At a time when most of the American public is veering towards isolationism, not wanting to get involved in any more distant wars, Senator John McCain wears his neoconservative values like his Medal of Honor. Does the 2008 Presidential candidate still have a place in Washington?
John McCain doesn’t like the Tea Party, which may seem ironic seeing as he introduced the world to one of the movement’s pioneers, Sarah Palin. Indeed, one of the Republican Party’s most prominent junior senators, Ted Cruz of Texas, has stated, “I would not be in the U.S. Senate today if it were not for Sarah Palin.” Now, however, Ted Cruz is one of several vocal Republicans that McCain has referred to as “wacko birds” and, while McCain still refrains from criticizing his former Alaskan running mate, the two often find their views on what the future of America should look like diametrically opposed.
On Syria, McCain seemed to be one of the few Republicans who wholeheartedly supported the rebels, despite the fact that a very large number of those fighting Bashar al-Assad were fundamentalist Muslims not so different from Al-Qaeda–a group McCain pledged to pursue to the “gates of hell” in 2007. In a surprising September 2013 interview on Fox News, McCain defended a video of Syrian rebels shouting “Allahu Akbar”, claiming that the battle cry, which literally means ‘God is great’ or ‘God is the greatest’, was the same as Christians saying “Thank God!” On the other hand, Sarah Palin, in response to the Syria conflict, wrote a Facebook post entitled “let Allah sort it out”.
Indeed, unlike John McCain, most conservatives today are not too keen on seeing America embroiled in the politics of some far-flung world region. McCain’s most recent appearance in Ukraine, which has been subject to mass protests since Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an agreement with the European Union, shows the senator’s apparent Cold War mentality. In the occupied main square of Kiev, the country’s capital, McCain took a public jab at Russia, stating “the destiny you seek lies in Europe” (in other words, in the West and not with Russia.) He even warned those listening that the U.S. could take “concrete action” against Yanukovych’s government if any efforts were made to take back the public space and buildings that protestors have been occupying for weeks.
Well-worn East vs. West remarks such as these are not only out of line with geopolitical realities (Ukraine is a country that is very attached to both Western Europe and Russia), but is also out of line with the kind of foreign policy that most Americans want. The U.S. is currently directly engaged in two wars that cost billions of dollars our country does not have. Most conservatives would probably prefer that the U.S. concentrate on creating jobs rather than using money borrowed from the Chinese to maintain futile campaigns in the Middle East. According to a 2011 Gallup Poll, the three most important issues to Republican voters are the economy, the federal budget deficit, and unemployment in that order.
In a recent New York Times Magazine article on McCain, the war veteran admits to questioning whether he is too old for the Senate, and whether he is out of line with the dominant currents among today’s conservative voters. There is no doubt that John McCain is still a leader in the Republican Party, though perhaps not the ‘maverick’ he once billed himself as. The real question is, as McCain declares war on Tea Party Republicans like Ted Cruz, who is likely to win?