Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

The sputterings of McCain, etc., on Iran are almost comic


If you want to believe that God watches out for the United States of America, then John McCain's failure to win the presidency is pretty strong evidence that you might be right. If we had put a man of such poor judgment and impulse control in the Oval Office, it would have produced disaster.

Of course, his irresponsible decision to name Sarah Palin as his running mate will stand for all time as the best proof of McCain's bad judgment. Given the arc of Palin's subsequent career, from veep nominee to reality-show laughingstock, not even McCain supporters argue that one anymore. However, his current rantings over the quick return of our 10 sailors by Iran offer us fresh evidence that at age 79, he has yet to set aside irrationality in favor of wisdom.

In interviews on Fox News and elsewhere, the Arizona senator has been spewing words such as "humiliation", "desperation", "ludicrous" and "craven" to describe the outcome.  As he sees it, the only reason that the predicament turned out as it has is because of the desire to protect the recent nuclear deal with Iran. On that point, he's probably right. Neither side, including Iran, wanted to see years of hard negotiation destroyed over a small, harmless incident. (SEE UPDATE BELOW)

But McCain did. He wanted that outcome badly. He desperately wanted the Iranians to live up to his image of them as cartoon villains in his cartoon world, and they didn't. That's why he and his supporters, including much of the GOP presidential field, are today acting like frustrated three-year-olds angry that someone took away their bag of candy. I'm sure we'll be treated to more such sputtering at tonight's GOP debate

If Obama had taken the course demanded by McCain and other Republicans -- publicly confronting Iran during the high-profile State of the Union address, warning that our sailors must be released or else -- imagine the outcome. It would have wrecked the quiet diplomacy then underway. Iran would have balked at being seen as capitulating to U.S. threats, and those sailors would today be marching through the streets of Tehran as trophies captured from the Great Satan. The whole world would be in an uproar.

And you know what? John McCain would be happy. That's the only kind of world that he and his buddies understand. In their view, that's not an outcome to be avoided but a situation to be created if possible. Thank goodness he never got the chance.

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UPDATE: I just ran across this, documenting McCain's much more measured response to a 2001 incident under President Bush in which China forced down a U.S. aircraft, held its crew for 11 days, dismantled our aircraft and forced us to pay them for its return. The contrast is telling.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.