Bush and McCain Seem to Diverge in Foreign Policy -- McCain on Friday: Idea of a 16-month withdrawal is “a pretty good timetable.”
President Bush and Senator John McCain have long been in agreement on major elements of American foreign policy, particularly in their approach to the “axis of evil” countries of Iran and North Korea, and their commitment to staying the course in Iraq.
But now the administration’s agreement to consider a “time horizon” for troop withdrawals from Iraq has moved it, at least in the public perception, in the direction of the policies of Senator Barack Obama. That has thrown Mr. McCain on the political defensive in his opposition to a timed withdrawal, Republicans in the party’s foreign party establishment say.
On Friday Mr. McCain went so far as to say that the idea of a 16-month withdrawal, which Mr. Obama supports, was “a pretty good timetable,” although he included the caveat that it had to be based on conditions on the ground.
Republicans also say the administration’s decision to authorize high-level talks with Iran and North Korea has undercut Mr. McCain’s skepticism about engagement with those countries, leaving the perception that he is more conservative than Mr. Bush on the issue.
Essentially, as the administration has taken a more pragmatic approach to foreign policy, the decision of Mr. McCain to adhere to his more hawkish positions illustrates the continuing influence of neoconservatives on his thinking even as they are losing clout within the administration.
[Some] Republicans — the so-called foreign policy pragmatists, many of whom have come to view the Iraq war as a mistake — say the administration’s policy shifts highlight the more confrontational nature of Mr. McCain’s foreign policy, particularly in his approach toward Russia and his embrace on Friday of the Dalai Lama, whom the Chinese regard as the fomenter of a rebellion in Tibet. They say the meeting will only antagonize China before the Summer Olympics, and at a moment when the United States is seeking its cooperation on economic issues and negotiations with North Korea.