, the man who acquiesced to CIA torture (the same methods once used on him) in 2006, the man who claimed to put country first in 2008 and then impetuously picked an unstable half-wit as a veep candidate, the man who wanted to launch a war with Russia over Georgia, and the man who has spent the last five years actively trying to undermine the president’s foreign policy when visiting Israel … well, we should expect stupid amateurish displays of ego like an op-ed in the wrong Pravda.

Yes, it was the wrong Pravda, one founded online in 1999 and not connected to the other Pravda founded in 1912. But McCain is not exactly known for his precision, is he? And at a moment when the US needs to keep relations with Russia stable – because Russia is critical to controlling and destroying Assad’s chemical weapons – McCain lobs a rhetorical hand-grenade at the Kremlin.

What on earth is the point of it? One assumes a riposte to Putin’s op-ed in the New York Times (unlike McCain, Putin didn’t mistakenly put his op-ed on Newsmax). And then you read it and you see the fathomless parochialism that has always clung to this vain, impetuous grandstander. He actually claims he has long been pro-Russia, something so transparently false it is perhaps appropriate it appears in an online outlet with the name of a paper, “Truth”, that became a synonym for its opposite. McCain has been itching for a war with Russia ever since the Cold War ended. But then he itches for war three times before lunch most days.

But this pointlessly provocative op-ed is also obviously serving a purpose. McCain wants the US to go to war in Syria in order to achieve regime change. For him, remember, Iraq was a huge success. Now that he has been stymied in this effort – stymied by the president and the Congress and a huge majority of the American people, 79 percent of whom back the US-Russia agreement – he has decided to try and sabotage it. Think for a minute how important it is right now to retain decent relations with Putin and Lavrov in the attempt to secure and destroy Assad’s chemical weapons. Now read these words:

How has [Putin] strengthened Russia’s international stature? By allying Russia with some of the world’s most offensive and threatening tyrannies. By supporting a Syrian regime that is murdering tens of thousands of its own people to remain in power and by blocking the United Nations from even condemning its atrocities. By refusing to consider the massacre of innocents, the plight of millions of refugees, the growing prospect of a conflagration that engulfs other countries in its flames an appropriate subject for the world’s attention. He is not enhancing Russia’s global reputation. He is destroying it. He has made her a friend to tyrants and an enemy to the oppressed, and untrusted by nations that seek to build a safer, more peaceful and prosperous world.

These sentences could have been written a month ago. There is truth to them – but as a matter of simple pragmatic judgment in this tricky period, could any such rant be more reckless? Directly and personally impugning the president of Russia in a Russian media outlet is the act of an impulsive ego-maniac who is perfectly willing to sabotage his own country’s recent deal with Putin to get some publicity for himself.

McCain First, Country Last, War Forever. That’s his motto. After the last ten years, it isn’t just repellent. It’s recklessly dangerous.

(Photo: Senator John McCain listens during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill September 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. By Brendan Smialowski/Getty.)