John McCain

John McCain Decries the Trumpian 'Nativism' That He Depends on to Stay in the Senate Forever

79-year-old senator wants you to know he feels very bad about the presidential candidate he made possible, yet still won't join Neocons 4 Hillary because he has to win another re-election


Back in 2013, when such a universe still looked plausible, The New Republic asked Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) how he would react to a 2016 presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), a man he had famously derided as a "wacko bird." "It's gonna be a tough choice," mused McCain. Clinton, he said, was a foreign policy "rock star," while Paul represented "the isolationist, America-Firsters."

At the time, I wrote that "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." Prescient! Less so was my prediction that if the GOP nominated Paul, McCain would give the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. In fairness, that's because it never occurred to me in a million years that the five-term senator would debase himself with yet another re-election at the ripe old age of 80. After all, he's not exactly hard up for money, and his namesake father and grandfather died at ages 70 and 61, respectively.

McCain has been making news and inspiring anguish over the past month by letting people know that he really feels bad about a presumptive GOP nominee that nevertheless he (unlike his fellow Arizona senator Jeff Flake) is supporting. "You have to listen to people that have chosen the nominee of our Republican Party," the erstwhile maverick told CNN this weekend. "I think it would be foolish to ignore them." The 2008 GOP nominee won't be attending the 2016 Republican National Convention, and said he wouldn't campaign actively for Trump unless the nominee retracts his cavalier (and inaccurate) crack that U.S. prisoners of war can't be considered "war heroes" because they were captured, but insists he can do business with this actual America-Firster ("Well, I think American leadership, he emphasizes that, and I think that's important"), and says—in public, anyway—that Trump isn't impacting his difficult re-election bid.

In private, however, it's a whole 'nother matter. Last week, Politico obtained (without any noticeable difficulty) a recording of McCain from a private fundraiser in April, in which the legendary straight-talker fretted that, "If Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket, here in Arizona, with over 30 percent of the vote being the Hispanic vote, no doubt that this may be the race of my life…. The Hispanic community is roused and angry in a way that I've never seen in 30 years."

Part of the transcript in particular rang eerily familiar to my ears, in a way that I think speaks a lot about McCain's—and the Republican establishment's—own culpability in fostering Trumpism:

Frankly there's an element of nativism in it as well, as you know. The first wedge that Donald Trump had that gave him notoriety was, "Build a wall," "rapist," "murderers," etc.

Why, John McCain would never demagogue immigration politics by calling Mexicans murders and advocating for more border fencing!

That remains one of the five most painful political ads I've ever seen. Right down to the (still-active!) website and the plaintive, thoroughly unconvincing "You're one of us!" But there are four broader lessons here beyond McCain's eternally situational political courage.

1) GOP elites are terrified of their own base. As I wrote in March,

McCain, a lifelong elitist with open hostility toward the conservative grassroots, famously went to "crazy base-land" when he could finally smell the ring of power, reversing his positions and rhetoric on gay marriage, immigration, and even condom use. Mitt Romney, the Republican who has taken on Trump with the most gusto during this campaign season, arguably paved the way for his success by out-immigrant-bashing the 2012 field while promising hardest to protect old-age entitlements. Couple this with the old establishment chestnuts about somehow balancing a budget while undoing the allegedly "devastating cuts" to our military, and a picture emerges of structural insincerity and the ritual, nose-holding manipulation of the activist base.

2) #NeverTrumpers and their less courageous friends have not begun grappling with their own responsibility in what they now consider to be a political debacle.

McCain's co-author and alter ego Mark Salter, is part of the burgeoning Neocons 4 Hillary brigade (a list that includes Max Boot, Bret Stephens, and Robert Kagan, at minimum). Like the others, Salter's sputtering condemnations of Trump and his fans are heavy on bile—"Nothing anyone could reveal about Trump could get me to change my opinion that he's an asshole….a cartoon villain, a fake, a cheat, a liar, a creep, a bullying, bragging, bullshitting, blowhard kind of asshole….There have been lots of candidates in the past I've disagreed with, even loathed. There's only one I've wanted to punch in the face," etc., ad infinitum.

And also like the others, Salter is almost magically free of any introspection about the role played by decades' worth of support for constant, ruinous, and increasingly unpopular U.S. military interventionism. Instead, it's literally la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you: "I don't get it, and I've stopped trying." Even his own side's ample political cynicism only comes up when provoked, as in this almost-funny Salter exchange with Politico's Glenn Thrush:

"Do you think you opened the door a crack for a Trump-type candidate because of Palin?" I asked him.

A pause. "Maybe," Salter says. "Maybe a little."

3) Neocons for Hillary was gonna happen anyway.

It's already been consigned to the national memory hole, but before Donald Trump entered the race, GOP hawks sent successive human waves to wipe out the potential electoral menace of Rand Paul. Many lashed him into the same category of foreign policy untenability as fellow Wacko Bird (and neocon-baiter) Ted Cruz. And Trump, unpalatable as he is to many internationalists, may well be the most interventionist of the three, though it's genuinely hard to tell.

The "establishment" candidates in the 2016 race had two main things in common—they were super-hawkish, and they wildly underperformed expectations (it's almost as if there's a connection there). Elite interventionists have always been conscious of their separation from the body politic, and have been prone over the years to fantasies about launching their own third parties, such as the forgotten early-2001 "Bull Moose" musings by McCain-supporting National Greatness conservatives such as Bill Kristol.

Therein lies what may prove to be the most salient lesson at all: 4) After failing to stop him, many people who hate Trump and his foreign policy will instead try to co-opt him.

Who is Bill Kristol's biggest new protégé? Surveillance-loving hyper-interventionist crime warrior Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas). Who did Cotton just announce he was supporting, and willing to be nominated as vice president for? You'll never guess. There are worse ways to hedge your bets against an anti-nation-building GOP nominee than quietly backing a VP with more, shall we say, robust views. This possibility of history repeating itself is the biggest reason why I maintain that Trump is not the peace candidate.

NEXT: Enviros Shun While Pro-Life Conservatives Embrace Population Control Restrictionists. Go Figure.

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  1. John McCain: he’ll keep those damn kids off your lawn.

  2. Trump: You can be my wingman any time.
    McCain: Bullshit. You can be mine.

  3. From the video

    “It will work this time.”

    It’s like the copy writers are total dumbasses.

  4. “”It’s gonna be a tough choice,” mused McCain. Clinton, he said, was a foreign policy “rock star,””

    How stupid is John McCain?

    1. Stupid enough to be nominated leader of the stupid party.

    2. The stupidest monster since stupid came to Stupid Town.

    3. I don’t know what’s stupider – thinking hillary was “good” at Foreign Policy, or thinking that voters give 2-shits about Foreign Policy.

      Unless we’re actively engaged in a War of some kind, Foreign Affairs basically ranks “zero” in terms of concern to voters..

      Since we’re engaged in a perpetual-war these days, it ranks between “Meh” and “just kill them all already and be done with it”. Meaning, people care, but they don’t care about the details. They want to be told its “getting done”. There is no preference for multilateralism or unilateralism so much as preference for “Spare us the boring details = what’s the decision?”

      So candidates tend to emphasize their capability for “Tough Decisions” and “being Decisive” and stuff that says, “I think so you don’t have to”.

      Hillary’s ability to sell her FP experience isn’t like that. at best, her claim is, “I know these people/this stuff” when it comes to international issues. “People Know Me”.

      Which doesn’t really say anything about what people care about, which is “So what = will you get it done?” “It” being something left very vague, but which involves Tough Decisions.

      1. What difference at this point does it make?!

      2. When was the last time we weren’t at least at war with someone? How many years of American life since our founding have been spent at war vs. not at war?

        It’s sobering when you look at it.

    4. Very stupid. The old geezer is everything that’s wrong with the GOP.

    5. About that stupid.

    6. John McCain is a disaster. That he is running for a sixth term is revolting. Thirty years in the Senate and he wants MORE.

  5. So, what do Trump supporters think now that Trump has announced that he will not release his income tax returns?

    Stalking horse for Hillary?

    1. what do Trump supporters think

      You’re giving them too much credit.

    2. Does Hillary really want to go down the rabbit hole of accusing Trump of being secretive about his finances and public disclosure?

      The media intentionally loses site of the fact that Hillary’s server broke numerous federal record keeping laws. It isn’t hard to remind voters.

      1. The media intentionally loses site

        Error 404

        1. Ok, Nicole.

          1. I was *punning*, yo

            1. We’re humorless cretins.

      2. Yeah, let billiard first release her financial dealings with goldman sachs, her speech transcripts, her financials from her “foundation’s” dealings with saudi arabia. Make her apologize first to the families and the american people for lying about benghazi and the video. Then after she does all that say, “screw it.” I changed my mind, I’m still not releasing them.

    3. He already told his supporters what do think: he’s in the middle of an audit.

    4. what do Trump supporters think


      1. I find the “cuck” thing rather humorous at this point. They think it’s clever. It shows me how retarded they are every time they say it.

        1. Shouldn’t it be spelled “cock”, even if the vowel is pronounced halfway between short o & short u?

    5. Uh, let’s see, give me a minute. Who cares? I haven’t read or looked at any politicians tax returns nor do I care. What do they show? How much is given to charity? None of my business and it hasn’t hurt anyone who hasn’t given a lot. How much tax they have paid? To me if one hasn’t used to the loops holes to bring down their taxes I don’t want them in office. One who is willing to pay more than they should makes me wonder if they will want me to pay more than I should. How much did he make? Again, none of my business. How many dependents? Trump isn’t running away from using deductions to lower his rate. The idiot Romney tried to distance himself from his wealth, trump flaunts it.

    6. how long before that stupid bitch takes the bait?

  6. Nice use of the capitalized Depends, Welch. Been waiting to use that one for a while, eh?

    1. capitalized Depends

      …but enough about McCain’s underwear drawer….

  7. Sorry, Mr. Welch, but if you think only the GOP is responsible for the rise of Donald Trump, you’re deluding yourself –

    An Open Letter to My Friends on the Left

    I’m pretty much a libertarian conservative in the Goldwater and (at least rhetorically) Reagan tradition. I believe in limited government, free enterprise, due process and rule of law. For some time now, you’ve been saying that was unacceptable.

    You’ve insisted that the government should be free to do whatever the hell it wants, bound only by the wisdom of the “correct” leaders and demands for limits on government power were nothing but a means of thwarting progress.

    You’ve insisted that your political opponents weren’t your fellow Americans who just happened to disagree with you, but The Enemy, to be humiliated and put in their place by whatever means are available.

    You’ve insisted that a focus on process, with elements like the rule of law and enshrinement of due process is just a means to protect the privileged in their exploitation of the oppressed.

    You’ve insisted that things like intellectual coherence, logical consistency, and the acknowledgement of objective fact were just tools of the white-cis-hetero-patriarchy to preserve their status.

    And in much of pop culture, you’ve dealt people like me out of the discussion.

    And yet you’re surprised by the rise of Donald Trump.

    1. (contd.)

      This is where you wanted the conversation to go. You didn’t want to argue with opponents who valued individual rights, who believed in the rule of law, who argued based on reason and logic from a position of mutual respect. Well, congratulations! You’ve gotten rid of us. Now, you’re going to have to argue with someone who addresses the issues on your own terms.

      This is what you wanted. The rest of us don’t deserve it. But, you certainly do.

      1. Is that your own work? if so, kudos. Its clear enough.

        1. Thanks. I greatly appreciate it.

        2. Ya. That’s pretty nice. Succinct and accurate, and you didn’t even have to swear.

      2. Pretty much sums it up. After being told for 7 years “too bad, we won, if you want to have your way get your own strongman”, well, here we are.

      3. Well said.

      4. Very nice. You don’t really expect your leftist friends to comprehend any of that do you? And what you’re saying is very accurate. You push people to a certain point, there’s going to be blow back, and when the mob is angry they tend more to smashing windows and setting cars on fire than they do to actually think about the consequences of their actions and real solutions. Trump is not the answer they are looking for, but he’ll do as far as they are concerned. Right now all they want to do is punch back.

      5. I might have to steal that someday.

        +1,000,000 internetz.

        1. Already stolen.

      6. “The rest of us don’t deserve it.”

        When in doubt reach for the victim card.

        Trump isn’t about Left and Right. He’s about Establishment (like Clinton or McCain) vs. Anti-Establishment. Trump has succeeded so far because he’s secured the disaffected Republican vote. If he’s gonna get himself elected to the presidency, he’ll have to do the same with disaffected Democrats. I suggest he concentrate on dispossessed white ones.

        “I love the uneducated.” I can imagine Jesus saying something like this, but he was the ultimate Anti-Establishment figure. I can’t imagine McCain or Clinton saying this.

        1. Trump is like an 80’s comedy. It’s the slobs vs. the snobs. Kind of like a Rodney Dangerfield movie. Think of Hillary as Judge Smalls, but outright evil instead of an uptight jackass.

    2. Sorry, Mr. Welch, but if you think only the GOP is responsible for the rise of Donald Trump, you’re deluding yourself

      I guess Matt’s lucky that he never said anything like that.

      1. “79-year-old senator wants you to know he feels very bad about the presidential candidate he made possible”

        I understand most writers aren’t responsible for the headlines, but Welch is the editor, so…

        1. A lot of things made Trump’s campaign success possible, including Republicans like McCain stoking nativist sentiment, long-running neglect of economic issues in favor of unpopular militarism, and a planet in a stable solar orbit that supports complex carbon-based lifeforms.

          But saying that Team Red and McCain in particular contributed to Trump’s rise is a long way from claiming they are solely responsible for it, which is what Bill Dalasio claimed.

          1. “Republicans like McCain stoking nativist sentiment, “”

            I agree that the GOP may deserve some blame for riling up people about immigration

            But it’s also a chicken-egg thing. They used it because it was a subject that polled well. But then they tried “reform” and the base called it “amnesty”

            1. ‘Nativist sentiment’. How nice that legitimate, and well founded concerns about immigration policy (and it’s abuse at the hands of the Lightbringer) are dismissed in such a snide, condescending, and derisive fashion.

        2. Should have said “helped make possible,” but literal precision is the death of headline-writing.

    3. Excellent!

  8. I think he should join neocons for Hilllary now. Right before he’s thrown out to pasture with his drool bib.

  9. I don’t know why this guy hasn’t died yet.

    Or maybe he already did and has been subsisting as a reanimated corpse.

    1. The same reason Hillary hasn’t. Evil is hard to kill. Remember when Ghadafi was walking around looking like a wax dummy? 7 years from now, that’s what Hillary is going to look like when she gives her presidential speeches, cackling and coughing all the way.

      1. *shudders*

      2. 7 years from now, that’s what Hillary is going to look like when she gives her presidential speeches, cackling and coughing all the way.

        I was gonna try and find a picture of Hillary morphed with Gollum, but couldn’t find one, so you’ll have to all just use your imaginations.

      3. Evil is hard to kill

        Heh, true. You’d think all the pathological mendacity and scheming over the years would’ve shortened their lifespans from accumulated stress? but no, they keep right on ticking.

      4. Modern medical technology can preserve Cankles far beyond that description……..…..1.jpg.html

  10. You’d think one of the easiest lessons in life is that what goes around, comes around.

    I think that’s primarily why I’m an almost anarchist. Any government powerful enough to give you what you want is also powerful enough to take from you what others want.

    Every time some idiot praises the Current Occupant’s executive orders, I just shake my head and wonder why they were so dead set against the unconstitutional overreach of the Previous Occupant’s executive orders, and know they will be just as hypocritical about the Next Occupants executive orders. They simply cannot see the one common factor, a powerful government.

    1. Anarchy wouldn’t be much different than it is now. Now you have a criminal mob on the banks of the potomac fucking with everyone and breaking heads when people don’t pay up or respect their authority. In anarchy, you’d just have lots of little mafias doing the same thing. If you were lucky, you’d manage to stay off their radar, so that might be one advantage. The current mega mafia has us all on it’s radar.

      1. Many people conflate anarchy and chaos. They are not the same.

        Almost all the faults of current society can be tied directly to coercive government. People are not irrational in the practical aspects of life — when they know the government is going to fuck with everybody, it’s better to try and control that fucking as much as possible. People on their own don’t give a rat’s ass about sign sizes, building codes, occupational licensing, how soon you use your turn signal before an intersection, or any other nanny aspect of coercive government. They may tsk tsk for activities they don’t like, cakes they don’t want to bake, or other things, but most people have far too much to do in their own lives without worrying about kidnapping people who do things they don’t like.

        It’s coercive government which creates nanny laws, not anarchy.

        1. They may tsk tsk for activities they don’t like

          And then they get together and form governments. Always.

          1. Always? Never had a chance to even try. Sample size = 0.

            1. How do you think governments started?

              1. Yeah, we have a pretty good sample for that one. Every anarchistic society so far has ended up with a government.

                I’m pretty anarchistic philosophically, but I don’t think that ancapistan is ever going to happen. For me it’s more of a way of looking at the world and recognizing that government isn’t a special category with any real distinction from any other armed group that wants to control people through violence.

              2. Governments started from families and clans gone power mad. There has never been a society-sized anarchy because coercive governments stomp them out. Doesn’t mean there never will be one, just as the lack of a US-style democracy made the US impossible.

      2. Mafias and other illicit organizations only arise because governments make so many things illegal, thus creating opportunity for illicit organizations. Absent those laws, drug kingpins, mafiosi, and other organized crime would not exist. What leverage would they have? If some guy with a baseball threatened to break up your store if you didn’t pay him protection money, he wouldn’t last 5 minutes without corrupt cops backing him up.

        Coercive government is the root of 99% of society’s problems.

        1. or if you were allowed to have a gun to protect yourself from threats to your business . its almost like the government was working with the mafia

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  12. Neo Con, globalist open borders McCain needs to be put to pasture. Trump should not accept the support of McCain. let the asshole support Hillary

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  15. Does anyone else remember the ’80s?

    John “Cash and vacations for influence” McCain sold his influence to Charles Keating. He helped cause the Savings and Loan failures that were the great financial scandal of that era. Keating was convicted. McCain rolled over on the others then got off on a technicality. He paid back about ten percent of what he took. The Savings and Loan investors got the shaft.

    While John Glenn (also a member of the Keating Five) left politics, McCain stuck his jaw out and nose in the air and remains a stain on the Congress to this day. Shameful.

    Even more shameful is that the voters of Arizona keep electing him.

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