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John McCain Doesn’t Understand Diplomatic History

By Matthew Yglesias on September 28, 2008 at 5:15 pm

"John McCain Doesn’t Understand Diplomatic History"

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During the debate on Friday, John McCain referred to “Ronald Reagan, who wouldn’t sit down with Brezhnev, Andropov or Chernenko until Gorbachev was ready with glasnost and perestroika.” Brad DeLong points to this April 26, 1982 Time article which says otherwise:

In an interview with Pravda, the Communist Party newspaper, Brezhnev rejected President Reagan’s proposal, made earlier this month, that the two leaders meet informally in New York this June after the disarmament talks at the United Nations General Assembly…

In short, McCain is either ignorant or dishonest. And ignorance in this kind of situation is a form of dishonesty. Why bring up Reagan’s willingness to meet with Brezhnev if you haven’t looked up the facts? I didn’t catch this slip-up because 1982 is ancient history for me — I was eleven months old when that article ran. But John McCain was a sitting member of congress in his forties with a background as a military officer and as a lobbyist for the US Navy. He presumably had an opinion about Ronald Reagan’s conduct of Cold War diplomacy.

UPDATE: McCain was not, in fact, a sitting member of congress in 1982. Rather, he was a congressional candidate running for his first term.

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