McCain responds on Iran Update: Video added

posted at 12:30 pm on May 19, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

John McCain responded to Barack Obama’s assertion that Iran presents an insignificant threat to the US based on its size. Speaking outside of his prepared remarks in Chicago this morning, McCain once again questioned Obama’s grasp on foreign relations and strategic thinking, especially six years after a band of terrorists killed 3,000 Americans in a coordinated operation that should have revamped threat assessment in every corner of the American political system:

Before I begin my prepared remarks, I want to respond briefly to a comment Senator Obama made yesterday about the threat posed to the United States by the Government of Iran. Senator Obama claimed that the threat Iran poses to our security is “tiny” compared to the threat once posed by the former Soviet Union. Obviously, Iran isn’t a superpower and doesn’t possess the military power the Soviet Union had. But that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant. On the contrary, right now Iran provides some of the deadliest explosive devices used in Iraq to kill our soldiers. They are the chief sponsor of Shia extremists in Iraq, and terrorist organizations in the Middle East. And their President, who has called Israel a “stinking corpse,” has repeatedly made clear his government’s commitment to Israel’s destruction. Most worrying, Iran is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons. The biggest national security challenge the United States currently faces is keeping nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists. Should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, that danger would become very dire, indeed. They might not be a superpower, but the threat the Government of Iran poses is anything but ‘tiny”.

Senator Obama has declared, and repeatedly reaffirmed his intention to meet the President of Iran without any preconditions, likening it to meetings between former American Presidents and the leaders of the Soviet Union. Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment. Those are very serious deficiencies for an American president to possess. An ill conceived meeting between the President of the United States and the President of Iran, and the massive world media coverage it would attract, would increase the prestige of an implacable foe of the United States, and reinforce his confidence that Iran’s dedication to acquiring nuclear weapons, supporting terrorists and destroying the State of Israel had succeeded in winning concessions from the most powerful nation on earth. And he is unlikely to abandon the dangerous ambitions that will have given him a prominent role on the world stage.

This is not to suggest that the United States should not communicate with Iran our concerns about their behavior. Those communications have already occurred at an appropriate level, which the Iranians recently suspended. But a summit meeting with the President of the United States, which is what Senator Obama proposes, is the most prestigious card we have to play in international diplomacy. It is not a card to be played lightly. Summit meetings must be much more than personal get-acquainted sessions. They must be designed to advance American interests. An unconditional summit meeting with the next American president would confer both international legitimacy on the Iranian president and could strengthen him domestically when he is unpopular among the Iranian people. It is likely such a meeting would not only fail to persuade him to abandon Iran’s nuclear ambitions; its support of terrorists and commitment to Israel’s extinction, it could very well convince him that those policies are succeeding in strengthening his hold on power, and embolden him to continue his very dangerous behavior. The next President ought to understand such basic realities of international relations.

As Michael Goldfarb notes this morning at the Weekly Standard, even Democrats have started backpedaling away from Obama’s foreign policy. Joe Biden, Gary Hart, and Harold Ford all rejected the idea of unconditional presidential-level talks with Iran. All three tried to spin Obama’s statement into a conditional offer of unconditional talks, such as this quote from Hart: “I don’t think Barack Obama or any other President is going to meet with a head of state without lower-level discussions preceding that.”

But what would those lower-level discussions entail that current lower-level contacts do not? Wouldn’t basing this on agreements reached at the lower level mean an insistence on preconditions? Obama has cast this policy as a rejection of Bush’s policy, but without the unconditional talks still promised on his website, he’s essentially opted for the entire Bush policy:

Diplomacy: Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. Now is the time to pressure Iran directly to change their troubling behavior. Obama would offer the Iranian regime a choice. If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation. Seeking this kind of comprehensive settlement with Iran is our best way to make progress.

Memo to Obama: We have already offered WTO membership, an end to economic sanctions that prevent investment, and full diplomatic relations to Iran in exchange for an end to and a full accounting of their nuclear program. Iran rejected it, and so we have continued with economic and diplomatic pressure. The only difference between Bush and Obama is the notion that Obama would meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions, which he and his allies now claim he won’t do even while his website says he will.

Perhaps he should take a few years to study the actual issues and the history of American policy on this subject before running for President. He seems inadequately prepared for serious consideration for stewardship of a foreign policy he clearly doesn’t understand.


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Ed, your Goldfarb link is broken. It has an extra http in it.

amerpundit on May 19, 2008 at 12:33 PM

Fixed, thanks!

Ed Morrissey on May 19, 2008 at 12:34 PM

Perhaps he should take a few years to study the actual issues and the history of American policy on this subject before running for President.

Sorry. No can do. His fumbles have made it impossible for another person to run on race alone. This is his one and only shot at that scam.

JiangxiDad on May 19, 2008 at 12:35 PM

No probs.

“I don’t think Barack Obama or any other President is going to meet with a head of state without lower-level discussions preceding that.”

Someone should fill Obama in.

amerpundit on May 19, 2008 at 12:35 PM

Distractions! The Messiahwannabe’s foreign policy is off the table for discussions. Move along, there’s nothing to see here.

dish on May 19, 2008 at 12:35 PM

Obama is such a moron. The collapse of the USSR let former satellite nations, like Iran, act independently for the first time since WWII. The world is in much greater danger today because the USSR is not there to keep them in check.

We replaced one giant enemy who at least acted rationally with lots of smaller, independent loose cannons. Not that I particularly wish for the return of the USSR, but you can’t compare the threat levels of Cold War and modern enemies using the same calculus.

James on May 19, 2008 at 12:39 PM

How big’s Japan?

Akzed on May 19, 2008 at 12:39 PM

The next President ought to understand such basic realities of international relations.

This is why we must back McCain, even if he’s only a half-ass conservative, a moderate maverick or a liberal Republican, whatever you wanna call him, but on the war, he gets it, and the war is THE most important issue. We can NOT afford to have Obamberlain in office, wrecking everything that our Troops and Allies fought so hard to achieve.

Tony737 on May 19, 2008 at 12:40 PM

Warning shot across the bow of the USS Obambi.

Will Obambi make a run for the nearest port of safe haven or …….. skip there?

fogw on May 19, 2008 at 12:44 PM

OMG What a neophyte Obama is!

Please, Lord do not allow him to be elected as POTUS. PLEASE

ordi on May 19, 2008 at 12:45 PM

Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment

Unfortunately the same inexperience and reckless judgment are qualities he shares with the vast bulk of his supporters, and arguably something approaching a majority of Americans.

peski on May 19, 2008 at 12:45 PM

Obama’s sycophantic media coverage assures that Obama will never be asked the following question:
“You have said that you will meet Ahmedinejad without preconditions. Do you think it is appropriate for Ahmedinejad, who calls Israel a stinking corpse, to be invited to the White House so he can stand in the same hallowed ground that Abraham Lincoln stood in?”
Question two: Do you think you can reach an accomodation with a man who calls Israel “a stinking corpse”?

The most servile Obama flatterer is probably Brian Williams at NBC followed by Tim Russert and Chris Matthews. Over at CNN, which nobody watches, John King and Wolf Blitzer contend for the title of which reporter can be most aroused when in the presence of the Obamas.

Larraby on May 19, 2008 at 12:46 PM

McCain:

Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment.

Yes it does. Unfortunately, it seems that Obama’s followers consider these to be wonderfully positive attributes.

Gilda on May 19, 2008 at 12:47 PM

All three tried to spin Obama’s statement into a conditional offer of unconditional talks, such as this quote from Hart: “I don’t think Barack Obama or any other President is going to meet with a head of state without lower-level discussions preceding that.”

You know its pretty bad when you have to get Gary Hart to use Clinton-like parsing of words to save you. Glad to see cranky old bastard is finally doing some campaigning that doesn’t involve selling out the GOP to its enemies.

highhopes on May 19, 2008 at 12:47 PM

Hey I thought criticizing Obambi about ANYTHING was off-limits!!! I’m turning you all in to the thought police

HawaiiLwyr on May 19, 2008 at 12:48 PM

Gilda on May 19, 2008 at 12:47 PM

Great minds…

peski on May 19, 2008 at 12:48 PM

They [Presidential Summits] must be designed to advance American interests.

But, clearly, BO has no interest in advancing American interests, only his own and the global one world government.

kirkill on May 19, 2008 at 12:48 PM

James on May 19, 2008 at 12:39 PM

Iran wasn’t a client of the USSR, although I agree with you that they were held in check by a regional balance of power that was influenced by the USSR.

Don’t forget. The Arabs are scared shitless of the Persians. Bush must have discussed this with the Saudi King last week after meeting with the Israelis. The “balance” will be restored, even if by force.

JiangxiDad on May 19, 2008 at 12:48 PM

The people who believe him are just as ignorant as he is but they empower him. The appeasement argument is one for the ages, that must be repeatedly debated lest its meaning be forgotten.

Bacchus on May 19, 2008 at 12:49 PM

All three tried to spin Obama’s statement into a conditional offer of unconditional talks, such as this quote from Hart: “I don’t think Barack Obama or any other President is going to meet with a head of state without lower-level discussions preceding that.”

I saw Chris Dodd spewing this same lame line of spin on Fox News Sunday yesterday.

peski on May 19, 2008 at 12:51 PM

Gloom and Doom. Obama will be a disaster and no one will say a thing about it. That would be racist.

Prediction. Obama will respond with indignant outrage that McCain would stoop so low as to criticize his qualifications to be President. Obama’s policy statements and positions should be off limits. Clearly McCain is engaged in an insidious conspiracy to deny the Messiah the presidency.

ronsfi on May 19, 2008 at 12:55 PM

Akzed on May 19, 2008 at 12:39 PM

Japan: 377,835 sq mi.
Iran: 1,648,000 sq mi.

Buford Gooch on May 19, 2008 at 12:55 PM

Pretty sad when he makes Jimmy Carter look competent!

JohnAGJ on May 19, 2008 at 12:56 PM

The hardest part about beating Obama is going to be overcoming the amazingly lopsided coverage the media is going to give this fall. If that can be done, and the American people get a clear picture of just how inexperienced, naive and out of touch Obama is, McCain should win easy.

BadgerHawk on May 19, 2008 at 12:57 PM

Japan: 377,835 sq mi.
Iran: 1,648,000 sq mi.

Buford Gooch on May 19, 2008 at 12:55 PM

heh. I don’t think that’s quite what he was getting at.

BadgerHawk on May 19, 2008 at 12:58 PM

This was simply inadequate research by Obama’s staff, he will fire someone and we can all move on.

You can’t really expect ‘The One™’ to do his own research, he is much too busy preparing to save the world from us lesser beings.

Bishop on May 19, 2008 at 1:00 PM

Great minds…

peski on May 19, 2008 at 12:48 PM

Ha! Kudos to you for getting there first.

Wonder what the weaselly whine from Obama will be in response to this latest low class distorted distraction. Besides the usual “Waaaaaah!” I mean.

Gilda on May 19, 2008 at 1:00 PM

BadgerHawk on May 19, 2008 at 12:58 PM

Yes, it was what he was getting at. Japan, at less than one fourth the size of Iran (a “tiny” country) was as dangerous, in its time, as the USSR.

Buford Gooch on May 19, 2008 at 1:01 PM

What do you expect from BHO?

1 He was never in the military.
2 He never held a civilian job (private sector).
3 Most of his political career spent in crooked local Chicago politics.
4 He has shown no leadership potential during his short Senate stay.
5 His spiritual adviser is the Black equivalent of the KKK.
6 His wife harbors Black Panther ideologies.
7 He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and was indoctrinated with socialist Ivy League propaganda.

You have a sow’s ear. What did you expect, a silk purse?

MaiDee on May 19, 2008 at 1:02 PM

BTW, they had to get more drool buckets for the RNC commercial producers, they MUST be slavering over the deluge of material that Obama provides them on a daily basis.

Bishop on May 19, 2008 at 1:02 PM

It’s clear that at a minimum Obama’s employing an outdated analytical framework for assessing Iran as a threat. I’m for tenacious engagement at lower diplomatic levels to prevent the hard-liners from benefiting from Iran’s international isolation — and even I can see Obama’s looking naive here (optimistic vs. realistic). Any of those allegedly insignificant little countries could factor into difficult foreign policy crises.

DrSteve on May 19, 2008 at 1:04 PM

Japan: 377,835 sq mi. km
Iran: 1,648,000 sq mi. km

Buford Gooch on May 19, 2008 at 12:55 PM

db on May 19, 2008 at 1:06 PM

Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions.

Well. As long as the diplomacy is tough

Rhinoboy on May 19, 2008 at 1:07 PM

The only way an informed person could support Obama is if he or she were perfectly content with the prospect of America capitulating on all of its national security interests. Those people are, of course, found on the far Left.

The rest of the support for Obama consists of people who are only vaguely aware of politics and think he seems “nice.” For these people, the simpleminded logic of “talks are better than war” seems like the kind of deep wisdom that consistently eludes the warmongering politicians on the right.

Cicero43 on May 19, 2008 at 1:08 PM

“Arms Are For Hugging” in 2008!

Bishop on May 19, 2008 at 1:10 PM

db on May 19, 2008 at 1:06 PM

Oops! Thanks.

Buford Gooch on May 19, 2008 at 1:10 PM

It’s clear that at a minimum Obama’s employing an outdated analytical framework for assessing Iran as a threat.

Agreed. Somebody needs to check the copyright date on the college textbook Obama is using for his foreign affairs policy guidance.

highhopes on May 19, 2008 at 1:12 PM

The hardest part about beating Obama is going to be overcoming the amazingly lopsided coverage the media is going to give this fall. If that can be done, and the American people get a clear picture of just how inexperienced, naive and out of touch Obama is, McCain should win easy.

BadgerHawk on May 19, 2008 at 12:57 PM

Agreed. Glad we have some “alternative media”, such as this site, to try to achieve that.

mikeyboss on May 19, 2008 at 1:13 PM

The only way an informed person could support Obama is if he or she were perfectly content with the prospect of America capitulating on all of its national security interests. Those people are, of course, found on the far Left.

Not to mention that these people are also found in the State Department! Let’s not forget Albright’s idea that the way to resolve the issue of nuclear proliferation is to allow all nations to get them so there would be a level playing field where nobody would dare use them!

highhopes on May 19, 2008 at 1:14 PM

Iran wasn’t a client of the USSR, although I agree with you that they were held in check by a regional balance of power that was influenced by the USSR.

JiangxiDad on May 19, 2008 at 12:48 PM

No more than Iraq was a client of the US, but it was a bipolar world back then…if you weren’t aligned with the West, you were aligned with the USSR. I don’t think anyone could rationally argue that Iran was pro-West in the ’80s.

James on May 19, 2008 at 1:17 PM

highhopes on May 19, 2008 at 1:14 PM

Don’t forget her “Broach Approach” – That worked well too! :)

ordi on May 19, 2008 at 1:19 PM

Iran is a “tiny” threat? It has three times the population of Iraq or Afghanistan, and Afghanistan gave sanctuary to those who perpetrated 9/11 on us. It kidnapped and held 50 American diplomats hostage for over a year in 1979-80, or maybe Obama was too “high” at the time to notice? Iran has about half the population of Russia, that everybody knows could become dangerous under Putin & Company.

North Korea is rather “tiny” as well (much tinier than Iran) but remains a threat because of its desire to develop and export nuclear weapons, and it has already shot missiles over our ally Japan. Should we ignore “tiny” North Korea, or will the Messiah march into Pyongyang for a heart-to-heart change-chat with Crazy Kim, and be taken hostage?

My-moods ImaNutJob must be tickled pink that Obama thinks his country is tiny, and anxious to be the Mouse that Roared.

Obama is dangerously naive, and MUST be stopped!

Steve Z on May 19, 2008 at 1:20 PM

Obama is responding now. He equates talking to the Soviet Union then to talking to Iran now. He says Iran is stronger now than ever because Bush & McCain chose to fight a war in Iraq instead of spending all this time talking to Iran.

(What was it Bush said to the Knesset about a Senator’s statement in 1939? No wonder Obama identified himself in those remarks!)

Obama is saying Bush & McCain are afraid, afraid of Iran because they reject the little chats he advocates. Ironic, coming from the guy who can’t even withstand a few pointed questions from journalists.

Gilda on May 19, 2008 at 1:27 PM

Senator Obama claimed that the threat Iran poses to our security is “tiny” compared to the threat once posed by the former Soviet Union.

Au contraire. The Soviet Union was a (nominally) Western nation led by a nuclear-armed collection of crooks with solid instincts for self-preservation and no deeply-held beliefs beyond their own desire to remain in power. One might not have wanted them to marry one’s sister, but one might at least negotiate and even reach a mutual understanding on most issues.

Iran is a completely non-Western power, run by religious zealots who may well believe that a final nuclear holocaust would lead to the arrival of their messiah and the triumph of their bizarre and insanely violent religious vision. They’re in the process of acquiring nuclear weapons.

On the whole, I miss the Russians.

morganfrost on May 19, 2008 at 1:29 PM

A good, strong response by McCain which is, of course too detailed and substantive for pundits. In fact, it’s the first time in my adult life that I’ve been proud of McCain (except for his military service).

horatio on May 19, 2008 at 1:34 PM

We have already offered…Iran rejected it.

But Obama didn’t offer it! He has Healing Change. You’ll see.

eeyore on May 19, 2008 at 1:41 PM

On the whole, I miss the Russians.

morganfrost on May 19, 2008 at 1:29 PM

.
Spot on. The enemy you know is much better than the enemy you don’t know. Crazy Premiers you can deal with, crazy Ayatollah’s…eehhhh….not so much.

Simonsez on May 19, 2008 at 1:43 PM

The Obammunists don’t care about war, except to try to avoid it at all costs. And by all costs I mean sacrificing our much of what makes our nation great.

They just want CHANGE. A self-loathing, psychotic bunch of cult members if you ask me.

NTWR on May 19, 2008 at 1:50 PM

Will Obambi make a run for the nearest port of safe haven or …….. skip there?

fogw on May 19, 2008 at 12:44 PM

Heh. Ridicule can be a powerful thing.

Jaibones on May 19, 2008 at 1:51 PM

Agreed. Somebody needs to check the copyright date on the college textbook Obama is using for his foreign affairs policy guidance.

highhopes on May 19, 2008 at 1:12 PM

He likes the Ivy League. He gets his foreign policy ideas from Noam Chomsky, his understanding on race in America from Cornel West, and his economic plan from Paul Krugman.

Jaibones on May 19, 2008 at 1:56 PM

Spot on statement from McCain. In fact its the best statement I’ve heard to date succinctly summing up the value of summits. As long as he keeps his temper under control when dealing with the constant jib jab that emanates from the Obama crowd, forcing McCain responses, he’ll be fine. He’s got some good speech writers.

patrick neid on May 19, 2008 at 1:59 PM

Agreed. Somebody needs to check the copyright date on the college textbook Obama is using for his foreign affairs policy guidance.

highhopes on May 19, 2008 at 1:12 PM

Gotta be Carter-era.

DrSteve on May 19, 2008 at 2:05 PM

Don’t worry guys, Russia will be back. You know the whole “King of the North” of Revelation fame. Be patient.

chief on May 19, 2008 at 2:08 PM

All the reckless naivete of Jimmah Carter without the executive experience to justify his election. That’s our Obama!

spmat on May 19, 2008 at 2:21 PM

B.O.–I suggest you meet w/ Akmydumbjihad now, if you believe in your policy so much. Let America see your style of diplomacy.

jgapinoy on May 19, 2008 at 2:23 PM

As for Obama, it’s like Judi Dench as “M” said in CASINO ROYALE: “In the old days if an agent did something that embarrassing he’d have the good sense to defect. Christ, I miss the Cold War.”

CK MacLeod on May 19, 2008 at 2:28 PM

Did McCain speak off the cuff? If he did, Obama is headed for the slaughter house in an open debate without a script. McCain sounded and said things VERY presidential. I think that when the two of them go head to head, Obama will come off sounding like the neophyte he is. McCain has my support.

pullingmyhairout on May 19, 2008 at 2:38 PM

Barry is simply advancing the interests of his ward in Chicago.

Which is to say, extreme left wing idiot views.

Amazing this guy is even considered for the Presidency.

benrand on May 19, 2008 at 2:48 PM

I saw Chris Dodd spewing this same lame line of spin on Fox News Sunday yesterday.

peski on May 19, 2008 at 12:51 PM

Yes, I saw it also, but it was ‘way beyond spin. It made me physically ill.

We live in very dangerous times.

rockhauler on May 19, 2008 at 2:50 PM

Perhaps he should take a few years to study the actual issues and the history of American policy on this subject before running for President

Liberals never learn from experience. No one can deny that Jimmy Carter, for example, has vast foreign policy experience; but he still hasn’t learned a damn thing.
Give Obama another 20 years and he’ll still remain a Liberal.

infidel65 on May 19, 2008 at 3:02 PM

John “Maverick” McCain… living up to the Bush legacy of “Do as I say, not as I do”…

TOPV on May 19, 2008 at 3:05 PM

Yeah, seems to me no one thought a whole lot about Japan’s ability to be a significant threat either circa 1941…

Wyznowski on May 19, 2008 at 3:06 PM

Obama may show up at his next speech with duct tape over his mouth.

right2bright on May 19, 2008 at 3:18 PM

Redlasso video is broken.

indythinker on May 19, 2008 at 3:20 PM

You say you won’t, but then you say you will, uh-uh, Bambi don’t.

Christine on May 19, 2008 at 3:41 PM

Oh, man am I upset. That speach was truly inspiratiional. I guess I will have to vote for him after all.

TimothyJ on May 19, 2008 at 4:12 PM

Liberal foreign policy is like the old joke about a drunk endlessly searching for his dropped car keys under a street lamp, because the light is better there. Having decided that vast, dark sectors of reality are beyond the pale, they orbit within a few safe, childish assumptions, and react badly to anything that challenges them. 9/11 shattered every liberal preconception about terrorism, therefore it did not happen. Iran can’t be building a nuclear arsenal, therefore it isn’t. Bush couldn’t be right about anything, so their foreign policy is the exact opposite of whatever Bush says. You can watch them talk themselves out of seeing what’s right in front of their eyes.

What really scares me about Obama is the way our enemies are likely to take advantage of that blindness and naivete. Put yourself on the other side of the War on Terror for a moment, huddled in a cave on the Pakistani border, or sitting on the Iranian ruling council. Obama wins the Presidency with a sizable majority of his party in Congress, and you know they are absolutely dedicated to the following propositions: (1) Bush was completely wrong in everything he did while president, (2) they will do everything possible to avoid military conflict on any scale, (3) they believe everything is negotiable, and (4) they have spent considerable energy arguing that terrorists have no direct link to any nation-state, and would be prepared to spend even more energy reinforcing that argument, since doing otherwise would inevitably lead to the military conflict they loathe. As a leader in the jihad, this situation gives you outstanding incentives to perform a major terror strike, then send your “respectable” nation-state proxies to conduct negotiations. I have very little trouble imagining Obama giving a speech in the ruins of an Atlanta shopping mall, one year after the brutal terrorist bombing that killed thousands, declaring peace in our time because our Iranian friends helped us arrest a couple of fall guys. Meanwhile, those same Iranian friends hand the Obama administration a quiet list of demands to ensure there are no more bombings, and the administration quietly complies.

Doctor Zero on May 19, 2008 at 4:43 PM

John has quite the strong Pimp Hand.

omnipotent on May 19, 2008 at 5:02 PM

Obama is a two-face, liar, and un-American.

madmonkphotog on May 19, 2008 at 5:02 PM

But, but, but…….change……hope…..Bush/McCain…….100 years……..That’s out of bounds…………MOMMY!!!

oakpack on May 19, 2008 at 7:14 PM