On the 20th consecutive day when gas prices reached a record high, John McCain gave a speech about nuclear proliferation. Can this campaign be any more out of touch with the issues that matter to American voters?
McCain’s speech seemed to have three purposes. First, McCain wanted to lay out his position on what he views as a foreign policy issue. Second, he wished to stress that he is different from George W. Bush in that he will talk to the international community. Third, he wants to pretend that all of the issues that are critical to domestic policy aren’t really happening. This whole speech was a metaphor for the McCain campaign as he got into his time machine, and took us back to decades past.
Forty-five years ago, President John F. Kennedy asked the American people to imagine what the world would look like if nuclear weapons spread beyond the few powers that then held them to the many other nations that sought them. “Stop and think for a moment,” he said, “what it would mean to have nuclear weapons in so many hands, in the hands of countries large and small, stable and unstable, responsible and irresponsible, scattered throughout the world.” If that happened, he warned, “there would be no rest for anyone.”
Yet again, McCain tried to link himself to Ronald Reagan.
A quarter of a century ago, President Ronald Reagan declared, “our dream is to see the day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the face of the Earth.” That is my dream, too. It is a distant and difficult goal. And we must proceed toward it prudently and pragmatically, and with a focused concern for our security and the security of allies who depend on us. But the Cold War ended almost twenty years ago, and the time has come to take further measures to reduce dramatically the number of nuclear weapons in the world’s arsenals. It is time for the United States to show the kind of leadership the world expects from us, in the tradition of American presidents who worked to reduce the nuclear threat to mankind.
McCain played a fear card that was straight out of the Cold War, “Our highest priority must be to reduce the danger that nuclear weapons will ever be used. Such weapons, while still important to deter an attack with weapons of mass destruction against us and our allies, represent the most abhorrent and indiscriminate form of warfare known to man. We do, quite literally, possess the means to destroy all of mankind. We must seek to do all we can to ensure that nuclear weapons will never again be used.”
McCain promised to sit down and talk to Russia, China, India, and Pakistan about reducing the stockpiles of nuclear weapons. What was illuminating was who he didn’t promise to talk to. He wouldn’t promise to talk to the truly dangerous nations that are developing nuclear weapons such as Syria, North Korea, and Iran.
This was a completely out of touch speech. Many sections of it seemed to be straight out of the 1980s. In a year when food and gas prices are soaring, McCain can campaign like he is still fighting the Cold War, but it will only serve to hurt him in November.
You can read McCain’s speech here.