A Brief History of John McCain Loudly Reprimanding People for Endorsing the Same Thing He Endorsed

With McCain’s previous support for the Bergdahl exchange established, Friday seemed like the right time to take a look back in time.

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), shown talking last week to reporters, on Sunday outlined several concerns about a deal reached by Iran and six other governments to address the Middle Eastern nation's disputed nuclear activities.
National Journal
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Lucia Graves
June 6, 2014, 12:27 p.m.

John Mc­Cain’s spokes­man will not be pleased with this head­line. That’s be­cause ever since it was re­por­ted that Mc­Cain en­dorsed the re­lease of pris­on­ers in ex­change for Sgt. Bowe Ber­g­dahl sev­er­al months ago, his aides have been push­ing back vo­ci­fer­ously, ar­guing the sen­at­or left him­self an out when, after en­dors­ing a swap back in Feb­ru­ary, he ad­ded that his sup­port would be de­pend­ent on the de­tails.

The trouble is, the de­tails were largely known at the time, and, as a guy sit­ting on the rel­ev­ant com­mit­tees (in this case, the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices and For­eign Re­la­tions com­mit­tees), Mc­Cain should have had the in­form­a­tion he needed to make the call. This morn­ing, The Wash­ing­ton Post‘s Glenn Kessler put the is­sue to bed, say­ing Mc­Cain’s push­back doesn’t pass The Post‘s Pinoc­chio test.

Which is to say, he flipped. You can watch his ori­gin­al state­ment in the video be­low.

With Mc­Cain’s pre­vi­ous en­dorse­ment of the Ber­g­dahl ex­change es­tab­lished, Fri­day seemed like the right time to take a look back at all the times he’s lashed out at oth­ers for en­dors­ing what he en­dorsed as re­cently as Feb­ru­ary. To wit:

On Tues­day, fol­low­ing the week­end re­lease of the five Guantanamo de­tain­ees, Mc­Cain skewered Army Gen. Mar­tin De­mp­sey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for his “un­ac­cept­able con­duct.”

The pris­on­er swap was “shame­ful,” Mc­Cain said, adding that De­mp­sey “wants to take ac­tion that will clearly put the lives of the men and wo­men of which he is the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in jeop­ardy.”

On Wed­nes­day, Pentagon spokes­man Rear Adm. John Kirby said that “when you’re in the Navy, and you go over­board, it doesn’t mat­ter if you were pushed, fell, or jumped. We’re go­ing to turn the ship around and pick you up.” Mc­Cain then had a rather ag­gress­ive re­sponse for someone who’d only re­cently made a sim­il­ar point.

Mc­Cain dis­missed Kirby’s “ba­lo­ney story” to a scrum of re­port­ers, in­clud­ing Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Elahe Iz­adi. “Not if that ship is in battle. Not if that ship would be taken in­to a mine­field. They don’t un­der­stand. It’s just out­rageous.”

The Huff­ing­ton Post re­por­ted that Mc­Cain was among sev­er­al sen­at­ors to leave a clas­si­fied brief­ing on Ber­g­dahl on Wed­nes­day, with Mc­Cain stay­ing just long enough to ask a ques­tion. He walked out “shout­ing at an of­fi­cial over an un­sat­is­fact­ory an­swer, ac­cord­ing to a Sen­ate aide fa­mil­i­ar with the pro­cess,” later telling re­port­ers, “I learned noth­ing.”

Top Re­pub­lic­an law­makers, in­clud­ing Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee rank­ing mem­ber Saxby Cham­b­liss, in­sist they haven’t been con­sul­ted with on the is­sue in years. And Mc­Cain spokes­man Bri­an Ro­gers on Fri­day pushed back against the en­tire premise of this story. “It’s not just about who the Taliban are but the fact that un­der the terms and de­tails of this swap these guys are able to re­turn to the fight in Afgh­anistan against Amer­ic­an troops next year,” he said, cit­ing a re­cent story in NBC News. “The price is just too high.”

It’s true that Mc­Cain said his sup­port was de­pend­ent on the de­tails, and has since deemed the de­tails to be “ter­rible!” Still, the nar­rat­ive doesn’t sit well.

It would be one thing if Mc­Cain were an im­par­tial ob­serv­er in the Sen­ate, but as a former pris­on­er of war him­self, and a lead­ing Re­pub­lic­an voice on for­eign policy, his words carry con­sid­er­able weight. He might want to choose them bet­ter.

Contributions by Elahe Izadii

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