McCain sends pals to war

Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham are off to save Georgia, on John McCain's orders.

Published August 14, 2008 12:54PM (EDT)

Russia has decided not to withdraw from Georgia after all; its foreign minister says to "forget about any talk about Georgia's territorial integrity," and NATO powers are scrambling to figure out how to end the war.

But don't worry, because John McCain has a plan: Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham are on their way.

McCain and Barack Obama have been waging a low-level battle of their own ever since Russian troops moved into the neighboring former Soviet republic on Aug. 8. While Obama initially called for restraint on both sides, before gradually ratcheting up demands that Russia back off, McCain immediately blasted the Russians for the invasion. When it became clear that McCain was taking a harder line than the White House was, Obama's aides started pushing the idea that McCain's ties to lobbyists for Georgia were the reason.

What, exactly, McCain hopes to accomplish by packing his two closest Senate pals off to a war zone isn't entirely clear. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also on her way to Tbilisi, with the ability to negotiate on behalf of the U.S. government (instead of just the McCain campaign). Graham and Lieberman are, like McCain, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee; they frequently accompany him on trips to the Middle East and joined him on a mission to Colombia and Mexico earlier this summer.

But considering that one of the main lines of attack Republicans are pushing against Obama these days is that he's presumptuously declared himself president before Election Day, it's a little curious that the GOP nominee thinks sending campaign surrogates to visit the war is a good idea.

Then again, as Marc Ambinder points out, officials in Tbilisi aren't too impressed with McCain's passionate "Today, we are all Georgians" rhetoric. "Yesterday, I heard Sen. McCain say, 'We are all Georgians now,'" Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili told CNN on Wednesday. "Well, very nice, you know, very cheering for us to hear that, but OK, it's time to pass from this. From words to deeds."

Maybe this is just McCain's way of telling Saakashvili, "Don't tell me words don't matter." After all, if dispatching Lieberman and Graham doesn't count as an immensely powerful deed, what does?

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

MORE FROM Mike Madden

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room