Tuesday, October 21, 2008

John McCain: "The hour is late; our troubles are getting worse; our enemies watch."

John McCain made the above statement in a speech on October 13, 2008. Less than a week later on October 19,2008 Joe Biden, Barak Obama's VP nominee said:

Mark my words, It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We’re about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don’t remember anything else I said. Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.”
“I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate,” Biden said to Emerald City supporters, mentioning the Middle East and Russia as possibilities. “And he’s gonna need help. And the kind of help he’s gonna need is, he’s gonna need you - not financially to help him - we’re gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it’s not gonna be apparent initially, it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right.”

Bill Kristol's take:

So Biden expects a test of the kind Kennedy faced after his disastrous meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna in June, 1961, less than five months into Kennedy’s presidency. Biden’s presumably thinking of the Soviet-backed construction of the Berlin Wall a couple of months later. Kennedy did nothing, and was criticized for his weakness back home.

So--leaving aside the merits of what Kennedy did or didn’t do in 1961--Biden is forecasting that Obama will have what seems to be a weak response to a provocation from, say, Iran or Russia, and he’s urging the liberals of Seattle and elsewhere to stand with Obama against the expected domestic criticism.

In other words, Biden is forecasting inaction by Obama in the face of testing by a dictator. I suspect he’s right in this forecast. McCain might want to clarify this point. It’s not just that Obama’s own running mate expects an international crisis early in his presidency. It’s not just that Obama has a weak foreign policy record. It’s that Biden himself expects what will appear to be a weak response from Obama to testing by a dictator.

Now Biden presumaby thinks such an apparently weak response would be in our long-term interest. But McCain needs to force that debate: “Sen. Obama, will you in fact do nothing in response to a Putin provocation against Ukraine or a final push by Ahmadinejad toward nuclear weapons? Isn’t that what your running mate has forecast? Isn’t it awfully dangerous to forecast weakness on the part of an American president?”