Circular firing squads are about as helpful as they sound, yet they are something at which some Republicans excel. I do my best to avoid engaging in them. To paraphrase President Reagan, my 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy. But sometimes my 80 percent friends do something 100 percent stupid, and pretending they didn’t could cause more damage than calling them out on it.
Consider Sen. John McCain. Few have honed their circular firing squad skills to the level of the senior Senator from Arizona. McCain fancies himself a lot of things – a conservative, a leader, a “maverick.” But mostly he’s an insecure egomaniac more interested in Sunday show bookings and favorable media coverage than adhering to principles.
On Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., engaged in an epic 12-plus-hour filibuster to demand an answer on domestic drone use against American citizens while a dozen Republicans, including McCain, dined and played footsie with President Obama. When the filibuster ended, Sen. Paul got from the administration something few Republicans or even journalists have been able to – an answer.
Through his actions, Paul not only got the Obama administration to commit something to paper they were reluctant – if not unwilling – to admit, he also reinvigorated the grassroots and engaged people in a way the party hasn’t been able to do with hundreds of millions of dollars spent on campaigns. He got disinterested young people to pay attention, to question a president that largely hasn’t, if even for half a day.
For this, Sen. Paul was rightly praised by people across the political spectrum.
But this wasn’t good enough for Sen. McCain, who is not known to enjoy sharing the spotlight.
The next day, with the political world still abuzz from Paul’s actions, McCain couldn’t help but criticize him.
McCain, a man who could be counted on to routinely attack the Bush administration as guilty of torture for pouring water up the nose of three, count them – THREE, of the world’s most despicable terrorists, thought Paul “ill-informed” to think any president ever would use armed drones against Americans on U.S. soil. To think the worst of a president in one case and assume the best of another, and all future others, in another case is intellectually inconsistent, to put it mildly.
But McCain was not alone in his hypocrisy, as he rarely is. His “mini-me,” presidential dining partner and devout clone in all things critical of his own party, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was right there with him. The next two days saw Sens. Mutt and Jeff avail themselves of every possible opportunity to try to devalue what Sen. Paul accomplished.