McCain's world order

The iconoclastic presidential candidate offers a five-point foreign policy plan and picks up a surprising endorsement.

Published December 1, 1999 8:00PM (EST)

Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., admits that in his perfect world, voters would choose their next president based in no small part upon his experience and knowledge of foreign policy.

"I'd obviously love it," says the Navy veteran and former prisoner of war, who was endorsed Wednesday by Reagan administration United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. McCain knows that his heroic bio and outspoken Senate leadership on trouble spots like Kosovo stack up well against front-running Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who creates the impression that his knowledge of world affairs is limited to thinking that all the girls in France do the hoochie-coochie dance.

Still, McCain acknowledges, "That ain't gonna happen."

Regardless, McCain took the opportunity presented by Kirkpatrick's endorsement -- and an invitation to speak before the Republican Jewish Coalition at its candidates forum -- to deliver yet another foreign policy address Wednesday morning. Decrying the Clinton administration's "feckless photo-op foreign policy" as hobbled by "two closely related and central flaws: strategic incoherence and self-doubt," McCain urged the United States to embrace its "unipolar moment in world affairs."

In an uncharacteristically lengthy speech, McCain argued that U.S. credibility "is a strategic asset" that the Clinton administration has squandered. "The world's only superpower should never give its word insincerely. We should never make idle threats."

And in an attempt to link President Clinton's foreign policy troubles with problems closer to home, McCain noted that "character counts, at home and abroad." Lashing out at critics of the Senate GOP's opposition to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, McCain said it was "offensive" to him "to be called isolationist because we view an arms control initiative as flawed."

Observing that ethnic conflicts, violent nationalism, international terrorism and "the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them ... now constitute the clear and present danger" to the United States, McCain delved into five principles to chart world affairs.

These were: protecting the U.S. and the surrounding hemisphere from any threats, maintaining and building strategic alliances, ensuring a balance of power in Europe, stabilizing the Pacific Rim and ensuring continued energy resources. He then outlined how these policies would manifest themselves in a McCain administration's policies regarding Russia, China, rogue nations and, of course, the Middle East.

Kirkpatrick said McCain earned her endorsement through his chairmanship of the International Republican Institute, a Washington nonprofit that provides aid to emerging democracies.

"He's a very hard worker," Kirkpatrick said. "He's committed to the spread of democracy. For me, that's been a very important experience -- to work under his leadership in the IRI."

Kirkpatrick admitted that there weren't many substantive differences between McCain and Bush on world affairs, but observed, "I think leadership style and character are always more important in every campaign and election than what might be called policy differences. Policy differences are important, but leadership style and character are ultimately important. That's what every one of us had a lot of problems with the current president about."

Asked for comment about Bush's foreign policy, Kirkpatrick demurred. "I don't know Gov. Bush. I'm not going to comment on Gov. Bush. I've never met him, I've never heard of him," she said. She did note that "if [Bush] becomes the Republican nominee, I will not only vote for him, I will work for him."

By Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper is the senior White House correspondent for ABC News.

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John Mccain R-ariz.