On Pakistan, at least, Senator John McCain appears slightly to the left of Barack Obama. Just as it was during the 2008 presidential campaign. Yesterday, during his appearance at the Heritage Foundation to speak about the war in Afghanistan, I asked McCain about threats emanating from the Obama administration to bombard Quetta in pursuit of the Taliban’s leadership.
The question has echoes of 2008. Back then, in the second presidential campaign debate, you’ll remember, Obama declared forthrightly that he would be prepared, if elected president, to pursue the bad guys across the border into Pakistan, regardless of that little thing called Pakistani sovereignty — and McCain was opposed. (He called Obama’s idea “remarkable,” shaking his head, then.) Here’s the relevant transcript:
QUESTION Should the United States respect Pakistani sovereignty and not pursue al Qaeda terrorists who maintain bases there, or should we ignore their borders and pursue our enemies like we did in Cambodia during the Vietnam War?
OBAMA I do believe that we have to change our policies with Pakistan. We can’t coddle, as we did, a dictator, give him billions of dollars and then he’s making peace treaties with the Taliban and militants.
What I’ve said is we’re going to encourage democracy in Pakistan, expand our nonmilitary aid to Pakistan so that they have more of a stake in working with us, but insisting that they go after these militants.
And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.
QUESTION Sen. McCain?
MCCAIN You know, my hero is a guy named Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt used to say walk softly — talk softly, but carry a big stick. Sen. Obama likes to talk loudly.
In fact, he said he wants to announce that he’s going to attack Pakistan. Remarkable.
You know, if you are a country and you’re trying to gain the support of another country, then you want to do everything you can that they would act in a cooperative fashion.
When you announce that you’re going to launch an attack into another country, it’s pretty obvious that you have the effect that it had in Pakistan: It turns public opinion against us….