Barack Obama caught flak a few weeks back when he traveled to the Middle East and Europe. Apparently, he was just too presidential. After eight years of George Bush, that wasn't too hard. He refrained from giving neck rubs to European heads of state and had the audacity to give speeches in which the sentences achieved subject - verb agreement.
How dare he go overseas and not produce a collective cringe from those of us back home? Who does he think he is?
But Obama never purported to speak for the United States in the middle of an international crisis, which is now what John McCain has done.
The international hot spot of the moment is Georgia, where Russian troops continue on the offensive. It's a complicated and perilous situation, with innocent civilians in danger and regional stability at risk.
John McCain has waded into the situation with both feet, and not only on his own behalf. Apparently McCain telephoned Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Tuesday, and, according to McCain himself, told him "that I know I speak for every American when I say to him, today, we are all Georgians." McCain told supporters at a campaign event that Saakashvili "wanted me to say thank you to you, to give you his heartfelt thanks for the support of the American people."
It's fine and good for the presidential candidates to express support for one side or the other, or to issue calls for restraint, or to express solidarity with the innocent civilians who are at risk.
But it strikes me as presumptuous indeed for McCain to telephone the president of one of the warring nations and to purport to speak for the American people, especially when McCain's statement seems to promise something serious. What exactly does "we are all Georgians" mean? I don't know, but McCain thinks he can speak for all of us in promising it. It's as if McCain is running a shadow State Department out of the Straight Talk Express.
Saakashvili called McCain's bluff on Wednesday, saying on CNN: "Yesterday, I heard Sen. McCain say, 'We are all Georgians now.' Well, very nice, you know, very cheering for us to hear that, but OK, it's time to pass from this. From words to deeds."
This is dangerous stuff. We have a president of a warring nation responding to McCain's comments as if the Republican nominee is setting policy for the nation, and asking us to back up the straight talk with substance.
Doesn't anyone else think it's odd that John McCain is the one who seems to be speaking for the United States at the moment? Isn't that the epitome of presumptuousness?
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