Behold the sound of a man who’s either (a) not running for another term or (b) so confident at this point of his ability to bat away primary challenges by grassroots righties that he’s now fully unbound in his willingness to criticize the one true Trump.
As a matter of partisan heresy, this is up there with “Reagan was an idiot.”
Senator John McCain, a prominent Republican voice on foreign policy, was visibly irked when asked by the Guardian what message Trump had sent to the United Kingdom, one of America’s most enduring allies.
“What do you think the message is? The message is that America doesn’t want to lead,” McCain said, while adding of the rest of the world: “They are not sure of American leadership, whether it be in Siberia or whether it be in Antarctica.”
Asked if America’s standing on the global stage was better under Barack Obama, McCain, a fervent critic of the previous administration’s foreign policy, responded: “As far as American leadership is concerned, yes.”
The guy bombs Assad in April, realizing one of the fondest fantasies of interventionists like Maverick, and this is his thanks — second-string on the depth chart behind President “Red Lines,” architect of a nuclear deal that’ll have Iran highly-enriching uranium again in a decade or so with the acquiescence of the international community. What gives?
There are various strands of annoyance, I’m sure. McCain supported staying in the Paris climate agreement, for instance, and he was obviously unhappy with Trump’s counterproductive trolling of the mayor of London last week after a terror attack. The key to understanding McCain, though, is to remember that he’s a hard-hard-hardcore Russia hawk, and Trump … is not that. Trump’s relationship with Maverick was destined to start with two strikes against him thanks to the POW comments from the summer of 2015 but I think McCain would have gotten over that had Trump been a stalwart NATO-hugging Cold Warrior. Instead he was the opposite, a man who encouraged Putin to “find” Hillary Clinton’s emails, who crowed about the DNC and Podesta stuff from Wikileaks, who minimized Putin’s more fascist impulses whenever asked about them, and who, most unforgivably, refused to reaffirm America’s commitment to Article 5 of NATO in Brussels when he had the chance. (He did casually reaffirm it on Friday but not on the big stage in Europe with Merkel and Macron standing right there.) For Maverick, I think “American leadership” internationally is by and large a synonym for “support for NATO.” Looked at that way, what he’s saying is true — Obama did in fact support NATO more enthusiastically than Trump. And it’s a fact that Europeans are more likely to go their own way in the aftermath of Trump’s Article 5 dithering than to follow America’s lead.
Here’s the McCain worldview in less than two minutes, from Campaign 2008. Which president, Obama or Trump, would be more likely to agree with him that “Today we are all Georgians” when Putin was busy menacing Tbilisi? That’s why ol’ Mav comes down where he does on the “American leadership” question.