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Thursday, August 14, 2008

The [Your Name Here] Candidate

The big foreign policy expert in the 2008 presidential race is John McCain... Right? Of course, the problem with putting yourself across as an expert means that people are going to expect you to know what you're talking about. So, when the going gets tough, the tough get going -- to Wikipedia.

Taegan Goddard reports that Mr. Big Fancy Foreign Policy Expert seems to have turned to the open source encyclopedia to get the skinny on Georgia in the Russo-Georgian crisis. "A Wikipedia editor emailed Political Wire to point out some similarities between Sen. John McCain's speech today [August 11] on the crisis in Georgia and the Wikipedia article on the country Georgia," Goddard writes at his Congressional Quarterly blog. "Given the closeness of the words and sentence structure, most would consider parts of McCain's speech to be derived directly from Wikipedia."

Of course, Team McCain denies any Wiki-plagiarism. They claimed it was entirely coincidental. "Nonetheless, at least two political science professors have weighed in saying the similarities are more than coincidental and wouldn't be tolerated from their own students," writes Goddard.

It may be Matthew Yglesias who had the best reaction to the McCain copy-and-paste job; "Given that McCain, by his own admission, can't use the internet it's a bit of an ironic situation though perhaps it counts as progress of some sort."

Isn't that nice? McCain's learning to use the google.

The odd thing about all of this is that Team McCain has a Georgia expert on board. How do we know that? Because Georgia pays this McCainiac to be an American expert on Georgia. McCain's chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, is a paid lobbyist for Georgia. And that pro-Georgian lobbying seems to be influencing McCain's stand on the issue.

A CNN piece titled " McCain pushes hard line against Russia; aides attack Obama" gives a perfect example of how Scheunemann's expertise is being used by Team McCain:

On Tuesday, Randy Scheunemann, McCain's top foreign policy adviser, attacked the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's response to the situation in Georgia, saying his experience with the region amounted to a handful of paper statements.

On the other hand, McCain's experience with Georgia runs deep, Scheunemann said, noting that McCain and the Georgian president were friends.

"There's a depth of knowledge, a breadth of knowledge and an extent of historical experience that doesn't compare between the two on Russia policy," Scheunemann said. "You can't compare a 15-year historical record to three or four statements over the course of 15 months."

Of course, this is CNN -- that paragon of lazy American journalism -- so the piece doesn't mention the inconvenient fact that Scheunemann is an agent of a foreign government that goes by the name of "Georgia." It also fails to note that McCain is such a good, dear friend of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili that he can't even pronounce the man's name.

McCain's obvious ignorance of Georgia doesn't stop him from making insane claims about the crisis -- claims that put Russia in the worst possible light.

Boston Globe:

Republican John McCain yesterday [Aug. 13] phoned Georgia's president to tell him that Americans are supporting his "brave little nation" against Russia's military attacks -- and blasted Russian leader Vladimir Putin, whom he accused of wanting to restore the czarist empire.

In fact, McCain's defense of Georgia and bellicosity toward Russia is so vigorous that he's wound up saying really, really stupid and hypocritical things about the crisis. Just yesterday, McCain told reporters at a press conference, "In the 21st century, nations don’t invade other nations."

No, really. I can prove it. There's video.

But if Scheunemann being on the Georgian payroll (a blatant conflict of interest at this point) is influencing McCain's stand on the conflict, you have to wonder what other issues members of Team McCain are being paid to take. I've written before that "McCain is a candidate openly for sale."

And his campaign team is for hire. A new analysis by the Public Campaign Action Fund found that McCain campaign aides and fundraisers have earned nearly $1 billion as lobbyists over the last decade.

"The McCain campaign relies on big money lobbyists, and they’ll rely on him," said David Donnelly, director of Campaign Money Watch. "In the ‘you-scratch-my-back, I’ll-scratch-yours’ world of Washington, $931 million gets the special interests the best government money can buy. But just think of the payday these lobbyists might expect in a McCain Administration."

With that much special interest support, McCain's positions could almost be safely assumed to come straight out of the wallets of nations and industries. If Scheunemann's any indication, we can take comfort in the fact that they aren't very good at it.

When you have to turn to Wikipedia to get background on your own client, you really haven't done your homework. Of course, it makes you wonder how much homework they've done on anything else.

Maybe McCain should turn to Wikipedia more often. Then he'd know the difference between Sunni and Shia, Iran and al Qaeda, or that Pakistan doesn't border Iraq. Until Mr. Foreign Policy Expert figures these sorts of things out, the nations that bought him should ask for their money back.


1 comment:

David Gerard said...

McCain and Wikipedia has vast comedy potential. (Feel free to propagate the picture.)