Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) has given an interview with The New Republic's Isaac Chotiner in which the man who coined the term "wacko birds" to describe rising GOP stars and noted interventionist-skeptics Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan) refuses to say who he'd back in a 2016 presidential election between Paul and Hillary Clinton:
IC: Given that you think things are out of control [in the Middle East], what do you make of Hillary Clinton's term as secretary of state?
JM: I think she did a fine job. She's a rock star. She has, maybe not glamour, but certainly the aura of someone widely regarded throughout the world. […]
IC: I want to talk about the Senate. It seems to me that the GOP leadership has been frozen by Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.
JM: I am not sure if it has been frozen, but certainly there is an element in the party that has been there prior to [World War II], the isolationist, America-Firsters. Prior to World War I, it was Western senators, and then Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh, and then Taft versus Eisenhower. Even Reagan—Reagan's presidency was perfect without ever a problem [said sarcastically]—there was an isolationist wing that fought against Reagan. And now the bad economy has exacerbated what has always been out there. […]
IC: The GOP leadership—Mitch McConnell, Minority Whip John Cornyn—is from the same states as Cruz and Paul. Is that a particular problem?
JM: Sure, yeah.
IC: When Hillary Clinton versus Rand Paul occurs in 2016, I guess you are going to have to decide who to vote for, huh?
JM: It's gonna be a tough choice [laughs].
JM: Let me just clarify that. I think that Rand Paul represents a segment of the GOP, just like his father. And I think he is trying to expand that, intelligently, to make it larger.
Two predictions: 1) McCain will clarify with a quote like "I fully expect to support my party's nominee in 2016," and 2) if that nominee is Rand Paul, McCain will give the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention.
Why? Because the crooked-talker's final Senate term ends in 2016, which means he no longer has to pander unconvincingly to a GOP grassroots he's never liked in order to win a primary election. And his foundational ideology, learned at the breakfast table of his namesake Navy admiral father and Navy admiral grandfather, then re-invigorated in the late 1990s (after a Vietnam Syndrome interlude) with the help of his neo-conservative friends, is keeping the world safe for Democracy, and America safe from cynicism, through the exercise of maximum U.S. military might. And he has long recognized libertarianism as an explicit threat to both projects.
Here is McCain reporting proudly in his 2002 memoir Worth the Fighting For that both contenders in the 2000 GOP presidential primaries were anti-libertarian:
I welcomed a greater, if still limited, role for government in national problems, anathema to the "leave us alone" libertarian philosophy that dominated Republican debates in the 1990s. So did George W. Bush, I must add, who challenged libertarian orthodoxy with his appeal for a "compassionate conservatism." He based much of his more activist government philosophy in an expanded role for the federal government in education policy and in his support for contributions that small, faith-based organizations could make to the solution of social problems. I gave more attention to national service and to a bigger role for government as a restraining force on selfish interests that undermined national unity. But his positions did him much credit, as well they should have, and they do him much credit now as he uses his presidency to advance them.
It's important to remember that the GOP interventionists currently gunning for Paul also do not like him because he is serious about cutting all government, not just defense. Recall that National Greatness Conservative William Kristol reacted to the sweeping Democratic victory in 2008 by warning Republicans against advocating limited-government principles in opposition to the big-government president. No really, he did:
[C]onservatives should think twice before charging into battle against Obama under the banner of "small-government conservatism." It's a banner many Republicans and conservatives have rediscovered since the election and have been waving around energetically. Jeb Bush, now considering a Senate run in 2010, even went so far as to tell Politico last month, "There should not be such a thing as a big-government Republican."
Really? Jeb Bush was a successful and popular conservative governor of Florida, with tax cuts, policy reforms and privatizations of government services to show for his time in office. Still, in his two terms state spending increased over 50 percent — a rate faster than inflation plus population growth. It turns out, in the real world of Republican governance, that there aren't a whole lot of small-government Republicans.
Neo-conservatives are big-government conservatives, period. Libertarian Republicans are the opposite. It's a stark choice, and given the depth of the interventionists' commitment to blank-check executive-branch prosecution of war and American hegemony, no one should be surprised by the burgeoning Republicans For Hillary caucus.
If all this isn't entertaining (and significant!) enough, consider a point that I tried to make the other night on All in With Chris Hayes: After two terms of Obama's Cheneyesque prosecution of the War on Terror, a Democratic Party fronted by Hillary Clinton would have zero credibility in attracting the anti-war, pro-civil liberties vote that rocketed Obama to prominence in the first place. Rand Paul in that situation would be in prime position to lure independents and disaffected Democrats into a newfangled coalition. No wonder the hawks are whipping their guns out.