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The Contrarian Loyalist

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sen. John McCain's foreign policy speech yesterday was designed to both embrace the overall direction set by President Bush and subtly distance McCain from the elements that have turned off moderate voters. Here's a guide to the Republican nominee's balancing act.

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-- Glenn Kessler

I am, from hard experience and the judgment it informs, a realistic idealist. . . . We have enemies for whom no attack is too cruel, and no innocent life safe, and who would, if they could, strike us with the world's most terrible weapons. There are states that support them, and which might help them acquire those weapons because they share with terrorists the same animating hatred for the West and will not be placated by fresh appeals to the better angels of their nature. This is the central threat of our time.

McCain declares himself to be a "realistic idealist," presumably to separate himself from the Wilsonian idealism associated with Bush, which suggests that freedom will naturally emerge in societies under U.S. tutelage. (Lately, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has asserted that the administration's foreign policy is best described as "American realism.") But then McCain restates Bush's argument that an "axis of evil" of terrorists and rogue states is working against the United States -- but avoids the words so clearly linked to the president.

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