Over the course of recent weeks, a peculiar and apparently contagious ailment has struck two U.S. presidential candidates: misspeaking fever.
Here we have Sen. Hillary Clinton describing "sniper fire" she came under in Bosnia in March 1996. For those who’d like to compare what actually happened at the Tuzla air base and how Sen. Clinton interpreted the event, I’d recommend watching this YouTube video.
Later, Sen. Clinton admitted that she "misspoke."
Then we have Sen. John McCain who, on a recent trip to the Middle East, repeatedly claimed that Iran trained al-Qaeda fighters. It was only after the whispering intervention of Sen. Joe Lieberman that McCain uttered a correction:
I’m sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda. (Did in the rush of the moment McCain exempt al-Qaeda from being "extremists"?)
The McCain campaign later clarified that he "misspoke."
Some in the media hailed McCain’s address for what they interpreted as a call for returning to "multilateralism" in U.S. foreign policy. I beg to differ. As I argued before, McCain’s multilateralism is no more than a polished version of President Bush’s plain vanilla unilateralism, a unilateralism plus, so to speak. The only difference is that while Bush has been openly relying on the use of the U.S. military force, McCain is promising to create a fig leaf of "a League of Democracies " — a mysterious international body including "more than one hundred democratic nations around the world."
Nicolas Gvosdev of The National Interest correctly points out "the possible dangers of dividing the world into the camps of democracies and non-democracies." (And make no mistake: for McCain, the only criterion of being "democratic" is being pro-American).
McCain has failed to explain why his version of "us against them" is any better than the "us against them" division promoted by the Bush administration. His maniacal obsession with excluding Russia from the G8 casts a doubt over McCain’s ability to even understand what the real world’s problems are.
There are two additional problems with McCain’s "League of Democracies." First, why does McCain believe that a new body would be able to operate more efficiently than the exiting — however imperfect — organizations like the United Nations? Second, who is going to fund the creation of yet another world-wide bureaucracy of "more than one hundred democracies"? Is supposedly "fiscal conservative" McCain expecting the American taxpayers to foot the bill?
And after that, McCain calls himself "a realistic idealist"?
I think he misspoke.
I would, however, agree that McCain’s Los Angeles speech is somewhat different in tone compared to his 2007 Foreign Affairs article. And this is hardly surprising. Back in the fall of 2007, facing a tough nomination fight, McCain was trying to out-hawk two major challengers, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. Now that he has secured the G.O.P. nomination, he can afford to display a softer, dovish, side of himself.
That’s why McCain began his Los Angeles speech with describing the "horrors of war." At one point, the author of the famous song "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" goes as far as to declare:
I detest war.
He obviously misspoke.