Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Sunday during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Muslim protesters across the Middle East are “taking appropriate action” against Americans in the widespread protests that swept the Arab world last week.
Asked by host Bob Schieffer if he believes the Obama administration is doing something wrong, McCain suggested the recent attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya was due to President Barack Obama’s strategy of “disengagement.”
“We’re leaving Iraq. We’re leaving Afghanistan. We’re leaving the area,” he said. “The people of the area are having to adjust. They believe the United States is weak, and they are taking appropriate action.”
The comments appear to be an embrace of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s politicization of the deaths of U.S. embassy staff and U.S. ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens. Romney said during the late hours of Sept. 11 that a U.S. embassy statement in Cairo urging calm and disavowing the film that sparked the protests. The Republican presidential candidate doubled down on attacking American diplomats and the president even after it was learned that Americans had been killed in Libya.
Instead of continuing to speak about Libya, McCain shifted his focus to Iran, telling Schieffer that Obama is “in an open fight” with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu over how close Iran may be allowed to get to developing nuclear weapons. “Instead, shouldn’t we be telling the Iranians we’re together and there are boundaries you cannot cross?” he asked.
Both U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Israeli Defense Chief Benny Gantz say that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon, and its nuclear energy program has been set back years by cyber attacks launched by U.S. and Israeli officials.
McCain’s suggestion that the Obama administration is fighting with Israel is yet another nod to a Romney campaign meme — but even Netanyahu himself disagreed with the characterization on Sunday, saying that both U.S. political parties have shown equal commitment to Israel.
Obama’s former Republican opponent concluded his comments with a seeming endorsement of military campaigns in Iran and Syria: “By the way, the Arab world would be celebrating in private if we deal this blow to the Iranians,” he said. “Again, the Syrian people need our help.”
For the record: Both Obama and Romney appear to have virtually identical positions on Iran, although neither candidate has followed McCain’s example of bursting out into song about launching a war there.
This video is from CBS’s “Face the Nation,” broadcast Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012.