On his way to formally announcing his latest bid for the White House, John McCain stopped to consult with the most high-profile supporter of his campaign to become the oldest first-term president in American history.
Perhaps it was a desire to look young and fresh by comparison that led McCain to pose for pictures in New York with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
But the image of the two unreconstructed Cold Warriors giggling with one another about some inside joke -- a whispered rendition of the senator's "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran" song, perhaps -- did nothing to inspire confidence.
It is a measure of the extent to which McCain has lost his political wits that he thought lining up with the embodiment of America's corrupt and dysfunctional past and present foreign policies would somehow make him a more appealing replacement for George Bush.
In 2OOO, when McCain challenged Bush for the Republican nomination, he ran as an the outsider. The senator presented himself as an open-minded maverick who, while his stances on most issues might err on the right, refused to fit into the neat ideological i n which Bush wedged himself. Americans responded well to McCain. He won key primaries and was only prevented from securing the GOP nomination by Karl Rove sleazy, race- and religion-baiting attacks. Had McCain secured the Republican nod in 2OOO, he might well have been able to do something Bush could not: win the support of a majority of American voters.
Now, however, McCain is edging closer and closer to the political fringe occupied by deservedly unpopular characters such as Kissinger, who with the passing of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is now commonly referred to as the world's most prominent war criminal.
Kissinger has yet to wash off the blood stains left from his malicious meddling in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, East Timor, El Salvador and dozens of others countries as a member or ally of the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations. Yet, now, he is Vice President Dick Cheney's go-to-man for advice on how to maintain the mess that this current administration has made of the Middle East.
Kissinger does not speak as his own man.
The former Secretary of State has for many years now been a paid mouthpiece for the Chinese government. Thus, the counsel he provides McCain, Cheney and everyone else with regard to global trade in particular and global affairs in general is not the reasoned assessment of a former diplomat. Rather, it is the official spin of a foreign government proffered by a hired gun.
Does Kissinger know that he is giving bad advice to American leaders?
Of course. That's his job.
It is, as well, his desire.
Kissinger has never respected American values or ideals with regard to foreign policy. Resolutely self-serving, he seeks to position the U.S. as a superpower that can defend the interests of the multinational corporations that reward him richly for advancing their agendas.
In order to accomplish this, he has regularly used his influence to make America a tool of his interests and those of his clients.
In the key positions Kissinger occupied in the White Houses of the 197Os, he casually approved invasions, occupations and secret wars that continue to haunt the United States and the world. He has consistently put the United States on the wrong side of debates about human rights and international development. Whispering in the ears of presidents and pretenders to the presidency is Kissinger's style. He rarely if ever pays attention to the system of checks and balances that is supposed to assure a sharing of responsibility for foreign policy making between the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. And he urges his partners in crime to do the same.
In the 198Os, before anyone had heard of Oliver North or the Iran-Contra scandal, Kissinger worked to line the U.S. up with the paramilitary death squads of the Latin America countries he sought to maintain as banana republics.
In the 199Os, playing on the ignorance of Americans with regard to global economics, Kissinger promoted free-trade pacts that would gut whole industries within the U.S. while undermining protections for workers, the environment and communities in this country and abroad.
Today, Kissinger cheers on the worst instincts of the oil men in the Bush White House, and of McCain, with regard to the continuing U.S. occupation of Iraq.
John McCain's alliance with Kissinger does not merely raise questions about the senator's obviously impaired judgment.
It should disqualify McCain from serious consideration for the presidency by liberal and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans and all those Americans who reject the notion that the United States should be another of Henry Kissinger's client states.
John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"