John McCain has a new campaign ad out today, envisioning the state of the nation and the world at the end of his first term of office. He will give a speech in Columbus, Ohio today to coordinate with the ad, laying out his vision for a McCain presidency, emphasizing themes of national security and economic growth, two key issues for Ohio voters. The ad itself, though, seems rather weak:

John McCain, looking through a crystal ball to 2013 and the end of a prospective first term, sees “spasmodic” but reduced violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden dead or captured and government spending curbed by his ready veto pen.

The Republican presidential contender also envisions April’s annual angst replaced by a simpler flat tax, illegal immigrants living humanely under a temporary worker program, and political partisanship stemmed by weekly news conferences and British-style question periods with joint meetings of Congress. …

  • “The Iraq war has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension. Violence still occurs, but it is spasmodic and much reduced.”
  • The Taliban threat in Afghanistan has been greatly reduced.
  • “The increase in actionable intelligence that the counterinsurgency produced led to the capture or death of Osama bin Laden, and his chief lieutenants,” McCain said. “There still has not been a major terrorist attack in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.”
  • A “League of Democracies” has supplanted a failed United Nations to apply sanctions to the Sudanese government and halt genocide in Darfur.
  • The United States has had “several years of robust growth,” appropriations bills free of lawmakers’ pet projects known as “earmarks,” public education improved by charter schools, health care improved by expansion of the private market and an energy crisis stemmed through the start of construction on 20 new nuclear reactors.
  • Democrats are asked to serve in his administration, he holds weekly news conferences and, like the British prime minister, answers questions publicly from lawmakers.

The ad, I believe, tries to do everything at once. Instead, it would have served better as a series of ads with a little more meat on the bone. It doesn’t say too much about John McCain but instead sounds like a generic wish list that any candidate could use. Who isn’t for economic growth and a reduced threat of nuclear terrorism? I may not like Barack Obama as a candidate, but I’m certain he’s for them, too. I’d prefer to hear how McCain will accomplish it, but the only area in which we get a hint of that is with better health care through consumer choice.

The speech sounds more interesting, especially in charter schools and his plan to appear regularly in front of lawmakers. I had no idea the Supreme Court held audiences — oh, wait, he means Congress! It’s an interesting offer, and one that would play to McCain’s strengths. He does best in town-hall formats, speaking extemporaneously, and the constant engagement on the floor of Congress in joint session could do wonders in breaking policy logjams. It certainly has the virtue of novelty, and it could help defuse the bitter partisanship that has afflicted the political class since Watergate.

McCain looks ready to push again for the League of Democracies idea, although Glen Johnson’s view that McCain wants to “supplant” the UN may overstate McCain’s position on this. He has offered this idea as a parallel to the UN as a means to rally the free world into action when the UN stall, but not as an outright replacement for Turtle Bay. McCain hasn’t made that suggestion the center of his foreign policy and has been quiet on it lately, so the context in Columbus should be interesting.

His take on the war on terror seems measured and responsible. Realistically, it will not end in the next few years, especially with Pakistan as vacillating as it is under current leadership. The US will need to keep pressure on radical Islam in Iraq and Afghanistan, while continuing to isolate Iran and Syria in the Middle East. If we do that and maintain our forward strategy against terrorism, then McCain’s vision is quite realistic and avoids any pie-in-the-sky promises.