In this Oct. 20, 2015 photo Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., talks to reporters near the subway on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP

McCain thinks it’s ‘outrageous’ to ask him about Trump

As a candidate on the campaign trail this year, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wasn’t exactly pleased to have Donald Trump leading his party’s ticket. McCain, whose military service was mocked by Trump, tried to be a loyal partisan for months, before eventually withdrawing his endorsement of the Republican nominee in early October, after the public learned of Trump’s boasts about sexually assaulting women.

That, of course, was when McCain and nearly everyone else assumed Trump would lose, and the senator was trying to save his own skin. Nevertheless, a month later, both Republicans prevailed in their respective races.

But as it happens, McCain’s discomfort is ongoing. Last week, the Republican senator grew quite agitated with reporters who dared to ask him about his party’s new leader. “I’m not talking about President-elect Trump,” McCain declared. “I will not talk about Donald Trump…. Do not ask me again about Donald Trump.”

Since reporters don’t take orders from the Arizonan, McCain blew up again yesterday. The Huffington Post reported:
He got mad at a Bloomberg reporter who asked him about Trump’s tax plan, and repeatedly told him he’s not going to talk about the president-elect of the United States. When a PRI reporter asked when he would talk about Trump again, the Arizona senator responded, now somewhat playfully, “On the first of January, I promise to start answering these stupid, idiotic questions.”
When the Huffington Post asked if this means McCain won’t comment on anything the president-elect does between now and Inauguration Day, the senator reportedly “became visibly angry.” He said, “I’m sick and tired of only being asked about everything that Donald Trump says or does. I think it’s outrageous and ridiculous that people like you should continue to do so.”

In reality, however, it’s neither outrageous nor ridiculous. In fact, there’s ample evidence that McCain himself doesn’t believe his own rhetoric.

Yesterday, for example, the senator who doesn’t want to talk about Trump published an op-ed in the Financial Times, giving Trump advice on U.S. trade policy and urging the president-elect to steer clear of protectionism.

A few hours later, CNN’s Dana Bash asked if Trump was right to talk to Taiwan’s president. “Hell yes,” the senator who refuses to comment on anything related to Trump replied.

In other words, the Republican senator who’s sworn up and down not to talk about Trump is more than happy to talk about Trump – just so long as it suits McCain’s purposes. That’s not a principled approach; it’s just lazy posturing.

For that matter, McCain’s underlying argument is itself kind of silly. Donald Trump will soon be the leader of the free world. Senators, especially members of the Republican majority, will be responsible for working with Trump to help shape national and international policy. McCain wants to shield himself from all questions related to his party’s incoming president – simply because he says so?

The senator has been on Capitol Hill for more than three decades. I suspect he knows better.