Senator John McCain has made numerous T.V. appearances to speak out against President Donald Trump, a fellow republican. Although McCain may seem like he’s bucking the republican party by vocally opposing Trump, the 80-year-old senator’s actions don’t match his words.
McCain has been a vocal opponent of Trump since the president hit the campaign trail in 2015. At one point, Trump actively insulted McCain when he addressed the senator’s POW status while serving in Vietnam. According to NBC, Trump said, “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said mockingly. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” McCain was held as a prisoner in North Vietnam for five and a half years.
The relationship between Trump and McCain has always been strained, but news outlets are branding McCain as an outspoken maverick. A sampling of news articles from the last week maintain this idea, including the Washington Post article, “John McCain Just Systematically Dismantled Trump’s Entire Worldview.”
Although McCain has spoken out against the Trump administration, saying the White House was in “disarray” and repeatedly decrying Trump’s sympathetic relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, aside from making himself relevant again through television appearances, McCain has done nothing to slow down or stop the Trump administration.
McCain has always been a staunch, party line republican, so it’s not surprising that he’s speaking out against Trump, a president that has normalized the alt-right and received frequent praise from white supremacy groups. Just because McCain is uncomfortable with Trump’s brand of racial politics doesn’t mean McCain is prepared to rock the Trump White House.
Even when McCain has had a chance to make actionable change against Trump, by voting against his cabinet pics, the Arizona senator shies away from upsetting the republican establishment. The only cabinet nominee that McCain didn’t approve was Representative Mick Mulvaney, nominee for the director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. In reality, McCain only voted Mulvaney down because he supported defense budget cuts.
McCain has always been a war hawk and Mulvaney’s budget cuts threatened the senator’s military priorities. Although distinctly to the right in military matters, McCain again criticized Trump after the Trump’s extensive, 77 minute press conference where he called the press the “enemy of the people,” and continued to call news outlets like CNN“fake news.”
According to the Guardian, McCain offered his thoughts on Trump’s conference during a Meet the Press interview. “I hate the press,” McCain said, “But the fact is we need you. We need a free press. We must have it.”
McCain continued, “I’m very serious now, if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. Without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”
The Arizona senator drew praise from many moderates and left-leaning people for his critical comments of Trump, but at this point they are still just lip service. The Trump presidency appears to be a jumping off point for McCain to gain spotlight again, but the question is: to what end? If he chose to run for president for a third time, Senator McCain would be 84 for the 2020 election.
Although McCain has enjoyed a boost in popularity by criticizing Trump, not everyone is on the McCain’s side. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who ran against Trump in the 2016 presidential primaries, criticized the Arizona senator’s statements about the president.
During an interview with ABC’s“This Week,” Paul said that McCain’s statements about Trump were, “…colored by his own personal dispute he has got running with President Trump. And it should be taken with a grain of salt because John McCain is the guy that has advocated for war everywhere.” Paul went on to say, “Actually, we’re very lucky John McCain is not in charge because I think we would be in perpetual war.”
McCain will most likely continue his media circuit with tough talk for President Trump, but it’s unlikely to lead to any major shakeup in the Trump White House. Although McCain comes off as all bark and no bite, the only way he may be effective is by showing establishment republicans that they’re not alone in the Trump whirlwind White House.
[Featured Image by Matthias Schrader/AP Images]