In an editorial today, the New York Sun praises John McCain’s condemnation of last week’s attack at a yeshiva and looks ahead to his upcoming Middle East trip:
His campaign issued a statement saying, “This gruesome attack once again makes clear to the world that Israel faces extremists whose cause is not peace but the slaughter of Israelis.”
Mark that Mr. McCain issued no comments about a “cycle of violence,” no moral equivalence, no question about which side he and America are on. Cynics will attribute this to a campaign desire to firm up support among American Jewish voters, heretofore a Democratic bastion. If so, legitimate. We are more interested in what his visit and his comments portend for the type of president he would be. On Tuesday, Mr. McCain told Reuters that if elected, he would focus on the Middle East. Until quite recently, Democrats have been criticizing the Bush administration for having swapped a focus on Israeli-Palestinian peace-making for the war in Iraq.
So what exactly did Mr. McCain mean? He told Reuters that the reasons he would focus on the Middle East is because of “… the level of tensions, the exchange of fire across Israel’s border aimed at innocent people. There’s Hamas, a terrorist organization, now governing Gaza … considerable unrest in southern Lebanon. There’s very big issues that need to be addressed.” It seems the question for Mr. McCain is not the matter of securing a state for the Palestinian Arabs but rather a “struggle … between radical extremist Islamic forces throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East, and West[ern] values and standards and beliefs and everything that we stand for.” The conflict involving Israel, Mr. McCain said, “is all part of this struggle that we’re in.”
It would be a mistake, history has taught us, to read too much into all of this. But it would not be a mistake to watch with interest Mr. McCain’s progress as he sets out on an important tour, particularly given that “national security experience” — or the lack thereof — has become a major issue of contention among Senators Clinton and Obama. Mr. McCain naturally wants to play to his strength in this field. The question of who one wants to answer the red phone ringing at 3 a.m. with the latest report of crisis is not merely about “experience” but about the substance of the world view held by the next president.