John McCain uttered those words in the second half of his interview with Bill O’Reilly on Friday. The subject was whether McCain would support a preemptive strike by Israel on Iran. Although McCain provided the usual caveats that he would need to know the circumstances and would not respond hypothetically, his remark (which he repeated a few moments later), expressed the stakes in a way few politicians do. It is hard to imagine Barack Obama, who after all wants to meet with Ahmadinedjad, saying anything similar. After all “it wouldn’t be helpful.”
On the topic of Iraq, McCain restated his position that a precipitous withdrawal would result in chaos and genocide and would inevitably require that we re-enter at greater cost. McCain was asked how he’ll avoid be tagged as Bush’s twin. He reeled off a list of issues – climate change, management of the war, and spending – on which he differed with Bush. But then he evidenced a recognition ( or was it a hope?) that the real issue for voters would be about what type of change they want going forward.
McCain in a one-on-one interview setting displays the feisty combativeness that helped gain him his “maverick” label. But he also displays on topics dear to him a fluency and command of detail. He’ll need that, not only in foreign policy, if he’ll convince the voters that he’s not the clueless, indifferent caricature of a Republican whom the Obama camp is making him out to be.