A few months ago, the McCain campaign took a serious credibility hit on their only real issue, national security. McCain criticized Barack Obama for Obama’s assertion that “if we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets [in Pakistan] and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.” McCain misrepresented Obama’s statement as a threat to “bomb our ally, Pakistan,” claiming it represented “confused leadership.”
Unfortunately for McCain, the very day he made that charge the Washington Post revealed that, having obtained actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets in Pakistan, the United States acted, launching two Hellfire missiles and killing Abu Laith al-Libi, a senior al-Qaeda commander. In other words, the U.S. government was actually following to the Obama model of anti-terrorism (which involves actually breaking up terror networks and capturing and, when necessary, killing terrorist leaders where they are) not the McCain model (which involves making a lot of tough-sounding speeches about terrorism, and then going off and invading countries that pose no terrorist threat to the United States, leaving the actual terrorists to roam free in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area.)
On a press call today, in which Team McCain tried desperately to make an issue of Barack Obama’s recent comments on fighting terrorism within constitutional constraints, McCain’s foreign policy/national security director Randy Scheunemann was asked about the Obama-McCain disagreement over Pakistan strikes. Scheunemann actually had to walk back McCain’s previous criticisms quite a bit. Scheunemann claimed that, in criticizing Obama’s statements about Pakistan, McCain had only meant that it was “reckless…to talk in public” about striking inside Pakistan in order to demonstrate his national security “bonafides,” because this “complicates our ability to cooperate with Pakistani authorities.”
It’s pretty clear that the McCain campaign understands that their candidate has nothing to offer the American people except his national security “bonafides” — a notion driven home by the campaign’s willingness to abandon their “energy day” schedule to try and score a weak hit on their only issue — but it’s really hard to take the “reckless” charge seriously from the campaign of a guy who likes to sing in public about bombing Iran, or who casually suggests that the U.S. should stay in Iraq for a hundred years. These sorts of reckless comments don’t just complicate America’s ability to cooperate with one particular government, they complicate our ability to work with all of them.