The Worst Republican Senator

There really ought to be a statute of limitations on how long John McCain can play the tortured war hero card. His war hero status was exhausted with me a decade ago over a single instance.

Brad Smith, who as chairman of the Federal Election Commission and law professor dared to criticize the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law on constitutional grounds (later vindicated in several Supreme Court cases culminating in the glorious Citizens United decision), came before a Senate committee one day to testify about campaign finance laws. He had recently had surgery, and had to appear in a wheelchair.

Smith wheeled himself up to McCain, whom he had never met, to introduce himself. He put out his hand, and McCain started to put out his hand as politicians naturally do, but then stopped when he heard Smith announce his name. McCain pulled his hand back and said: “I know who you are. I’m not going to shake your hand!” (This episode never got any press. I know several first-hand witnesses to this appalling, churlish behavior. Repulsive.)

Let that sink in a minute. The person who played a role in re-establishing diplomatic relations with the North Vietnamese regime that tortured him for seven years refused to shake the hand of a fellow American citizen—a presidential appointee!—who merely dared to disagree with McCain on substantive grounds.

But I’m not actually mad at McCain for today’s announcement that he won’t support the latest GOP attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, despite this old tweet of his that reveals his garden-variety hypocrisy:

McCain is and has always been about one cause above all: the glory of John McCain. You can’t discount the motivation to stick it to Trump for Trump’s ridiculous remark in the campaign about liking soldiers “who don’t get captured.” I’m sure McCain will never get over that sleight.

But as I say, I fully expected that McCain would once again play the prima donna for the accolades of the New York Times and Jimmy Kimmel.

Instead, the senator I am most disgusted with is: Rand Paul. He is much worse than McCain.

Rand Paul is typical of purist libertarians who cannot absorb the wisdom that the perfect is the enemy of the good. Does Rand Paul really think that there are ever going to be enough votes to deliver a libertarian health care policy? He voted for the darn skinny repeal bill a few months ago.

I’m sure the Graham-Cassidy bill has lots of defects. I don’t need to read it: anything with Lindsay Graham’s name on it is going to be defective. It does, though, at least seem to have the virtue of reversing the centralization of health regulation under Obamacare by devolving money and control the states (and possibly sunsetting some of the money in a decade), and that alone should garner the support of any federalist. But no: Rand Paul has to preen about his purism, and very likely cement Obamacare in place forever, because it is unlikely that Republicans will be much stronger than they are in Congress right now for many election cycles.

Very much worth seeing the “Open Letter to Rand Paul” by John Zmirak over at The Stream. Worth reading the whole thing, but here is the relevant excerpt:

I urge you to reconsider your position. To support an imperfect bill for the sake of the greater good. The Graham-Cassidy Bill is not the repeal of Obamacare that any of us hoped for. It doesn’t dismantle the huge array of perverse incentives, subsidies, and crony-capitalist tinkering that distort American medicine. However, as National Review has noted, it does make some real progress. It does restore some liberty. In fact, the bill offers some concrete benefits not to be sneezed at.

Senator Paul could still cast a vote that would put the bill over the top (with Vice President Pence breaking a tie). And wouldn’t that be a nice revenge against the statism of puffery of McCain?

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