Would a McCain Presidency Be Bush's Third Term?

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 03/26/2008 - 2:09pm.

Standing along the edge of the Gaza Strip and flanked by a hero of the Israeli military, Sen. John McCain last week invoked the tough rhetoric of President Bush, warning of Iranian influence in the Middle East and cautioning against negotiations with terrorists.


A day later, standing outside London's 10 Downing Street, McCain found himself arguing against his president as he eagerly recounted for reporters his lengthy conversation with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown about the need for worldwide action to prevent global warming.

Throughout a weeklong trip that took him to more than a dozen meetings with leaders in five countries, McCain walked a fine line on Iraq and other issues as the all-but-certain Republican nominee confronted perhaps the central dilemma of his presidential campaign — the question of what role Bush and the legacy of the past seven years will play in his campaign for the White House.

At home, the answer may determine how well McCain succeeds in keeping his Republican base happy while also attracting the independents and Democrats he will need to win in November. And, win or lose, it will shape his image abroad, where a debate is already raging over whether a McCain presidency would be a de facto third term for the embattled incumbent.

In every city, foreign leaders and journalists attempted to reconcile what they deemed the two sides to McCain: His bellicose rhetoric on Iran and North Korea — which is more aggressive than Bush's — and his desire to heal the rift with Europe's leaders by closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, ending what he regards to be the use of torture by American forces and reducing pollution.

McCain repeatedly insisted last week that his government-funded trip was not a campaign stunt aimed at voters. But the trip was by no means exclusively an information-gathering exercise for McCain. And he was hardly treated like a member of Congress by world leaders now eyeing him as a potential equal.

In Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy led McCain into the Elysee Palace past a throng of cameras, where the pair sipped cappuccino around a large table set with grapes. In Israel, he walked past Chagall stained-glass windows to meet with President Shimon Peres at his ceremonial home. In London, protocol dictated the absence of a red carpet at 10 Downing, but there was a photo op in the White Drawing Room.

McCain's political advisers say those images were a valuable reminder to voters of a key asset. "This trip has shown the world Sen. McCain's foreign policy credentials and highlighted the depth of his knowledge on international affairs," Rick Davis, his campaign manager, wrote in a memo to supporters.

But there were missteps as well. By incorrectly saying that Iran was training Al-Qaeda insurgents rather than Shiite extremists, McCain sparked days of headlines questioning that depth of knowledge he so often boasts of on the campaign trail.

And at the Western Wall in Israel, overzealous photographers sparked a near-riot with police officers, overshadowing McCain's visit to the holy site.

"Was it a good trip? Yeah, it was good" was how one of McCain's senior advisers summed up the journey as McCain headed to London for a few days of downtime with his wife. "The impression that came back to the American people was someone who was deeply comfortable there in a way that showed he's ready to be president."

McCain's partners on the trip were his two closest allies in the Senate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who now describes his political affiliation as "independent Democrat," and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. In an interview as he traveled by train between Paris and London, Graham said McCain's long-held position on Iraq demonstrates his independence from Bush. While embracing the Bush "surge" policy in Iraq, the senator from Arizona has never shied from saying that the administration bungled the planning and preparation for the conflict.

"When he thought it was going badly, he was pushing back against the administration. When he thought the policy was going right, he was right with him," Graham said. "The idea that John is an extension of another politician will fail miserably." Democrats are already trying to morph McCain into Bush, counting on the president's sagging poll numbers and the unpopular war in Iraq to drag McCain down, especially among independents.

In a biting Internet ad that seems a foreshadowing of attacks to come, the Democratic National Committee mocked McCain as nothing more than a clone of Bush. "Why is this man so happy?" the ad asks, showing a picture of a laughing President Bush. "Because he found someone to promise a Third Bush Term."

Democrats also hammered McCain for turning a policy trip into a political one and called on him to reimburse the government for the tens of thousands of dollars it would have cost to charter a plane for the exercise. At a news conference at the Elysee Palace, one reporter asked whether the trip had been a "taxpayer rip-off."

All three senators became indignant. "I'm proud to have taken this trip," McCain declared. "I'm proud to have built up the relationships I have with the president of France and with other leaders."


The Washington Post - Michael D. Shear - March 25, 2008 - posted at http://arabnews.com

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 03/26/2008 - 2:09pm.