McCain, Putin, and why experience matters

UPDATE: My friend Erick at Redstate makes the same point.

Today, John McCain got some press for stating, as a number of people had already, that David Petraeus should be Time’s Man of the Year, not Vladimir Putin. He is transparently correct.

But there is a broader point that should be made in the context of the GOP’s presidential nominating contest. Look what McCain said in 2000 about Putin. (H/T Instapundit) The guy understood what Putin was. President Bush, who got many things right in our foreign policy, got Russia horribly wrong. If he had more experience, he might have gotten it right. And having good advisers isn’t enough. Condi Rice, a Sovietologist, should have known better.

Never mind McCain being right on Iraq.

So when we have these discussions about people’s foreign policy credentials, we should at least give credit where credit is due. Experience, at least in McCain’s case, would have mattered. As we look forward, we need to remember that. When people attack Mike Huckabee for his foreign policy but praise Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, or Rudy Giuliani, we should remember something fundamental. Their foreign policy statements are ghost-written. John McCain’s aren’t. That’s a real difference.

This shines an important light on National Review’s endorsement of Mitt Romney, which I discussed previously. They had a conference call today to defend it. I didn’t hear a single supportive question, and no one spoke up in favor of their endorsement. Ari Richter of the Concord Monitor asked why so little discussion of foreign policy twice. The first time, Rich Lowry responded that all the candidates were pretty similar. They shared the same views, so the only differences are execution.

But you know what? I don’t think that’s true. Experience and demonstrated judgment matter in this stuff. A lot. And it says a lot about National Review that they are playing that down. And John McCain’s statements today and almost 8 years ago demonstrate that.