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On foreign soil, McCain says he wants to work with Obama

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) wants to work with the Obama administration on a range of foreign-policy issues and find areas of common interests after the election, he told The Cable and an international audience this weekend. Following a harrowing week of open warfare with the Obama White House — in which he threatened to hold ...

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) wants to work with the Obama administration on a range of foreign-policy issues and find areas of common interests after the election, he told The Cable and an international audience this weekend.

Following a harrowing week of open warfare with the Obama White House -- in which he threatened to hold up the potential nomination of U.S. U.N. ambassador Susan Rice for secreatary of state -- McCain took off for the Halifax International Security Forum along with Sens. Mark Udall (D-CO), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), John Barrasso (R-WY), a number of Obama administration officials, and your humble Cable guy.

During his panel at the conference, McCain didn't talk about his call for a "Watergate-style" committee to investigate the Benghazi attack of his pledge to do everything in his power to quash Rice's nomination.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) wants to work with the Obama administration on a range of foreign-policy issues and find areas of common interests after the election, he told The Cable and an international audience this weekend.

Following a harrowing week of open warfare with the Obama White House — in which he threatened to hold up the potential nomination of U.S. U.N. ambassador Susan Rice for secreatary of state — McCain took off for the Halifax International Security Forum along with Sens. Mark Udall (D-CO), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), John Barrasso (R-WY), a number of Obama administration officials, and your humble Cable guy.

During his panel at the conference, McCain didn’t talk about his call for a "Watergate-style" committee to investigate the Benghazi attack of his pledge to do everything in his power to quash Rice’s nomination.

"I don’t like to be overly critical of my own government," McCain told the international audience assembled in Canada. "I congratulate President Obama on his reelection. The American people have spoken and it’s up to us in the loyal opposition to support the president wherever we can, especially when it comes to national security."

In an interview The Cable, McCain offered an olive branch to the Obama administration and said he wants to work with the president wherever and whenever possible.

"The American people have spoken. I think we ought to try to find ways where we can work together," McCain said. "I think Syria is a classic example of that. I’ve heard that they are reevaluating the whole situation. I would love to work with them."

McCain said that he was told the White House is conducting a full post-election reevaluation of America’s Syria policy and said he wants to work with the administration to increase foreign aid to Libya to help that country continue progress toward developing their fragile democracy.

"We want to work with him, we want to support him," he said, referring to President Obama. "We think these issues are too critical. But it’s also our job in the loyal opposition to disagree where we disagree, and in an open and honest fashion, and to engage in a debate that all the American people can take part in."

McCain said he supports Senate ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty, a pet project of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), another oft-mooted name for Foggy Bottom.

"I think it’s going to require a presidential push to get through and I think it’s important that we move forward on that," he said. "I think we can work together on almost every issue, I really do. We have in the past on several issues."

McCain didn’t pretend he agrees with the administration on everything. He said the president’s trip to Burma this week was a mistake because it came too soon in Burma’s reform process and was done despite the concerns of longtime leading dissident Aung San Suu Kyi.

He also couldn’t resist leveling some harsh words at the Obama administration’s Syria policy.

"I’m ashamed as an American," McCain said. "While we sit by and watch that happen without even giving them weapons to defend themselves. This will be a shameful chapter in American history, my friends, because we could have done something and we can still do something today. But we won’t."

"Only 37,000 have been massacred. I guess in the grand scheme of things that’s not too many, compared to some wars," he said.

McCain indicated that his real fight over the next two years on foreign policy will not be with the White House, but with members of his own GOP Senate caucus who want to steer Republican foreign policy toward a more isolationist and non-interventionist stance. He singled out Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for threatening to cut off all U.S. foreign aid to Pakistan, Libya, and Egypt.

"Particularly in the Republican party there’s always been a conflict. It’s between the isolationists and those who believe we have a role to play in the world. It concerns me a great deal," he said. "That debate will rage between now and the next elections."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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