CNN’s Expert: McCain ‘Aligned With Far Right’ on Russia

Tom Foreman, CNN Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgCNN correspondent Tom Foreman omitted identifying a "foreign policy expert" as a former member of Bill Clinton’s National Security Council during a report on John McCain’s strong position towards Russia on Wednesday’s Election Center program. This expert, Charles Kupchan of the Council of Foreign Relations, accused McCain of becoming a belligerent position towards the country: "Well, over the last few years, McCain's views on Russia seem to be getting more and more confrontational, and I think he's really aligned himself with the far right, not with the centrists within the Republican Party. And, in some ways, it almost appears either if he thinks the Cold War is still on or that he wants it to return."

Kupchan, a professor of international relations at Georgetown University, served as Director for European Affairs on the National Security Council during Clinton’s first term. He also has complimented Barack Obama for his willingness to "engage adversaries," which to him is "a sign not of naiveté or inexperience, but of hard-headed realism." Foreman used two sound bites from the professor during his report. At the beginning of the segment, the CNN correspondent played Ronald Reagan’s famous "tear down this wall" line from 1987 as he introduced McCain’s position on Russia: "In the final years of the Soviet Union, as Ronald Reagan was thundering at the Russians, John McCain was a first-term senator cheering him on, and, 21 years later, he still distrusts Russia."

Charles Kupchan, Georgetown University Professor | NewsBusters.orgAfter playing a clip of McCain speaking about Russia during a campaign spot, Foreman introduced Kupchan as a "foreign policy expert," and played his "far right" comment. During the second sound bite, Kupchan outlined what he thinks might happen concerning U.S.-Russia relations if McCain became President: "I think it's arguably dangerous in the sense that by assuming that Russia may be more aggressive than it is, and by pushing Russia's back up against the wall, it's possible that one can produce a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Despite using Kupchan’s liberal rhetoric, Foreman acknowledged that "McCain's stance on Russia has been consistent, and it has brought many admirers to his side, other Americans who also believe that the Russian bear is best kept on a short leash."

One of the last times CNN used a sound bite from Kupchan was when correspondent Paula Newton reported on Cindy Sheehan’s trip to the UK in 2005. The anti-war activist tried to get then-Prime Minister Tony Blair to change his position on the Iraq war, and Kupchan commented on the potential fallout if Blair shifted: "If Blair were to go wobbly, if he were to begin to say, it's time for us to begin to head for the exits, that would certainly increase the pressure on Bush to follow suit."

The full transcript of Foreman’s report, which began at 8:22 pm Eastern during Wednesday’s Election Center:

CAMPBELL BROWN: As we mentioned before the break, some of the toughest talk about the Russian invasion of Georgia is coming from the campaign trail. Today, Secretary of State Rice revealed that she has been in regular contact with both Barack Obama and with John McCain as this crisis unfolds. Now, McCain, of course, has been blasting the Russians ever since the story broke last week, and it had us thinking whether or not there may be something going on beyond the headlines, something a little more visceral for him.

Tom Foreman has been digging into McCain's record with the Russians, and he's joining us from the CNN Election Express, Joliet, Illinois, with the very latest on this.

TOM FOREMAN: Well, Campbell, there's no question that John McCain has more hands-on experience with Russia than Barack Obama does, and he's been presenting himself as both the voice of reason and of strength in this latest clash. But some foreign affairs experts are not buying it.

RONALD REAGAN: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

FOREMAN (voice-over): In the final years of the Soviet Union, as Ronald Reagan was thundering at the Russians, John McCain was a first-term senator cheering him on, and, 21 years later, he still distrusts Russia. Listen to what he said campaigning in Michigan.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: ...And I am interested in good relations between the United States and Russia. But, in the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations.

FOREMAN: A tough line, especially for a supporter of the Iraq invasion. But, he goes on:

MCCAIN: My position vis-a-vis the now-prime minister of Russia has been very clear for a long period of time, that I have been very concerned about Russian behavior in a broad variety of areas.

FOREMAN: And now listen to how this foreign policy expert is reacting.

CHARLES KUPCHAN, COUNCIL OF FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, over the last few years, McCain's views on Russia seem to be getting more and more confrontational, and I think he's really aligned himself with the far right, not with the centrists within the Republican Party. And, in some ways, it almost appears either if he thinks the Cold War is still on or that he wants it to return.

FOREMAN: McCain has been critical of efforts to reach out to Russia politically and economically, even those of President Bush. He has repeatedly attacked Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is a former KGB boss.

MCCAIN: I looked into Mr. Putin's eyes, and I saw three letters, a K, a G, and B.

FOREMAN: McCain wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine: 'Today, we see in Russia diminishing political freedoms, a leadership dominated by a clique of former intelligence officers, efforts to bully democratic neighbors, such as Georgia, and attempts to manipulate Europe's dependence on Russian oil and gas.' McCain has pushed to have Russia thrown out of the G-8, that group of the world's largest democracies formed to promote economic and political cooperation. He has fought to bring the Soviet Union's former republics into NATO, a military alliance of Western powers formed to oppose Russia's military might.

KUPCHAN: I think it's arguably dangerous in the sense that by assuming that Russia may be more aggressive than it is, and by pushing Russia's back up against the wall, it's possible that one can produce a self-fulfilling prophecy.

FOREMAN (on-camera): Still, McCain's stance on Russia has been consistent, and it has brought many admirers to his side, other Americans who also believe that the Russian bear is best kept on a short leash. Campbell?

BROWN: Tom Foreman tonight -- Tom, thanks.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center