September 22, 2008

FOR THOSE OF YOU KEEPING SCORE AT HOME...:

Why McCain Loves Misha: Georgia's president is a man after the Republican nominee's heart. (Owen Matthews, 9/20/08, NEWSWEEK)

It's not surprising that Saakashvili, 41, known to Georgians by the nickname Misha, would turn to McCain at a moment of crisis: their decade-long friendship is among the closest McCain has with any foreign leader. Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, traveled to Georgia in 2006 with a delegation led by McCain. He says Saakashvili saw the Republican nominee "as a man of greatness … on a different level" from the other legislators. And it's clear why McCain would admire the Georgian president. In many ways he's McCain's McCain—a passionate and unorthodox reformer, and a stalwart freedom fighter ranged against the Russian bear. Saakashvili's stint as Georgia's justice minister ended abruptly at a cabinet meeting in 2001 when he brandished a dossier of photos showing top ministers' lavish country homes, slapped it on the table and demanded that his colleagues be prosecuted immediately. "We are similar in many ways," Saakashvili says. "We agree that you can't compromise your beliefs."

That's exactly what worries some of McCain's many foreign-policy consultants. As the two presidential candidates prepare to debate foreign affairs and national security this Friday night, the Republican nominee is widely assumed to have an edge: polls consistently show that voters think he's better prepared than Sen. Barack Obama to be commander in chief. His relationships with leaders like Saakashvili contribute to that reputation. Yet McCain's affection for Misha runs counter to the instincts of many Republican foreign-policy "realists."


Here's a handy definition of a Realist: someone who doesn't think American State Department flunkies, think tank wonks, and academics should have to lose any sleep just because people in your two-bit country want to live free.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 22, 2008 9:52 PM
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