Questions raised about McCains judgment on Georgia-Russia conflict

The conflict in Georgia has cast a spotlight on both John McCain’s ethics and on his ability to exercise good judgment in a time of crisis.

McCain’s longtime business partner and current chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, lobbied the senator on 49 occasions during a three year period while being paid $800,000 by the right-wing government of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.

In numerous speeches this week McCain has ranted and raved against Russia’s role in the current conflict in Georgia. Positioning himself to the right of even the Bush administration, he has said that he believes the Russian leadership to be “far more dangerous” than the president believes it to be.

Precisely because of this posturing, the payments by the Georgian government to McCain’s partner raise ethical questions about the connection between Scheunemann’s personal finances and his advice to McCain who has seized on the current conflict as a campaign issue.

Barack Obama has called for a “review” of U.S. agreements with Russia but, unlike McCain, said, “We seek a future of cooperative engagement with the Russian government, and friendship with the Russian people.”

If McCain was hoping that escalation of tensions in Georgia would boost his campaign, he definitely was not hoping for what seems to be happening now: More and more media outlets are beginning to focus on the McCain-Scheunemann relationship.

The Seattle Times is reporting that on April 17, a month and a half after Scheunemann officially stopped working for Georgia, his partner and the only other member of his firm, took another $200,000 from Georgia to continue lobbying McCain.

The maneuvering amounts to McCain functioning on behalf of paid foreign agents and, at the same time, using helping create international tension to benefit his campaign for the presidency.

“Scheunemann’s work as a lobbyist poses valid questions about McCain’s judgment in choosing someone who – and whose firm – are paid to promote the interests of other nations,” said New York University law professor Stephen Gillers.

Brian Rogers, a spokesman for the McCain campaign admitted to the Los Angeles Times: “This is an issue that he (McCain) has been involved with for well over decade.”

A report in the Bloomberg News noted that McCain’s strong condemnation of Russia’s military action against Georgia as “totally, absolutely unacceptable” reflects long-standing ties between McCain and hard-line conservatives such as Scheunemann, an aide in the 1990’s to then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

Numerous press reports on Scheunemann are turning up more and more disturbing background information:

Scheunemann, who also ran McCain’s 2000 campaign foreign policy operation, has, like McCain, supported regime-change in Iraq and NATO membership for all of the former Soviet republics. McCain sponsored or co-sponsored every one of the four bills and resolutions regarding Georgia that Scheunemann told him to sponsor.

Scheunemann, it turns out, was one of the ring leaders of the neo-con drive to go to war with Iraq. Before the U.S. invaded, he was chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Prior to that he was a leader of the Project for the New American Century, an outfit that said nine days after the Sept. 11 attacks, that the terrorists were linked to Iraq. Those claims, of course, were later proven false.