McCain: That was "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory"

It’s one thing for Trump to take a rhetorical 2×4 to the head from a political enemy…

…but when was the last time a senator smacked a president from his own party as hard as this? Good lord, McCain held nothing back. Money line: “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.”

“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake…

“It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout – as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.

“Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency. That the president was attended in Helsinki by a team of competent and patriotic advisors makes his blunders and capitulations all the more painful and inexplicable.

“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.

There’s a bit more at the link. What’s interesting about Maverick letting it all hang out in his statement is that other Republicans in their final terms in Congress were much more restrained/timid. You can understand why in Paul Ryan’s case:

He’s retiring, yeah, but he’s still the Speaker of the House and de facto leader of “establishment” Republicans. If he walloped Trump like McCain did, populists might take it out on his caucus in November by staying home. Ryan has to play the good soldier for a few more months to protect his members. (Although if you said that you expect him to go easy on Trump even in retirement, you’ll get no argument from me. I think Ryan learned a lesson from the “Access Hollywood” episode that attacking Trump is of no benefit and potentially great cost.) Bob Corker hit Trump harder in his own comments today, saying that the presser made America look like a “pushover,” but he too held off on McCain-style histrionics. That may also be tactical: Corker’s the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and may not want to completely alienate the White House with potentially important business in front of the committee this fall.

The one that surprised me, though, is Trey Gowdy, who coughed up this feeble reprimand. Unless he’s hoping for an administration job after he leaves Congress in January — unlikely, given his public defenses of Mueller — I don’t know why he’d hold back.

Gowdy’s take, essentially, is that Trump is confused, that if only someone could explain to him that it’s possible to believe that he won the election fairly and that Russia is guilty of interference, he’d be stronger in standing up to Putin. Or, as Benjy Sarlin put it, “Trey Gowdy‘s almost explicit take is that Trump is such a narcissist that he’s actively undermining national security to bolster his political image.” Which … now that I think about it, is kind of harsh — albeit not as harsh as McCain or Pelosi.

Exit question: How is Pelosi going to do the post-election grip-and-grin with Trump in the Oval Office if Democrats take back the House after this? Both sides are used to doing business amid nasty partisan attacks, but wondering if the president is a Russian agent, if only because he’s being extorted, is a direct attack on his legitimacy. For that matter, how does Pelosi hold off the impeachment brigades on the left after tweeting what she did? Her line to this point has been that impeachment is pointless, that it might backfire on Democrats a la the GOP’s impeachment in 1998 and that the party should focus on 2020 instead. But how can it be pointless if she thinks the president might just be a traitor of some stripe? She’s boxed herself in here.