Here's the text of Senator McCain's talk from yesterday. Interruptions from hecklers are not transcribed. His new spin on the question of talking to "extremists" is that we've already talked to them and it's done no good. His specific context on this occasion was nuclear proliferation. On this subject he thinks he can create an international consensus to bring Iran to heel that Bush hasn't managed. He still hasn't made it clear how he can convince the Russians and Chinese to do this when Bush has failed; maybe he just expects us to take for granted that he's smarter than Bush, and that's all it takes. He made a point of saying that he doesn't consider Russia an enemy, though he's had nasty words for Putin personally in the past. Whether he proposes to deal with Russia or Iran or North Korea or China, he has to show voters whether or not he's going to do away with that implicit contempt for the sovereignty of "unfree" governments that has handicapped American diplomacy in the Bush era, but his eagerness to create a "league of democracies," an alliance unhampered by the veto power of China or Russia, is not a good sign.
As for the hecklers, McCain compared his willingness to hear all points of view at his "town meetings" with their alleged intolerance and incivility. That sounds nice, but everybody in the audience gets to hear John McCain all the time, while this was probably the only time a particular group of dissidents was going to get him to hear them. I'm not thrilled by people who replace discourse with chanting, but he needs to hear them as much as anyone else in the building. That said, hecklers shouldn't be surprised or offended when they're removed from a venue like this one. It would be intolerant if they prevented McCain from finishing his thoughts, such as they were. It is no victory for anyone to silence anybody else, and neither he nor the hecklers were silenced. They had their say, and since they were chanting, not making speeches, their point was already made by the time they were removed. Even better, they got McCain to improvise a little rant about never quitting in Iraq, which only confirmed the hecklers' charge of "endless war." That was a victory for them.