John McCain joked on Face the Nation yesterday that the US Senate’s reputation as the world’s greatest deliberative body was “the greatest exaggeration in history,” but his claim of the Senate’s purpose may run a close second.  In his joint appearance with Chuck Schumer yesterday, McCain told Bob Schieffer that he didn’t understand why some Republicans want to filibuster a gun control bill being pushed by Harry Reid, Schumer, and the White House.  After all, McCain said, Harry Reid had promised Republicans they can offer amendments:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday expressed opposition to possible GOP efforts to filibuster a Senate gun-control measure, saying he did not “understand” the move to block debate.

“I don’t understand it,” said McCain on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand.”

“What are we afraid of? Why would we not want… if this issue is as important as all of us think it is, why not take  it to one of the world’s greatest deliberative bodies – that’s one of the greatest exaggerations in history by the way – but you know why not take it up, an amendment and debate. The American people will profit from it,” said the Arizona senator. 

“I don’t understand why United States senators want to block debate when the leaders said we could have amendments,” McCain added.

Isn’t just a tad disingenuous for McCain to claim to lack understanding of why Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and other Republicans have threatened a filibuster on this bill?  Why not just say, “I understand they think the bill has unconstitutional elements, but they’re wrong,” or “I disagree that this violates the Second Amendment”?  Cruz and Paul have been explicit and clear why they want to filibuster the overall bill, even with the assault-weapons ban relegated to an easily-defeatable amendment.

The first purpose of the Senate isn’t to cast votes, by the way, or to be the world’s greatest debating society.  It’s to uphold and defend the Constitution, as McCain’s own oath should have instructed him. Now, he may honestly believe that this bill doesn’t violate the Constitution, although his record on campaign-finance reform and the First Amendment doesn’t give him a large amount of credibility on that question.  But that doesn’t mean that he can’t recognize that the filibuster exists for the very purpose of blocking progress on a bill that violates the conscience of enough Senators to stage a successful filibuster — and if they can’t sustain a filibuster (and that’s going to be the likely outcome), then why is McCain bothering to complain about it?

Consider this the “wacko bird” strategy for McCain, who’s suddenly finding his media love all over again.