YORK, Pa. -- If there were any doubts that John McCain's campaign would try to emphasize the presumptive Republican nominee's foreign policy credentials in light of the current conflict in Georgia, today's town hall put those to bed.
With more than 2,000 people in attendance, McCain's "Straight Talk Express" bus drove into the Toyota Arena here today beneath a large American flag and with the theme from "Rocky" blaring over the PA system. McCain emerged with Sen. Joe Lieberman, I/D-Conn., and former governor Tom Ridge by his side. Both introduced the Arizona senator and stuck to the campaign's talking points of the day.
Lieberman kicked things off by saying, "We've just seen over the last few days as the Russians invaded a sovereign nation, Georgia, and watch the response of this man, John McCain, to that crisis: right, strong, clear, principled, the kind of president we need in the White House over the next four years, to be there to protect our country, our security and our freedom."
Then McCain picked up again by placing the current conflict in a historical context, explaining the history of Georgia and recounting the invasions the country has survived. He then seemed to compare the current Russian invasion to World War II and the lessons America learned from the Nazi aggression.
"The impact of Russian actions goes beyond their threat to a democratic Georgia," McCain said. "Russia has used violence against Georgia to send a signal to any country that chooses to associate with the West and aspire to our shared political and economic values. My friends, we learned at great cost the price of allowing aggression against free nations to go unchecked. With our allies we must stand in united purpose to persuade the Russian government to withdraw its troops from Georgia."
Using the Georgian president's nickname, McCain said he spoke with President "Misha" Saakashvili today and reassured him that "the thoughts and the prayers and support of the American people are with that brave little nation as they struggle for their freedom and independence.
"And he wanted me to say thank you to you, to give you his heartfelt thanks for the support of the American people for this tiny little democracy far away from the United States of America," McCain continued. "And I told him that I know I speak for every American when I say to him, 'Today we are all Georgians.'"
Emphasizing his familiarity with the region, McCain also spoke of his trip there in 2006, when he "reviewed the Georgian troops who had served with honor beside American soldiers in Iraq" and visited South Ossetia, scene of the recent Russian advance.
"Two years ago I traveled to South Ossetia, my friends, and we went through this barricade," McCain said, "and as soon as we got into this place, which the Russians are maintaining hundreds, and now thousands of troops, there was this huge billboard, and it said, 'Vladimir Putin, Our President.' Have no doubt about Russian ambitions in this area."
-- Adam Aigner-Treworgy