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Republican Talking Points on Russia and Why Condi is McCain's Best Choice

09/20/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Joe Lauria Foreign Affairs Correspondent, Author

It's been non-stop Russia from rightist talk show hosts and columnists since the Georgia war began. They are promulgating the Republican talking points designed to keep alive the one issue that might give John McCain the White House.

The first major poll since the crisis erupted on Aug. 7 shows McCain taking the lead over Obama for the first time. It looks like the Russia strategy might work, though voters are still most concerned about the economy.

McCain can't really run on Iraq, much as he brags about being able to "win" there, given that Americans have at last turned against that misadventure.

He can't run on the economy, which the Republicans have botched as badly as Iraq.

He can run on Russia -- an enemy Americans can understand -- and remember. He presents himself as the Cold War war hero who can slay the bear. It's myth-making but fear of Russia as America's great global adversary is imprinted on the DNA of every U.S. citizens born before 1985. Only voters between 18 and 23 didn't hear in primary school about the US and Russia sparring in the Cold War. Every one else doesn't need to be reminded about the "Russian threat." It was phony for 50 years and it's even phonier today.

Let's see how central "Resurgent Russia" becomes as a theme at the Republican Convention. I believe it will be center stage. Do Republicans really want to bring up Osama bin Laden, still at large eight years after 9/11, or the Middle East, the housing market, unemployment, natural disaster management or their stewardship of the environment?

In the meantime, the right wing media will keep the Russian threat narrative on steroids.

With his typical lame humor, Rush Limbaugh said on the air: "McCain's the only guy -- he's been there, he's been to Georgia a number of times, he gave a brief history lesson of Georgia doing a town hall appearance yesterday, he's the only guy -- well, between he and Obama -- it's not a contest. Obama I don't think knows where Georgia is on the map. 'Obama, where's Georgia?' He'd look for Atlanta and he'd say, 'It's right there, it's where Dr. King's church is.'"

Whipping out the $10 words to prove how smart he is, George Will wrote: "This is the recrudescence of Russia's dominance in what it calls the 'near abroad.' Ukraine, another nation guilty of being provocatively democratic near Russia, should tremble because there is not much America can do. McCain owes the thug thanks, as does America's electorate. Putin has abruptly pulled the presidential campaign up from preoccupation with plumbing the shallows of John Edwards ... "

And he put McCain in the lead. Isn't it great how Putin accommodated McCain, giving him an issue to campaign on?

Now that Russia's back, who better than that erstwhile Soviet expert Condi Rice to put on McCain's ticket?

She can bash Russia with the certainty of someone who thinks she finally knows what she's talking about. She would be dispatched around the country to frighten Americans about Russia the way she did about Saddam's mushroom clouds.

She has name recognition. She can take at least some women and some African American votes away from Obama. See might offset Oprah. Die-hard Hillary supporters might find it more palatable to follow through on their threat to vote for McCain if a woman is on the ticket.

I can just see McCain now with that creepy grin saying: "The Democrats had a royal battle over whether to pick a woman or an African American. We've got both."

Before Georgia, when it looked like the economy would remain the number one issue, Republican voters told CNN they preferred a financial guy like Mitt Romney.

The Republicans can be thankful that Russia could bypass the economy, if the media can keep Russia going. If voters want a VP candidate who is strongest on the number one issue, then Condi would be their choice.

The only real drawback is that Rice would remind voters of Bush.

And she said she doesn't want it. But that was before Russia gift-wrapped McCain a potentially winning hand.


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