McCain in Munich: WWII Generation Would See 'All Too Familiar' World and 'be Alarmed'

Image via Shutterstock, a stained glass painting of Saint Valentine.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in an interview from the Munich Security Conference aired today that he worries about President Trump’s “understanding of some of these issues” and “statements which upset our friends at a time when the strings on the European Union and Europeans are greater than they have been since any time since the end of the Cold War.”


McCain also told NBC’s Meet the Press that “there’s probably going to be some more shoes to drop” in the question of Russian involvement in U.S. politics, and he has “more hope than belief” that a Republican-controlled Congress will investigate the Trump administration thoroughly.

On Friday, McCain told the annual security policy conference in Munich that “not every American understands the absolutely vital role that Germany and its honorable chancellor, Chancellor Merkel, are playing in defense of the idea and the conscience of the West.”

He warned about current threats to the survival of the West, “one based not on blood-and-soil nationalism, or spheres of influence, or conquest of the weak by the strong, but rather on universal values, rule of law, open commerce, and respect for national sovereignty and independence.”

McCain referenced the founder of the conference, Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin, who was part of the resistance in the German military and was one of the plotters who attempted to assassinated Adolf Hitler. He died in 2013 at age 90.

“What would von Kleist’s generation say if they saw our world today? I fear that much about it would be all too familiar to them, and they would be alarmed by it,” McCain said. “They would be alarmed by an increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood, and race, and sectarianism. They would be alarmed by the hardening resentment we see toward immigrants, and refugees, and minority groups, especially Muslims. They would be alarmed by the growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies. They would be alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent.”


“But what would alarm them most, I think, is a sense that many of our peoples, including in my own country, are giving up on the West — that they see it as a bad deal that we may be better off without — and that while Western nations still have the power to maintain our world order, it is unclear whether we have the will.”

The senator recognized “profound concern across Europe and the world that America is laying down the mantle of global leadership.”

“These are dangerous times, but you should not count America out, and we should not count each other out,” he said. “We must be prudent, but we cannot wring our hands and wallow in self-doubt. We must appreciate the limits of our power, but we cannot allow ourselves to question the rightness and goodness of the West. We must understand and learn from our mistakes, but we cannot be paralyzed by fear. We cannot give up on ourselves and on each other. That is the definition of decadence. And that is how world orders really do decline and fall.”

McCain told NBC in the interview aired this morning that a “fundamental part” of western order is “a free press.”

“I hate the press. I hate you especially,” he told Chuck Todd. “But the fact is, I — we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital. If you want to preserve — I’m very serious now — if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I’m afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time.”


“That’s how dictators get started,” McCain added. “…I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who also traveled to Munich for the conference, told CNN this morning that “one of the things that’s amazed me on this trip over here is, as much as the Europeans criticize the United States of America, they love us, they need us, and they tell us that.”

“And, in some sense, they are almost begging us to say, ‘Please, stand with us. You’re the leader. No one else can fill your role’,” Kasich said. “So, I think it’s just very important that, in any administration, it gets its sea legs, that it’s stable, and realizing that things that get said out of that White House really matter, not just in America, but all over the world.”


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