No sooner was John McCain faced with Jeb Bush’s challenge on immigration from his right, as Jeb did an about-face on his past support for a path to citizenship, when he had to pivot and face Rand Paul’s challenge on drone policy from his left, as Paul filibustered John Brennan’s CIA nomination because he feared Obama was about to launch drone strikes on Americans sitting in cafes in San Francisco.
Today, McCain called Paul a “wacko bird,” along with his pals Ted Cruz and Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan.
Now you can say that John McCain is 76 and on his way out, but remember that his little sidekick Lindsey “Butters” Graham is 57, and their new amiga, Kelly Ayotte, who replaced Joe Lieberman, is only 44.
This isn’t a John McCain problem, this is a GOP problem.
The libertarian wing of the Republican Party has now latched on to the Tea Party element, strengthening both. Paul and Cruz are both Tea Party guys and libertarians.
The GOP has taken up the Tea Party cry to cut government spending, while trying to protect defense spending. But the Tea Party/libertarian types don’t want to spare defense any more than they want to spare social programs. They want to cut the whole damn thing, which makes it impossible for them to co-exist with the neo-cons.
Interestingly, neither McCain nor Paul reflects where the country is. Since we’re war weary, we’re not with McCain that we should have stayed longer in Iraq and should stay in Afghanistan forever. But since we’re war weary, we like the drones, which keep the terrorists at bay, while allowing our guys to go safely home at night to their families after they’ve taken out a bad guy. And while Rand Paul isn’t as extreme on foreign policy as his dad Ron, his lack of concern about Iran’s going nuclear isn’t where the country is either. So in Goldilocks terms, neither McCain nor Paul is just right for the country, one is too hard and the other is too soft. If the country is sick of the neo-cons, they don’t want them replaced by neo-isolationists.
Adding to the mix — and the mess — you’ve got the primaries of 2014 and 2016. Immigration and drones are two very different issues, but having gotten blindsided by Jebbie, Marco Rubio felt he had to support Paul on the filibuster to placate the Tea Party people he will need for a 2016 run. Similarly, Mitch McConnell felt compelled to praise Paul because he fears a Tea Party primary in 2014.
Then there’s the money. The Koch Brothers are libertarians first and Republicans second. Their financial support will redound to those who spout the libertarian line. By contrast, Sheldon Adelson, who basically bought Newtie a campaign in 2012, has said that he doesn’t care about gay marriage or abortion, he just cares about Israel. So his money will go to those who toe the neo-con line.
The GOP is trying to accommodate some very strange bedfellows — and it looks as if no one will get a good night’s sleep anytime soon.