On Sunday, Republican senator John McCain appeared—remotely—on NBC’s Meet the Press, where he pussyfooted around critiques of President Trump while still implying that his administration is bucking against the order of the free world. He did, however, state outright that “President Trump is not trying to be a dictator,” so that’s a cool vote of confidence.
As the Daily Intelligencer suggests, McCain spends the brief interview talking out of both sides of his mouth. When articulating his concerns regarding the new administration, he avoids uttering Trump’s name. But when pressed by host Chuck Todd, McCain, albeit protractedly, admits that he lacks confidence in Trump’s “understanding of some of these issues and his contradictory articulations.” What McCain is referring to, specifically, is Trump’s perspectives on national security and foreign policy — particularly our relationship with Russia.
Two weeks ago, Trump spoke with Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly about Vladimir Putin’s reputation as “a killer,” to which he responded, “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”
According to McCain, drawing this “moral equivalency” between our two countries “[contradicts]...everything the United States has ever stood for in the 20th and the 21st century.” Moreover, he forebodes that implementing Trump’s European foreign policies—namely, breaking away from the “obsolete” NATO—“would upset the last 70 years of a new world order.”
These are strong words. One wonders why, if McCain harbors such negative sentiments, he voted to confirm all but one of Trump’s appointees. Collectively, these decisions do not cohere with his so-called “maverick” reputation, nor does his painfully ginger critique of the administration for which he seems to have such little respect.
To be clear, I agree with much of what McCain has to say in his interview with Todd. But as Alex Pareene wrote on Friday, I see no evidence that significant action will follow. He has not condemned his party for docilely placating the new POTUS, nor has he supported the Democrats in their efforts to oppose tragically destructive Cabinet appointments like Betsy DeVos. He is even loathe to call Trump by name — to firmly hold him accountable for the chaos he has summoned.
So, pardon me if I don’t get a lady boner over a few decent soundbites.
McCain also remarked upon Trump’s Friday tweet referring to the media as “the enemy of the American people” (sorrynotsorry, Mr. President, I couldn’t help but edit).
“If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press,” he declared. After all, “dictators get started” by suppressing the media. Todd prodded McCain on this reference to “dictators” and, predictably, McCain backpedaled into the distance.
“I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator,” McCain hurriedly followed up. “I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”
Sure! But “the lessons of history”—not to mention Trump’s autocratic preferences—would indicate that he is not especially interested in the democratic process or in checks and balances or in a fair society unsullied by bigotry.
You can watch Senator McCain dilly-dally in the video clip below.