JOHN McCAIN gave a sage and substantive speech Tuesday on his approach to the dangers of nuclear proliferation. Without explicitly saying so, McCain took positions that are, on most issues, diametrically opposed to those of President Bush.
Echoing proposals from former officials such as Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry, and Sam Nunn, McCain pledged to "reduce the size of our nuclear arsenal to the lowest number possible." He proposed an accord with Russia on "binding verification measures based on those currently in effect under the START agreement." He talked of eliminating tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, canceling development of a nuclear bunker buster bomb, working toward a moratorium on the production of fissile material, and improving the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty so America could join it.
McCain deserves praise for staking out clear, rational positions on the most important matters of national security. Rejecting Bush's unilateralism, the Arizona senator evoked a return to "broad-minded internationalism and determined diplomacy."
McCain made one glaring mistake: He backed Bush's wasteful investment in a flawed missile defense system that cannot protect America or its allies against long-range missiles with nuclear warheads. But McCain clearly felt a need to set himself apart in other ways from a president of his own party whose approval ratings are below 30 percent. And wisely, he did so. It will be good for the country if the presidential campaign becomes a contest to see who will be best at undoing the damage done by Bush.