Citing President Bush’s agreeing to a “time horizon” for troop withdrawals from Iraq (second item) and the administration’s having authorized high-level talks with Iran and North Korea, The New York Times notes that McCain – who remains opposed to a timed withdrawal that is not based on conditions on the ground, as well as to diplomatic engagement with “axis of evil” countries – is creating “the perception that he is more conservative than Mr. Bush”:  

Essentially, as the administration has taken a more pragmatic approach to foreign policy, the decision of Mr. McCain to adhere to his more hawkish positions illustrates the continuing influence of neoconservatives on his thinking even as they are losing clout within the administration. 

Whether the perception of Mr. McCain as being at odds with the administration is politically advantageous for him is a matter of debate among his supporters, but many of his more conservative advisers do not think it is a bad thing.  

“There’s no doubt, particularly as Bush has adopted policies in the direction of Obama, that that gives Obama bragging rights,” said John R. Bolton, the Bush administration’s former ambassador to the United Nations, who has sharply criticized the administration’s talks with Iran and North Korea. “But if you believe as I do that this administration is in the midst of an intellectual collapse, it doesn’t hurt McCain. Occasionally in politics it helps to be right.” 

Stop the presses! The Times admits that Bush’s and McCain’s foreign policy strategies and objectives are not identical. But it gets better: A couple of days earlier The Times’ political blog, The Caucus, had already made the case that Obama will be Bush II.  

Describing a speech by Bush that was not televised delivered before “400 invited guests of the United States Agency for International Development, including administration officials and dissidents from Cuba, Belarus, Iran and North Korea” reporter Steven Lee Myers wrote: 

President Bush also gave a speech on America’s role in the world on Thursday, and while the setting and the style could hardly be different, there were some striking parallels between his and Senator Barack Obama’s. 

Both men talked about hope. Both spoke of freedom as the core of American foreign policy. They sought to revive the spirit of NATO, the Berlin Airlift and the Marshall Plan for a new era and a new war against extremism. It is a conflict that involves not only military might, but the instruments of soft power: aid, trade, help fighting AIDS. 

Both championed the victims of political oppression in places like Myanmar, Iran, Zimbabwe and Darfur. Neither offered any new proposal. … 

Substantively, however, the two speeches suggested that, all campaigning aside, some fundamental aspects of American foreign policy are likely to remain more or less unchanged. Those include opposition to Iran’s nuclear weapons, support for an Israeli-Palestinian peace, a strong NATO role in helping rebuild Afghanistan. 

Even on Iraq, where he has differed most with the administration, Mr. Obama called on the world to help Iraqis achieve sovereignty. 

When it comes to steadfastness, the less things change, the more they stay the same. Now that’s lack of change The Stiletto can believe in!

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog, chosen an Official Honoree in the Political Blogs category by the judges of the 12th Annual Webby Awards (the Oscars of the online universe) along with CNN Political Ticker, Swampland (Time magazine) and The Caucus (The New York Times).

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