John McCain gave a pretty lifeless acceptance speech last night, at times sounding more like a presenter at an awards show than like someone running for President. After listening to McCain’s speech, it was clear that the convention belonged to Sarah Palin. This is not to say that McCain’s speech was bereft of moments. McCain particularly shined and showed his wit when he attempted to quiet overly zealous protestors (how they got into the main chamber is beyond me) by saying “Please don’t be diverted by the ground noise and the static.”
But those bored by the ho-hum, ill-paced nature of McCain’s speech may have missed perhaps the most frightening indication of what a McCain presidency would mean for the American people. In continuing the Republican mantra of attempting to scare Americans into voting for them (the pre-speech videos featured a clip of the World Trade Center attack), McCain had this to say: “We face many dangerous threats in this dangerous world, but I’m not afraid of them. I’m prepared for them…. I know how the world works. I know the good and the evil in it.” “Good and evil.” Those words, and the sentiment behind them, have been the hallmark of American foreign policy for seven years.
In his 2002 State of the Union address, George W. Bush labeled North Korea, Iran and Iraq an “axis of evil.” Later that year, during his keynote speech before West Point’s graduating class, George Bush said that “We are in a conflict between good and evil. And America will call evil by its name.” In less than a year, America was at war with Iraq. Since that time, Bush’s black-and-white, “with us or against us” ideology has dominated American national security policy, strained relations with America’s allies and increased tensions not only between the U.S. and two of the other so-called “axis” countries, but also between the U.S. and at least one of our South American neighbors, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
In one small sentence, John McCain sent the loudest possible signal that he shares George Bush’s worldview and plans to continue Bush’s hardline foreign policy that sees the world only in terms of allies and enemies, “good and evil.” That worldview informed George Bush to unilaterally invade a country on the assurance of one shady informant who claimed to have seen weapons of mass destruction. That worldview led Bush to initially reject calls to seek diplomacy against Iran and North Korea, to unilaterally withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and to refer to our European allies who refused to cosign the war in Iraq as “the old Europe.” That overly simplistic and troubling ideology has created more disaffection toward the United States by our once staunch allies, and has contributed to more of a raw hatred of the U.S. by its enemies, than at perhaps any other moment in America’s history.
McCain’s desire to continue Bush’s “good and evil” view of the world indicates that a McCain presidency could actually decrease American stability and increase both the number of agents who threaten our security and the incidence of those agents’ attempts to carry out their threats. By labeling those who disagree with our policies as “evil”, McCain is contributing to the sense of alienation felt by our once strong allies who do not always see America as “good” and who wonder when the next “freedom fries” moment will come along, making America label them as “evil.” Our enemies, knowing how America responds to states and sub-state agents it labels as “evil” may be compelled to strike a disabling blow to America first. McCain’s foreign policy will not make America safer. Rather, it will increase the likelihood that we will be attacked and potentially create the perverse scenario that America will become more isolationist, more unilateralist, more militaristic and less democratic. McCain’s pledge to carry Bush’s “good and evil” mantle is frightening indeed.
While it was disheartening to sit through the constant “fear the enemy, vote for the Republicans” message, McCain’s speech was notable also for its “wait a minute, I want change too” theme. McCain used the word “change” twelve times in his speech, which culminated in the dizzying phrase “In America, we change things that need to be changed.” While I will not delve into McCain’s attempt to hijack Obama’s “change” message – except to say that the incredibly limited policy points McCain hit on actually represent a continuation of, rather than a change from, Bush’s course – I can easily sum McCain’s call for change as follows: “I’m for change. I want to change change and make change for the people who need change because change is changing in America and we need to change the way that change changes!” Was that incoherent enough for you? Welcome to McCain’s call for “change.”
As I’ve already addressed the outright lies regarding Obama’s policy positions in my article discussing Sarah Palin’s speech, I will not rehash them hear with regard to McCain’s speech. While nearly devoid of any meaningful discussion of his policy positions, McCain’s speech was very clear in one regard – though he seemed too tired to be running for President, McCain proved he would be tireless in his pursuit of policies that would create more fear, less freedoms and more enemies for the American people. As his mantra goes – “country first.”
Here is McCain’s speech