Thursday, October 9, 2008

Why McCain Doesn't Want to Talk to Our Enemies

I think that I've finally figured out why Sen. McCain is so adamant that we shouldn't include negotiation in the toolkit of resources that we use to deal with our enemies like Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Spain (well, I only include Spain because Sen. McCain doesn't think we should talk to Spain; given that they're a NATO ally, I'm not sure why he puts them on the "no talk list"...). I reached my conclusion earlier today after thinking a bit about this week's debate and the first debate. Why doesn't Sen. McCain want to talk to our enemies? Because he doesn't know how to talk to "the enemy".

I know that's a bold statement, but I think that I can back it up. You see, Sen. McCain has recently provided the evidence to prove the point. Think back to the first debate. Sen. McCain never once looked at Sen. Obama. Not once. And, if I recall correctly, Sen. McCain would only refer to Sen. Obama as "Senator Obama" -- never simply "Barack" (and remember, that they are colleagues in the Senate). Then, jump forward to this week's debate. Again, the references were always to "Senator Obama" or "That One" (and by "That One" did Sen. McCain mean simply, "that guy over there" or was he talking to the racists in the country who are afraid to vote for a black man?). Finally, the point that confirmed my suspicion: At the end of the debate, when Sen. Obama reached out to shake Sen. McCain's hand, guess what? Cindy McCain was willing to shake Sen. Obama's hand, but Sen. McCain refused. Don't believe me? Watch:



Sen. McCain pats Sen. Obama on the shoulder, but then when Sen. Obama put out his hand to shake, Sen. McCain simply pointed to his wife, as if to say, "No, I'm not going to shake your hand; shake her hand instead." Weird, but no weirder than refusing to look at Sen. Obama in the first debate.

So, I look at it this way. If Sen. McCain can't bring himself to call his political opponent by his first name, can't bring himself to look at him during a debate, can't bring himself to shake the man's hand, what does that say about Sen. McCain's character? To me, it suggests that he simply doesn't know how to communicate with those that he views as his enemies. Given the torrent of lies and personal attacks coming from the McCain campaign (especially in the last few days), it would certainly appear that Sen. Obama is no longer a mere political opponent, but rather "the enemy". And, if a political rival is relegated to that sort of treatment, I can't imagine how Sen. McCain could possibly handle something as delicate as negotiating with an enemy. I don't think that Vladimir Putin or the Ayatollahs in Iran would take kindly to not being looked at or being ignored for a simple handshake (and I really doubt they'd take kindly to being called "That One"). Perhaps, then, we can understand why Sen. McCain doesn't want to talk to our enemies; he doesn't know how. He can't talk to a fellow Senator for whom he has obvious disdain (if not outright hostility), so how could he possibly talk to the real enemy?

And, as long as I'm on the subject of talking to our enemies, I want to make two more quick points. First, think back over the last 60 years or so. We talked to the Soviet Union; it is gone (and we never fought WWIII). We refuse to talk to Cuba and it remains a communist regime. We talked to China; it is still not a free democracy, but it is opening up to the outside world and becoming more of a free market economy. We didn't talk to Libya for years and they kept building weapons of mass destruction; finally, we talked to Libya and they agreed to suspend their weapons program. We haven't talked to Iran for years; in the meantime, their nuclear weapons program has advanced. We only want to talk to North Korea under certain (non-bilateral) circumstances; they've started rebuilding their nuclear reactor.

Negotiating doesn't mean capitulating; it doesn't even mean agreeing. It simply means talking. Sen. McCain likes to talk about how he works "across the aisle" in Congress; in other words, he brags about talking to his political opponents. But, during this campaign it appears that he is no longer able to do so or at least is unable to do so to a political opponent who has the upper hand or who is being treated as "enemy" rather than opponent (and the fact that the McCain campaign won't take a stand against their own supporters who shout out calls for political violence against Sen. Obama should be ample evidence that the McCain campaign views Sen. Obama as more [or would that be less?] than a mere political opponent). More importantly, it also appears that Sen. McCain doesn't understand that talking to your opponent is an important tool in a nation's arsenal. Sen. McCain would, apparently, strip from our arsenal a tool that we've used with success and which, when not used, has led to results that we haven't really liked. We don't take the military option off of the table; why should we talk diplomacy off of the table? Perhaps, Sen. Obama has the right idea...?

How many times in this campaign cycle have we heard Sen. McCain talk about his own American hero, Gen. David Patraeus. From the way that Sen. McCain keeps mentioning the General, you would almost think that Sen. McCain holds the Gen. Patraeus in a place of awe. In the two debates, Sen. McCain has mentioned Gen. Patraeus twelve times. In fact, just last night, in an interview, Sen. McCain was asked who he'd most like to have dinner with and he named Gen. Patraeus. Wouldn't it be interesting to know whether General Patraeus thinks we should talk to our enemies? Yes, you know what's coming... At around the same time that Sen. McCain was saying that he'd like to have dinner with Gen. Patraeus, the General was answering questions at the Heritage Foundation:



Yep, Sen. McCain's hero says "I do think you have to talk to enemies." So, unless I've got it wrong, the only one who doesn't want to talk to our enemies is Sen. McCain. Could it be that he is simply wrong?

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