From the Journal …
John McCain’s top foreign-policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, is a leading expert on U.S.-allied Georgia — and was a paid lobbyist for the former Soviet republic until March, in the run-up to what has become a major battle between Georgia and Russia.
Democratic rival Barack Obama’s presidential campaign was quick to try to paint Mr. Scheunemann’s dual roles as a conflict of interest after Sen. McCain swiftly took Georgia’s side in the dispute, and cited it as evidence that Sen. McCain is “ensconced in a lobbyist culture,” as Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan told reporters over the weekend.
But given the rapid escalation of the fighting, and the fact that Georgia is being viewed as a victim of its neighbor’s aggression, Mr. Scheunemann’s ties to the small nation and its pro-Western Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili may look less like a weakness and more like a strength in the first foreign-policy crisis of the general election campaign.
It’s genuinely hard to know where to start with this sort of nonsense. To say that Randy has a conflict of interest misses the point. And I’d hope that’s not the argument the Obama campaign is trying to make. The point is that Randy was running point on what was clearly a deeply misguided policy — one advanced by the Bush administration and lobbied for aggressively by the neoconservative foreign policy community in Washington, for whom, as I said, Randy was essentially running point. Anybody who wants to understand this situation needs to read Fred Kaplan’s piece in Slate and Greg Djerejian’s blog post from this morning.
Scheunemann’s ‘policy’ was to get the Georgians ginned up on the idea that we were their close military allies and that we’d come to their rescue if their brinksmanship with the Russians went bad. Well, that didn’t work out very well. Any situation where you start the shooting and then find yourself begging for a ceasefire within 48 hours is a major blunder. He’s not an ‘expert’ on Georgia; he’s the lead guy on the policy that got us into this situation. And the fact that John McCain would make him his chief policy advisor after he’s been the conductor on so many trainwrecks should tell us all we need to know about Sen. McCain’s foreign policy judgment.