Do John Mccain's Advisors "think He's A Lightweight?"

by James Kirchick | April 11, 2008

Yesterday, Jon wrote a post entitled, "McCain's Advisors Think He's a Lightweight." As evidence, he cited yesterday's New York Times story on McCain's foreign policy team, allegedly at war with itself with neocons and realists taking to the ramparts (guess which side the Times takes). Yet the only person quoted on the record who in any way backs the story's premise is Lawrence Eagleburger ("a member of the pragmatist camp.") He said that, "It's maybe too strong a term to say a fight is going on over John McCain’s soul." That actually contradicts the narrative of the Times story, which is weakend by the fact that every other on-the-record source denies that there is any sort of war occuring in the campaign between its foreign policy advisors. (Also, the Times doesn't know what it's talking about. John Bolton, identified as a "neocon," isn't. He's a conservative nationalist who does not believe that democracy promotion -- a core neoconservative principle -- should be at the forefront of American foreign policy. In 1946, George Orwell wrote that "The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable.'" The same can be said today of liberal harangues about neoconservatism.)

Jon excerpts the following paragraph from the Times account to make the claim that McCain's own advisors "think he's a lightweight."

One of the chief concerns of the pragmatists is that Mr. McCain is susceptible to influence from the neoconservatives because he is not as fully formed on foreign policy as his campaign advisers say he is, and that while he speaks authoritatively, he operates too much off the cuff and has not done the deeper homework required of a presidential candidate.

This is a fairly daring accusation for the Times to publish when the only on-the-record source who (barely) alludes to it actually contradicts what's being alleged. All in all, the Times story is a rather thin basis on which to make the claim that "John McCain's Advisors Think He's a Lightweight." By the measure Jon employs, if we want to start using the expressed views of advisors about their candidates' fitness for office, we need only take the words of former Clinton State Department official Susan Rice, who said -- very much on the record -- that Obama is "not read to have that 3 a.m. phone call." And as I pointed out earlier this week, Obama is oddly dismissive about diplomacy, since "knowing the leaders [of foreign countries] is not important--what I know is the people." Obama should stick to the economy, an area in which -- as Jon has repeatedly documented -- McCain si weakest.

In a PS, Jon acknowledges the complaints that "Republican source" has with the Times account, yet concludes that the very fact a GOP operative contacted him means that Republicans "see the Times story as highly damaging to the McCain narrative, and thus set out to push back quickly against any commentary taking note of it." That's a stretch. The story was clearly motivated by realists in the McCain camp who feel that they're losing out to so-called "neocons." And the reporter in question has something of a beef with McCain. And the Times published a ridiculous front pager two months ago -- also thinly-sourced -- alluding to an affair between McCain and a lobbyist, an affair for which no evidence was produced. I'd say that these are the reasons why Jon's Republican source took issue with this non-story and the commentary surrounding it.

--James Kirchick

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-plank/do-john-mccains-advisors-quotthink-hes-lightweightquot