Thursday, September 19, 2013

Obama, McCain and Their New Pen Pals

In the age of sound bites, the President and his 2008 opponent are reviving an ancient art, lobbing letters at foreign adversaries rather than missiles, an improvement no doubt but neither quite has the hang of it.

John McCain, in his usual retro style, sends Putin an old-fashioned “Dear Sir, You Cur” missive, telling his constituents, “I am pro-Russian, more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today. They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections. They control your media.”

Speaking of which, McCain sends his screed to the wrong Pravda (don’t ask, it’s complicated) but Putin surely gets the message. Will they exchange seconds to arrange for an old-fashioned shootout on some neutral ground, say an OK Corral in Turkey?

Obama, on the other hand, finds a new pen pal by passing notes in the international schoolyard with Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, who sees in the exchange “subtle and tiny steps for a very important future.”

A welcome change in tone from that of his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was prone to offhand remarks such as that about Israel: “The regime that occupies Jerusalem must vanish from the pages of time.”

Still and all, President Obama, who has accumulated painful experience in trying to find common ground with adversaries at home and abroad, is chastened enough to say only that Rouhani “is somebody who is looking to open dialogue with the West and with the United States, in a way that we haven’t seen in the past. And so we should test it.”

By all means, he and McCain should keep expressing themselves on paper rather than with tons of hardware, but be sure to use enough postage and double-check the addressee’s residence.

In doing so, they may want to keep in mind the strategy of statesman-author Winston Churchill: “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”

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