08/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

McCain Is Taking Foreign Policy Advice From This Guy?

Nothing pleases me more than listening to the sage wisdom of McCain's chief ideologue and foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann. If you listen to him talk enough, your head may develop sore spots from scratching. I don't mind that he never passes up a chance to take a pot shot at Obama -- that's what campaign strategists are paid to do. What puzzles me is his long and distinguished résumé of being wrong on pretty much every major foreign policy issue of our time.

But first thing's first: What's up with his bizarre preoccupation with time, and the order in which Obama events occur? One imagines he is the kind of person who is puzzled that lightning precedes thunder, not the other way around.

Let me explain what I mean: Scheunemann excoriated the Democratic candidate for giving a speech about Iraq before his trip to the country, not afterward. Similarly, as he told Der Spiegel prior to Obama's visit to Europe, Scheunemann is upset Obama "is giving his first major speech in Berlin before having met with French or British leaders. I don't know if it is even delivered before his meeting with German leaders. Clearly he is not taking into account what they say."

Clearly. Obama apparently is the kind of guy who tries to work the VCR before reading the manual, who refuses to ask for directions, and who forms impressions of people and places without ever stepping foot in their shoes or homes. That is basically what Scheunemann is saying.

And he should know something about sound judgment. This is, after all, the same guy who lorded over the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, the neocon effort that hatched the plan to take out Saddam -- aftermath or troop numbers or warnings from nearly every foreign leader be damned. More disturbingly, he is the worst kind of Washington insider, a guy who works on the hill, kisses every ass he can to further his career, and then cashes in on his Capitol Hill connections by -- what else? -- working as a lobbyist for dubious foreign governments. If North Korea were to hand him a briefcase of cash, he probably would buy a condo in Pyongyang.

Like all right-wing foreign policy hacks, he is a fervent believer in the sanctity of American power as an infallible force for good. By extension, America's allies must also be upstanding citizens of this world, which is why he lavished favors on his former client, Georgia, through his connections with, yes, John McCain. I have many Georgian friends and none of them think the government in Tbilisi is honest, clean, or democratic. Perhaps that explains McCain's obsessively anti-Russian stances and his plan to toss Moscow out of the G-8 -- a move that will do wonders for our reputation abroad.

Perhaps that also explains why Scheunemann, as he told the Council on Foreign Relations last March, hopes to admit not just Georgia, but also Ukraine, Albania, Croatia, Macedonia and every Mediterranean isle into NATO, despite enlargement fatigue among most Europeans and the fact that Bulgaria and Romania have barely cleaned up their act since joining the club. Randy, the problem with NATO is not that it needs more members -- it's that its current members do not meet their defense obligations, commit enough troops, or agree on any rules of engagement.

Or take his position on Afghanistan. Scheunemann says "this is by no means a military struggle." Huh? We're not at war there? Nope, he says. Soft power will save the day (neocons are big fans of the effectiveness of American propaganda, never failing to mention how Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty won us the Cold War and how similar efforts can win over Muslim hearts and minds). "In this struggle, scholarships will often be more important than smart bombs." ("Hey ma!" says Afghan school child. "Looks like I'm not gonna join the Taliban and need those roadside bombs after all...I'm heading to Yale!")

Scheunemann is also a big proponent of propping up (read: padding the pockets of) exile governments, like the Iraqi National Congress. He is a BFF of Ahmed Chalabi, Iraq's on-again-off-again oil minister who is under investigation for embezzling $200 million in Jordan. Where is it in the neocon handbook that says supporting these kinds of slippery Syriana-like characters furthers American interests abroad? Just curious.

Now we learn that Scheunemann is -- surprise, surprise -- closely linked to Stephen Payne, the lobbyist who resigned after a "cash for access" scandal, whereby Kazakhstan paid a lump sum of $2 million for Dick Cheney to visit the country and promise not to make any Borat jokes. In fact, he showered President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who like the vice president, is a very, very wealthy man, with nothing but praise. What's a few rigged elections between fellow millionaires?

But Scheunemann, one can guess, is also behind a host of other bad ideas on McCain's foreign policy docket, from moving the American embassy to Jerusalem (that is, before the Palestinians and Israelis first reach an agreement on its final status), to creating a League of Democracies, to ignoring the need for more resources along the border. Or wait, maybe that slip-up, too, was Scheunemann's master plan to bring the Afghan conflict to Iraq's borders! I wouldn't put it past him.