John McCain came to Hollywood today… well, downtown LA actually to the Bonaventure Hotel where Clint Eastwood filmed In The Line of Fire and Ahnold jumped some jihadists in True Lies… to deliver what was billed as a major foreign policy address to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.
Bill Bradley and I were there with PJM video honcho Mark Anderson to cover the event, interviewing such lights as Steve Schmidt, one of the candidate’s top advisers or “Gang of 5,” as Time Magazine put it. Making our grand tour of luxe LA hotels, tomorrow we will be at the Beverly Hilton to cover Cong. Brad Sherman’s foreign policy speech, also hosted by the LAWAC and billed as the Democrats’ counter to McCain.
Takeaway from today: McCain gave a good, but relatively predictable speech, especially to those who have been following the senator’s foreign policy views. What was far more interesting… and impressive… was how the Arizona senator handled himself in the post address question-and-answer session with the large audience of clearly-knowledgeable foreign policy geeks. McCain excels at this and obviously thrives on the interaction. This is a far cry from Bush, who, as we know, isn’t comfortable in this situation, and Clinton and Obama, who do their best to control questions and keep their number short, increasingly so.
McCain is the opposite. Fielding questions confidently from Iran to China and back, you had the feeling he could stand there all day answering. This will be something of a novelty in American politics, if he is elected. Watching this I also reflected on the gaffe he supposedly made a couple of weeks ago in the Middle East, when he seemed to have confused Sunni and Shiite by saying Iran was a supporter of al Qaeda. He had to be “rescued” at that time by a whisper from Joe Lieberman. Of course, maybe that wasn’t so much of a rescue because there are many who insist Iran has had a serious hand in al Qaeda in Iraq, including giving aid to their notorious leader Zarqawi, extinguished by an American bomb last year. Frankly, I don’t know how well versed McCain is in the details of this, but obviously much of the mainstream media isn’t, given the alacrity with which they jumped on the candidate for a gaffe that more than likely wasn’t. Still, McCain immediately apologized for “mispeaking,” understandable standard operating procedure for candidates in an endless campaign.
One last thought from the speech: McCain is apparently distancing himself from Bush in two key foreign policy areas: global warming and working with other nations, notably the Europeans. On the latter, however, the Senator is being a bit subtle, I think in a good way. Two very important words were missing from his talk at the Bonaventure: United Nations. He spoke in terms of a “league of democracies” working together to bring progress, no U. N. If I’m any judge of subtext via word placement, look for Nicolas Sarkozy to be a key ally in any future McCain administration.
P. S.: Speaking of In the Line of Fire, although there was a presence of secret service, security at the well attended event was surprisingly lax. Although the news media desk knew Pajamas Media by name, they never checked our IDs or our equipment bags. Worrisome.
Roger L. Simon is an Academy Award nominated screenwriter, novelist, blogger and CEO of Pajamas Media.