John McCain was in Scranton today (apparently Scranton is the epicenter of the political universe these days) claiming to have been a long supporter of U.S. involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process - which just happens to be completely untrue.
I am not sure if John McCain just can't remember his positions in the 90s or if he is deliberately misleading people. He also took a swipe at Barack Obama. Here is what John McCain said today:
If I am elected President, I will continue America's leadership role. I am committed, as I know the American people are committed, to furthering the bonds of cooperation that have been forged in Northern Ireland's peace process. As a demonstration of that commitment, I will continue the practice, begun by President Clinton, of appointing a U.S. Special Envoy for Northern Ireland. I know Senator Obama has questioned whether that appointment is needed. I would urge him to reconsider. If I am elected president, I assure you that there will be no weakening in America's commitment to peace in Northern Ireland. I'll maintain the special U.S. envoy for Northern Ireland, and I will welcome peacemakers to the White House.
First of all McCain widely criticized Clinton's involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process in the 1990s. McCain called Clinton a "romantic" and called U.S. involvement "mistaken" and driven by the Irish-American lobby. In 1996, McCain wrote in Foreign Policy Magazine:
"Motivated by romantic, anachronistic notions of Irish republicanism, some prominent Irish-Americans persuaded the president (over the objection of the State Department) to jump headfirst into the Northern Ireland problem, severely straining our relations with London...[through our] mistaken involvement in the Northern Ireland problem, President Clinton has deepened the risk to his credibility and further damaged relations with our British allies." [Foreign Policy, Summer 1996]
Not exactly a shinning endorsement of the peace process is it. It also once again shows McCain's poor judgment and complete lack of understanding of how peace is made. McCain was also opposed to giving Gerry Adams a visa to come to the United States. But establishing trust with both Catholics and Protestants was crucial to asserting our neutrality and enhanced our ability to arbitrate the dispute and eventually help lay the ground work for peace. McCain was against that.
Secondly, McCain's attack on Obama is ridiculous. It is probably unnecessary to maintain a special envoy after the peace process has finalized and a joint power-sharing Protestant-Catholic government has now taken hold. I am not sure if Barack Obama has taken a position on this - this position seems like something that should just gradually shrink away. But the fact that McCain would attack Obama on the peace process after opposing it throughout the 90s is completely hypocritical. If McCain is going to pander he should at least do it on areas where he has a leg to stand on.
Congressman Richard Neal sums it up best:
"By contrast, John McCain has spent years ridiculing and minimizing U.S. efforts to help resolve the Troubles. In an article in Foreign Affairs, he said President Bill Clinton's efforts were "romantic" and accused him of undertaking his tireless work for peace in order to curry favor with Irish Americans. He criticized the decision to grant Gerry Adams a visa, a development now considered crucial to the success of the peace process. He claimed our role in Northern Ireland was severely damaging our relationship with Great Britain. Yet in a speech before Congress in 2003, British Prime Minister Tony Blair publicly thanked America for its support of the peace process. Quite simply, in the long march towards peace and stability in Northern Ireland, John McCain has been on the wrong side of history every step of the way."