My, how those “wacko birds” suddenly develop beautiful plumage, eh, Guv’nor? John McCain joins Jeb Bush and other Republican leadership figures in discovering a strange, new respect for Ted Cruz, although to be fair, it sounds a bit grudging from McCain. The 2008 Republican nominee tells Hugh Hewitt that the world is too dangerous to hold grudges in the next administration, no matter who wins the presidency. If that’s Cruz, McCain says, then he can be trusted to come up to speed quickly:
Politico’s Eliza Collins noted the shift in tone:
John McCain has called Ted Cruz a “wacko bird,” a liar and “crazy.” He’s even impishly suggested that the Texas senator’s Canadian origins are a subject “worth looking into.”
But now, McCain seems to be warming to his one-time Senate adversary, telling conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he has faith that Cruz could handle the volatile Middle East as president.
“Do you think he can be brought up to speed and understands the dynamics at work in the Middle East and how to cap ISIS and at the same time hold the Iranians at bay?” Hewitt asked the Arizona Republican.
“I believe he can, I believe he must,” McCain said. “If he is the president of the United States — and I intend to work with any of these nominees if they are president because there is too much danger in the world — I have to put aside my anger in some cases and work with him in every possible way that I can, whoever it is.”
Some of this is typical McCain patter. Even during his run against Barack Obama, McCain would occasionally tell people to quit scaremongering about the prospect of Obama as Commander in Chief, which didn’t exactly redound to McCain’s benefit. If Hugh had asked McCain the same question about Hillary Clinton, McCain would have probably offered up much the same answer, albeit couched with significant caveats about how well it actually worked out with Obama and Hillary in charge of foreign policy. McCain might even say something similar about Donald Trump — and in fact McCain frames his answer to include all possibilities.
Still, coming from the man who had no compunction about sharing his annoyance and anger over Cruz in the past, it’s still remarkable for its somewhat-reluctant embrace of his internecine adversary. He gets in a dig about his “anger,” and that seems specific to Cruz, but in the end offers up a quasi-endorsement (or at least offers no objection) to a Cruz presidency. We may not see much enthusiasm for Cruz among Republican leadership — although give Jeb Bush credit for offering some in his endorsement — but they have begun to see Cruz as the most realistic alternative for the GOP. This may be more of a baton toss than a baton pass, but it’s still a change of guard in the GOP.