“While the natural instincts of democracy lead the people to banish distinguished men from power,” Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America, “an instinct no less powerful leads distinguished men to shun careers in politics, in which it is so very difficult to remain entirely true to oneself or to advance without self-abasement.”
Some 170 years and 36 presidents later, the choice presented to the American people at this year’s presidential election does not merely confirm the correctness of the Frenchman’s assessment; it amplifies his verdict in an absurd, almost surreal manner.
Among America’s presidents—many of them impressive and some great, especially in the early years—there have been a few warmongers, neurotics, ignoramuses, and dullards. No single chief executive has been marked by all of those traits, however.
Jackson was famously feisty and a true American hero. Polk waged a war of aggression, but at least that war could not be lost, and it increased the power of the country. Tyler, Fillmore, Buchanan, and Pierce have been maligned ex post facto after 1865 by the winners. Andrew Johnson, Grant, and Harding were personally flawed, rather than systemically destructive. Theodore Roosevelt was a trigger-happy imperialist, yet he was also intelligent, rational, and understood the uses and limits of American power in a multipolar world. George W. Bush has no such understanding, of course, but to his credit, he advocated a “humbler” foreign policy in 2000. His subsequent transmutation was mainly because of his malleability coupled with his delusional belief in divine guidance, rather than a preexistent pernicious design.
John McCain is the most dangerous man in today’s America because this likely next occupant of the White House combines a muddled world outlook with an imbalanced personality, limited intelligence, and low character. Like Vladimir Ilich Lenin or Ted Kaczynski, he needs dehumanized adversaries and loves to hate, never mind the ideology. He pours scorn on powerful countries such as Russia or China, or weak ones such as Serbia, not because it makes any sense from the point of view of this country’s security interests, but because they resist—or may resist—what his archneoconservative advisor Robert Kagan terms America’s Benevolent Global Hegemony. He screams at his subordinates, red in the face and foaming at the mouth, and calls them names. He graduated 894th of 899 from the Naval Academy in Annapolis and famously lost five jets over Vietnam before finally being taken prisoner. He has taken money from his party’s declared enemies while simultaneously seeking that same party’s presidential nomination.
In brief, it is unsurprising that John McCain has attracted the attention of, and found a benefactor in, one of the most evil men in the world, George Soros.
As our readers may recall (“George Soros, Postmodern Villain,” Views, February 2004), there is hardly a bad cause that the Philanthropist From Hell does not sponsor. From open borders and one-world government to gun control and Kosovo’s independence, Soros is there, in person or through his Open Society Institute and a myriad of fellow-traveling outfits. In his “American” guise (he has a few others), he supports the Democratic Party because he sees it as the primary vehicle for the promotion of his agenda. Being an astute speculator, he is not limiting his options. In McCain he has discovered a nominal Republican who is willing to pursue key points of that agenda, to get the GOP to accept them as its mainstream position, and—potentially—to impose them on the country as official U.S. policy.
The point of contact was campaign-finance reform, and the channel of support was the Reform Institute, founded in 2001 and headed by the Arizona senator until 2005, when he resigned in order to prepare for another presidential bid. The RI was initially funded by Soros’s Open Society Institute and by Teresa Heinz-Kerry’s Tides Foundation. They were excited by the McCain-Feingold bill because it had the capacity to limit private groups’ ability to challenge the institutionalized leftist bias of the mainstream electronic media with “issue ads”—such as those Swift Boat ads that inflicted so much damage on John Kerry in his subsequent presidential bid.
The rapport between McCain and Soros was cemented during the 2000 presidential campaign. On July 30, McCain delivered the keynote speech at Arianna Huffington’s “Shadow Convention” in Philadelphia, an event bankrolled by Soros. That ultraliberal political forum was set up as a counterevent to the Republican National Convention, which was held in the same city two days later. Senator McCain was the only person to speak at both events. It was like a pretender for the presidency of the John Randolph Club giving the keynote speech to the Southern Poverty Law Center, in the same city, two days before the JRC’s annual meeting.
[amazonify]192865326X[/amazonify]When the Reform Institute opened shop under McCain’s chairmanship in July 2001, Mrs. Huffington—a close associate and confidante of Soros—was on its advisory committee. The Institute was a pseudo-think tank designed to keep McCain’s staff assembled and gainfully employed in anticipation of another presidential bid. Its offices were in the same building in Alexandria as his election committee, his PAC, and the lobbying firm of his 2000 campaign manager, Rick Davis. The Institute hired three other key campaign staffers: legal counsel Trevor Potter as legal counsel, finance director Carla Eudy as finance director, and press secretary Crystal Benton as . . . communications director.
The Constitutions and Legal Policy Program of Soros’s Open Society Institute donated “above $50,000” to the RI while McCain was at its helm. In addition, the OSI distributed $300,000 in grants to different groups that defended McCain-Feingold from threatened legal challenges during its passage through Congress in 2002.
Last April, McCain tried to distance himself from his benefactor, with his old/new campaign manager Davis describing Soros as a “liberal mega-donor” who wants to “buy this election.” The performance was as convincing as George H.W. Bush decrying the influence of “those Washington insiders.” What matters is that McCain has not given back any money to Soros. He has not returned the $200,000 that the Reform Institute received in donations from Cablevision in 2002 and 2003 either, when McCain was on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. It was undoubtedly coincidental that, in a letter to the FCC written at that time, McCain supported Cablevision’s proposal for the introduction of a more profitable cable pricing scheme.
The Reform Institute has promoted another important pillar of Soros’s agenda: open and unlimited Third World immigration. According to an Investor’s Business Daily editorial (September 27, 2007), vast pro-illegal immigration rallies across the country in 2006 were anything but a spontaneous uprising of hundreds of thousands of angry Mexicans. Soros’s OSI had money-muscle there, too, through its $17-million Justice Fund, which included involvement in the immigration rallies and funding of illegal-immigrant activist groups for subsequent court cases: “So what looked like a wildfire grassroots movement really was a manipulation from OSI’s glassy Manhattan offices. The public had no way of knowing until the release of OSI’s 2006 annual report.”
This is not to say that McCain’s support of illegal immigration correlates exclusively with the money he is getting from Soros. By all accounts he is an “honest” amnesty enthusiast. His man in charge of immigration reform at the RI was, until two years ago, one Juan Fernandez, who holds dual U.S. and Mexican citizenship and is a former member of Vicente Fox’s cabinet in charge of Mexicans abroad. This man believes that anyone of Mexican ancestry, even after going through the motions of becoming an American citizen (as he has done), remains a Mexican forever and should “think Mexican first.” Such a one should never contemplate—let alone accept—assimilation as an option. Dr. Fernandez now serves as John McCain’s Hispanic Outreach Director and is seen as a potential Cabinet-level appointee in a McCain administration.
McCain’s additional overlap with Soros is in Eastern Europe. The Arizona senator broke ranks with his party in March 1999 and voted for Clinton’s war against Serbia, which Soros enthusiastically supported directly and through generous donations to the International Crisis Group. The war was illegal, since the House refused to authorize it under the War Powers Act, but McCain was its enthusiastic advocate then and remains a supporter of Kosovo’s self-proclaimed independence now.
When it comes to other disputed regions, McCain is firmly in the sovereignist camp—provided that it is anti-Russian. Any post-Soviet frozen conflict area’s nominal title-holder—Moldova vis-à-vis Transdnistria, or Georgia under the Sorosite Mikheil Saakashvili vis-à-vis Abkhazia or South Ossetia—is in the right, he asserts, and should be supported by the United States in reasserting sovereignty over the rebel provinces, regardless of the wishes of the inhabitants. He condemned a large poster in the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali hailing Putin as “our President”: “I do not believe that Vladimir Putin is now, or ever should be, the president of sovereign Georgian soil.”
No such scruples apply to sovereign Russian soil, however. In December 1999, McCain accused the Clinton administration of turning a blind eye to Russian “crimes” in Chechnya, attacking Russia’s “brutal to the extreme” military campaign and announcing that if he were president, he would move to cut off IMF loans to Moscow. “McCain was the first senior American politician to say that what the Russians are doing is genocide,” cooed the Washingtonian Russophobe in Chief Zbigniew Brzezinski. “It was a gutsy call, and he called it just right.” In the same “gutsy” vein, McCain boasted earlier this year of staring into Putin’s eyes and seeing the letters KGB. The difference from 1999 is that, today, Russia is better poised to offer much needed loans to America than the other way round.
China fares hardly better. In 1999, the country’s leaders were, in McCain’s view, “ruthless defenders” of an “inhumane regime.” A decade and a couple trillion dollars in trade deficits later, he is still committed to “keeping pressure” on China “to improve its human rights record.”
[amazonify]1928653111[/amazonify]Elsewhere around the world, mere readiness to talk is a sign of inexcusable weakness to McCain. Last May, he accused Barack Obama of “inexperience and reckless judgment” for saying that, if elected, he would be willing to talk with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions during his first year as president. According to McCain, such talks would only embolden “an implacable foe of the United States.”
He is equally critical of Obama’s readiness to talk to Raúl Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.
A man that would be seen in a normal country as a dangerous charlatan—at best a dilettante in need of tutoring—has made it so far because the bedlam known as the U.S. foreign-policy community approves of “engagement” abroad and wide-open doors at home. The “community’s” impulse is neurotic; its justification, gnostic. It reflects the collective loss of nerve, faith, and identity of a diseased society, producing a self-destructive malaise that is literally unprecedented in history. The intoxication is the arrogant belief, in general, that our reason and our science and our technology can resolve all the dilemmas and challenges of our existence and, in particular, that enlightened abstractions—democracy, human rights, free markets—can be spread across the world and are capable of transforming it into one big Wal-Mart. Both the madness and the intoxication have a “left,” Sorosite narrative, and a “right,” McCainite one.
McCain’s global outlook is virtually identical to that of George Soros. He supports NATO’s further expansion into Russia’s backyard, not because it would enhance American security but because it would bring us a step closer to a neoliberal globalized world. Addressing the Hoover Institution last year, he called for a “global League of Democracies—one that would have NATO members at its core—dedicated to the defense and advancement of global democratic principles,” and he repeated the call in May in his “vision for 2013.”
McCain could have copied his one-world idea word for word from the mission statement of the Democracy Coalition Project (www.demcoalition.org), a Soros-funded NGO led by two former Clinton White House officials. More remarkably still, there is little if any difference between McCain’s “League of Democracies” and the “Concert of Democracies” suggested by Obama’s advisors. The League/Concert would be Washington’s standing mechanism to circumvent the U.N. Security Council, which throughout the Cold War was the closest approximation of the 19th-century “Concert of Powers” that helped avoid a major European war from Napoleon to 1914.
The identity of the two mind-sets became obvious when Obama’s advisor Ivo Daalder and McCain’s advisor Robert Kagan coauthored an article in the Washington Post supporting the concept. As a former long-serving GOP Senate staffer who knows McCain warns, those who expect that the post-Bush era will mean a return to some kind of normalcy from the current neoconservative fever are sadly mistaken: “Think of the League/Concert as a permanent Iraq ‘Coalition of the Willing’ on steroids. The conscious goal of such a mechanism would include institutionalized hostility to Russia and China.” Come 2013, Iraq really might seem to have been a cakewalk.
A former top Clinton official, Strobe Talbott, praised both McCain and Obama as “moderate pragmatists” in foreign affairs, “with the demonstrated ability to reach across party lines.” This is “good news,” according to Dr. Talbott—the man who believes that the United States may not last until the end of this century because the very concept of nationhood will have been rendered obsolete, and all states will recognize a single, global authority. The ideological foundation for George Soros’s global vision is the same: Nations are social arrangements, artificial, temporary, and dangerous. In John McCain, they both recognize a man who can be manipulated by themselves, or people like themselves, in the service of global goals and political objectives that are contrary to American interests and detrimental to peace in the world.
In 1999, the Economist wrote that the United States bestrides the globe like a colossus: “It dominates business, commerce and communications; its economy is the world’s most successful, its military might second to none.” Less than a decade later, the U.S. economy is structurally weak, and its once-powerful manufacturing base moribund. The financial system is on the verge of collapse, no longer sustainable by dwindling infusions of foreign cash and ever-rising domestic borrowing. Eight years of George W. Bush have taken us further away from the Republic of yore and into a postmodern empire devoid of cohesiveness at home or a credible narrative abroad. Iraq is a disaster that indicates the limits of American power as clearly as the rise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the demise of the dollar. The military is still second to none, yet barely able to deal with the insurgency in two small faraway lands.
This country’s problems are huge, but they are not insoluble. It is as possible and necessary to control the borders at home and to spend no more than is earned as it is possible and necessary to disengage from foreign entanglements that do not contribute to the well-being and security of the United States. It is possible and necessary to establish a realistic balance between ends and means in American foreign and security policy on the basis of the Golden Rule.
John McCain does not understand this because he is obtuse. He will refuse to consider its merits because he is deluded and bellicose. He will not accept any responsibility for the consequences of that refusal because he is morally challenged. Like Napoleon III in 1870, Franz Josef in 1914, or Leonid Brzehnev in 1979, he will try to prop up an ailing empire with reckless diplomatic gambles and military adventures. The results will be similar, or worse.
May God help us all.
Srdja Trifkovic is Chronicles’ foreign-affairs editor.
This article first appeared in the July 2008 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. New subscribers can call (800) 877-5459 for 12 hard-hitting issues.