Tuesday, February 19, 2013

McCain's sad, pathetic, bitter, and resentful campaign against Chuck Hagel

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Politico had a piece up on Sunday about why John McCain flipped on Hagel, saying he would vote for cloture (and hence for a floor vote, breaking the Republican filibuster) but then voting the other way:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) came to McCain's Senate office late Wednesday afternoon and turned around the Arizona Republican — a switch that proved decisive the next day when Hagel came one short of the 60 votes needed for cloture on the Senate floor. Now, Hagel's confirmation roll call is delayed until at least after a weeklong Presidents Day recess. 

For old McCain allies, it was an all-too familiar scenario: Their champion pulled back into the fray by his friend Graham, a likable but impulsive figure caught up in his own political battles with the right in South Carolina. By reversing himself, McCain effectively sacrificed his own credibility to buy Graham more time to continue his campaign against Hagel — an issue that plays to Graham’s advantage as he prepares to run for reelection in 2014.

"This is just a bone thrown to Lindsey Graham, who keeps painting himself into corners and then pleading with friends to crawl in there with him in a vain attempt to save a little face," one Republican insider told POLITICO. And making it more poignant and personal in this case: The Graham friendship dominated at the expense of McCain's earlier one with Hagel.

I wrote on Sunday about how Graham has been bringing the crazy even more than usual of late, and it would appear that in this case his crazy got the better of McCain, the sidekick getting what he wanted, the ex-"maverick" losing still more credibility, to the extent that he has any left at all.

But it's not all Graham's fault, of course. McCain himself has been running an egomaniacal campaign of bitterness and resentment against President Obama since... well, since the day after the '08 election, it seems, boiling over with his vicious assault on Susan Rice, with Graham in tow, and contuining with his similar assault on Hagel -- if a tad politer, given that Hagel is an ex-senator (and so a member of the club), and without the truly ugly condescension (that saw him berating a black woman). 

McCain realizes that Hagel likely has enough votes for confirmation, but that isn't stopping him from playing partisan and egomaniacal politics with a nomination that should have gone through easily (it's just the Republicans breaking with convention and pushing for a supermajority vote while doing their best to weaken the president's nominees): 

"He is my friend," McCain... said of Hagel on NBC News's "Meet the Press." "He will be confirmed... I don't believe he is qualified, but I don't believe that we should hold up his nomination any further because I think it is a reasonable amount of time to have questions answered."

That's bullshit. How is Hagel not qualified? He wouldn't have been my pick -- I would have preferred Michèle Flournoy -- but he has undeniable military and national security experience from his time as a senator, so much so that he was once considered one of the Republican Party's leading voices, not to mention a possible VP pick, including by the neocons.

What bothers McCain, the Iraq War super-hawk, is that Hagel turned on the misadventurous militarism of Bush and Cheney and unlike almost all other Republicans ended up opposing, vocally, the Iraq War, doing so with all the credibility he had built up previously. He's a realist, basically, and that finds him to the left of the Republican Party as well as of the Washington establishment generally, including to the left of President Obama.

In other words, McCain has been running a sad and pathetic campaign of bitterness and resentment against Hagel as well.

Which really should have come as no surprise. Once a supposed "maverick," once a figure of immense credibility in Washington (and he still gets on Meet the Press a lot), he has become a joke, an angry old man fighting desperate battles against anyone who dares cross him.

Chuck Hagel is just his latest target.

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