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Sen. John McCain told a local radio show on Thursday that Barack Obama is the most "naive president in history," while repeating his call for the U.S. to impose sanctions against Ukraine in the wake of escalating violence there. Although it appears that the U.S. is indeed coordinating a plan with the E.U. to do exactly that, McCain wants to make sure everyone knows he'd handle this a lot better if it were up to him. "The naiveté of Barack Obama and [Secretary of State] John Kerry is stunning," he said, referring to the Obama administration's years-old (and widely mocked) comments about pressing a "reset button" on U.S.-Russian relations. 

McCain tends to get personally involved in international diplomacy when it looks like a country is about to spiral out of control, and Ukraine is no exception. In December, the senator traveled to Kiev to meet with opposition and government officials, after an earlier violent crackdown against protesters. This week, the Republican released a joint statement with Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, who visited Ukraine with McCain:

We have begun working together on legislation that would impose targeted sanctions on government officials and other persons who have committed, ordered, or materially supported acts of violence against peaceful citizens in Ukraine, or who are complicit in the rollback of Ukraine’s democracy. These sanctions should not, and will not, target the people or the country of Ukraine as a whole. Instead, they will be narrowly focused on those individuals who must be held accountable for violating human rights and undermining democracy. We remain in contact with the Administration and look forward to working together on this legislation. 

McCain also went on CNN last night to reiterate that he didn't think Obama was doing enough to intervene in the Ukraine. "The President should be working with Congress to prepare a set of sanctions against Ukraine that would be put into effect unless this comes to a halt," he told Jake Tapper. 


Russia responded on Thursday to the existing visa bans the US imposed on certain Ukrainian officials in the wake of the violence, along with similar bans being considered by the EU. Moscow, unsurprisingly, called the sanctions "illegitimate," adding that, "Such actions are reminiscent of blackmail."  

Normally, one would expect some sort of criticism from the major opposition party to a president's handling of a major issue. But McCain, who ran against Obama for the presidency in 2008, has a habit of making sure everyone knows what he would do if he was the president instead. His remarks this week about Obama's "naiveté" also recalls a particular spat between the two former 2008 candidates about foreign policy tactics. Only back then, it was Obama calling McCain naive. Obama responded to insinuations from McCain and former President George Bush that the Democratic candidate would appease terrorists as president by saying that McCain had a "naive and irresponsible belief that tough talk from Washington will somehow cause Iran to give up its nuclear program and support for terrorism." Earlier that year, McCain repeatedly called the now president "naive" for his promise to bomb in Pakistan if U.S. intelligence detected "high value" terrorist targets using regions of the country as a base. 

Earlier this week, McCain went after John Kerry's recent comments on the threat of climate change, indicating that the senator also believes he'd be better at Kerry's job as well. “Why should he talk about climate change, when we’ve got a 130,000 people in Syria killed," he said, adding that "the whole Geneva thing was a fiasco, the Iran-U.S. talks are obviously a joke, and the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations haven’t even begun.”  

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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